Crumbling Earth

While we all go about living our lives, a small group hold, possibly, the most important information in the world. The Earth is crumbling.

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12. Chapter 12

"Voices? Explain more." Trecia frowned and she regarded Kailen as she might've watched a suspicious news story, if there had been a news channel still broadcasting.

Kailen swallowed, crossed her arms and looked straight past the other girl. Her lips were still parted from the confession and she muttered, "Voices. Before you ask, not in my head. I heard them. With my ears."

A head of jet black hair shook. "I wasn't going to... Whose voice was it? Did it sound like it was coming from any direction? Where do you hear it?"

"Easy with the questions, I'm not a case study. The answer to 'where' and 'which direction' is everywhere." She hesitated, hand tightening over her elbow. "And the 'who' is my mum."

The air froze over at that, as Trecia's eyes widened and her eyebrows arched. Kailen felt the skin of her arms prickle alive while she waited out the near-quiet - her breathing was the heavy ebb and flow that disturbed a silence far from golden.

 

When the older of the two breathed in, it was as if she hadn't done so since the word 'mum' had left Kailen's lips. "Are you sure? This place has been known to mess with the mind. You saw what was going on at the edges of the city. It's nothing to be ashamed about, you know; it happened to me once and-"

"I'm not crazy." Kailen's knuckles shook, whiter than ever. "I'm not going mad because I haven't seen her all these years and I don't have any underlying mental health problems."

"I wouldn't judge you if you did," Trecia replied, lips pursed and brow furrowed. "Fine. You're sure. Your mother died here and she'll be in the Sea of Lives. They're not exactly ghosts down there but they're close enough."

Kailen beat the floor with her foot. "Close enough? Close enough for what?"

 

It was Trecia's turn to look elsewhere (at her feet, in reality). "A seance."

The words hit their recipient's ears like a bad joke. Something straight out of a corny, mid-to-late 20th Century science fiction TV show with tin foil robots and aliens the same colour as some apples.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me." She snorted. But, at the same time, her insides jolted and she could feel the past been dredged up beneath her feet. "Pull the other one. You don't live in The Exorcist."

Trecia blinked. A breathy laugh left her throat and, after a few seconds, she recovered. "I have no idea what that is. I mean, I know what an exorcist is but... Never mind. We're not doing an exorcism anyway. We'd be trying to talk to the with...equipment."

 

At those words, Kailen's mind travelled to all the possible 'equipment' they could've used. A Ouija board, some kind of ritual statue for talking to the dead. Were they even dead? She clenched her eyes shut; the thought of a solid pool of souls was a scathing light and her eyes were the shutters trying to block it out.

"Correct me if I'm wrong but that sounds a hell of a lot harder than sitting in a circle around a table with a fancy tablecloth. And what's-her-name didn't seem to like being chatted to," she _ed, hands shifting down to her hips and eyes watching the other through near-slits.

But Trecia had turned away to look over at Naid. "Ryu. Her name's Ryu. I think she's different from the other souls down there, but she doesn't let us close enough to figure anything out. So just try and avoid her attention."

"Yeah, sure, I know exactly how to do that." The younger of the two rolled her eyes. Again, the temperature had dipped and her jaw was set - neither could've been sure if it was the cold or the conversation.

 

Trecia had chosen to believe that the latter was reponsible; she was already half out of the conversation, taking steps up to her brother's bed and fiddling with the blankets there. "By not paying her any. If she talks to you, ignore her. If she asks you to look at her, keep looking at us and don't even think of pulling the 'it's in a reflection so it's okay' trick," she ordered, tone stern.

"I suppose looking at her is kind of like looking at a Basilisk or something." Kailen hung back in the doorway, tilted her head to get a better look and caught sight of his unmoving features. There was a crease in his brow but his older sister seemed too distracted with her own.

Head shake. "She doesn't kill on-sight. Not often, anyway. I guess it just entrances you if you stare too long."

"Nice."

 

And silence held between them, stretched thin, while Kailen kicked at the carpet with her shoes and Trecia fussed over Naid. His lips had the faintest trace of blue left in them. Yet his skin didn't have the luck of his lips; there was barely any of its colour left in there. To the touch, the only warm places were his chest and forehead (the latter more so than the former). Perhaps his mind had established its own heating system or was working on a cure. Or maybe he just had a whole lot of nonsense whizzing around in there, building a fire out of friction.

Then Trecia turned her back to the body when her hands on his face brought no response. "Get some sleep, Kailen. Wherever it is you sleep now. You'll need it for tomorrow."

Kailen nodded, eyes flitting to Naid and back again, before she peeled herself away from the door frame and slipped out into the corridor. Even as she headed up the staircase, she knew it wasn't the worn steps that made her feeling unstable.

 

 

The next morning, the two regrouped outside of Grey's room - Kailen had to refrain from raising an eyebrow at the way Trecia lead her there on autopilot. The former rubbed her eyes and knocked on the door.

"Rise and shine!" she called, leaning her head against the door. "Or just rise, if that suits you better."

Grey grumbled on the other side of the wood. There was some shuffling, a bang and a shriek that somehow resembled 'ow', before he emerged with tousled hair. Lips were cracked and eyes were as clogged at the corners as Kailen felt. With a sigh, he murmured, "What is it?"

 

When Trecia opened her mouth to speak, Kailen met her gaze and the words caught in the back of their throats.

"Well, go on. I'd say I haven't got all day but I have. No, wait, don't tell me... The saviour came to speak to you in a dream and now you've come to disturb mine?" His red-rimmed stare moved from one to the other, settling on Trecia - and Kailen's followed and caught the oldest of the trio looking as if she'd just eaten her words. And they'd probably tasted weird.

 

Kailen let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. "Close, genius. But not close enough; it's my mum that's been talking to me. And your girlfriend suggests we do a seance or something."

"She's not my-"

"I'm not his-"

While the pair of them tried to wish away the faint traces of crimson, their friend raised an eyebrow. "Point proven. Now, let's get moving," she remarked with a smirk. Then she pushed off the door frame and started to head off when, almost knocking Trecia over, Grey held his arm out.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait... When? Where? Who? How? And why isn't this on the bad ideas list? Because this is a very, very bad idea."

 

Something akin to a growl escaped Kailen's throat. She stopped walking, turned round and crossed her arms over her chest. Irritation was building inside her; it was almost as if he was physically holding her back. "It is. But we don't have anything to lose and it's a story to tell our non-existent grandkids. Now, get ready or we're talking to ghosts-"

"Souls," Trecia interjected.

The brunette gave a slow nod. "Get ready or we're talking to souls without you."

 

After a few moments, he exchanged glances with Trecia (who nodded). "Fine, let me get my shoes on. But I still think this is a terrible idea."

"The less you whine, the less terrible the idea looks. Try it." Kailen's arms didn't fall back by her sides, she just tapped her foot on the floor and watched him from feet away.

"Oh really?"

Her lips twisted. "No."

"But it might help us not to get noticed by the Sea Of Lives' gatekeeper," Trecia supplied, holding a finger up.

At that, Grey's brow creased and he amended, "Look, I'm really not sure about this. Why don't you get some more sleep and..." He trailed off as Kailen glared.

"Shoes, Grey."

 

 

When they left the building, the cold hadn't abated much since the night. Wind whipped Kailen as she walked ahead of her two companions. They'd shared the weight between them and now both were red-handed, while she'd chosen to stuff her hands in her pockets. It was just like the ground floor corridors - minus the pseudo-calm of night.

"Don't look at her, talk to her, listen to her... Just try and stay as quiet as possible while we're out there," Trecia told them, but part of Kailen's mind was somewhere far away and dark. A little bit like the Sea of Lives. "Kailen, are you even listening?"

The brunette waved a hand in dismissal. "She's a not-so-big ugly monster, and she's a bit like a basilisk, got it."

Trecia sighed, shivered and carried on walking. The buildings around them had started to crumble, showing small signs of damage at first - a scraped wall, missing windows - then moving on to entire sections swept away and crippled by storms. With each new level of disarray, they grew closer to their final destination; by the time the buildings were reduced several storeys, the road opened out to the familiar scene.

 

Xander's deathbed.

 

"You okay?" Grey placed his load down on the ground and, as she divested herself of her own, rested a hand on Trecia's shoulder. "I know you're-"

With a deep breath in, she fixed him beneath a pointed gaze. When she spoke, hands rubbing up and down her arms, it was trained and even. "I'll be fine. Besides, I can't let you do this alone." The teenaged boy's brow furrowed and he frowned, but turned to the things he'd been carrying without farther comment.

Knelt in front of them, small translucent piece in hand, Kailen raised an eyebrow. The object in her grasp was as chilled as the air around them and smooth to the touch. And she couldn't tell in that light but it was either dark green or black (or some other colour her eyes didn't feel like seeing). It was both the most confusing piece - it had no apparent purpose - and the least confusing; there were no buttons to make everything complicated.

 

She stretched up to full height. "Because you think we can't manage it?"

"Kailen-" Warning crept into Grey's tone.

"Because I'm here for myself too: answers, keeping in the loop, staying busy..." Hazel eyes glanced down at the translucent component in Kailen's hands. "But, yeah, you've got a point. You've never seen this stuff before, you might not know how to use it." And then Trecia sniffled, crouching before the objects she'd carted over to the area. She picked up a blanket and threw it up at Grey. "Spread that out on the ground."

He caught it to his chest but stayed put. "It can't be that difficult. If you need to go, show me and you can rest."

 

But she stood up, dumped what she was holding into his arms and took the blanket. Their gazes locked and she insisted, "It's okay, Grey. I'm absolutely fine." Then she turned to the clearing spread the blanket out on the floor. It made a tiny thud as the fibres slapped the ground and the air rushed from under the descending material.

"How about we get a move on already?" Kailen glanced over at Grey, as Trecia pointed out where she had to put each piece. Silence fell upon them now.

In the center was a Ouija board and Kailen laid the translucent item on top of it. It would've been a relatively normal set up, if it hadn't been for the small hexagonal devices around the edge of the board - each held a dial and every dial was at a different angle to the others. Trecia stood over them, making changes and trying to look at them from directly above. Her hands quivered as she settled the needles in their correct places then flipped the switches.

 

Kailen sat where she could face the Sea of Lives, but Trecia and Grey had their backs to it. The former brushed hair out of her eyes and behind her ear, forehead damped by a cold sweat, as Grey insisted, "Last chance to pull out. I won't judge you if you do."

"At least then me and Trecia could compare notes," Kailen muttered. "Sit down."

After a few moments, and a deflating sigh, he took his seat and Trecia looked up at them all - she had an amber panel in her lap that looked suspiciously like a remote. "There are so many different frequencies in this place that I have to use these to push past them all. But, if they're not at certain locations, things can go south pretty quickly."

 

So they nodded. And sat. The air prickled around them and the blanket cushioned their bones. But the only noise came from their breathing and moving clothes. Quiet, wrong.

Trecia bit her lip. "Sorry, Kailen, that looks like all we're going to get to-"

Then the dials trembled. All three turned their focus back to the board in the centre. And the translucent piece twitched. A white light formed at the edge of Kailen's vision. Squinting, she looked up.

 

And a demolished figure rushed at her, with a scream that tore into her mind. Ringing. Agonising. Like a bullet to the brain. A bullet in the shape of her mother.

 

"Kailen. Kailen!" Trecia had a hand on her shoulder when she came round, headache pounding on her skull.

"Mum told me... The world..." she began, heaving in oxygen and staring at their frowns. "The world's merged. This one, that one... The barrier - it's coming apart."

Trecia and Grey exchanged glances, almost akin to parents concerned for their child. Trecia patted her shoulder and turned to pack the equipment away. And Kailen watched her work, as one sentence did laps around her. One sentence she wanted to lock inside her lips and never release.

"You were going to make a brilliant soldier some day, you were going to carry on our legacy here."

 

 

The chill had left their fingers by the time Trecia was sat on Naid's bed again, clutching his hand in hers. His duvet was forgiving compared to the scratched toughness of the instruments. Part of her felt like she shouldn't be there, glancing over at the doorway once in a while, after they'd received the news they had. But it had yet to be confirmed and the world didn't feel like it could fall apart much more. Not now. Not yet.

"It's funny, you know. Of all the messages Marie could've given her... Why did she give her that one?" Trecia shook her head, her thumb brushing across the back of his hand. "And I don't know why I'm asking you - you're unconscious and you didn't really know what was going on then, did you?"

 

Trecia wrapped her small hands around the door handle and pushed it open a little. This was the time for seven-year-old girls to be in bed, not spying on their mothers, but there were larger rules they'd broken in their situation. A simple bedtime shouldn't have mattered.

 

Her mother's wiry frame leaned back against the desk and she had her arms crossed. When she spoke, her words were ice. "You shouldn't have come here. If the others find out how, you're putting yourself in a lot of danger."

"I can handle it. Granted, I came here not knowing what I was getting into but I'm finding out more every day." The blonde woman in the room stared forwards (sideways, to Trecia), head cocked to the side. A ring of hair on her head seemed less dirty than the rest and it flickered along with the light.i

"You still have a lot to learn. Things might be a little bit messed up here but we're all very close. We protect each other's families like our own and, considering how much of threat abc is to them, I can guarantee the others will close ranks."

"Then I'll guard my possessions. Don't doubt me."

Trecia's mother narrowed her eyes. "Good luck, then; not everyone is as forgiving as I am."

"My husband wants to turn my daughter into a soldier, a scientist - the definition doesn't matter. I'm just doing my part."

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