Retrograde

Rayner stepped into Sentire with trepidation and came out into a frostbitten world, with power at her fingertips and the word Goddess on everyone else's lips.
Anthony stepped into Sentire with purpose and came out into a war-torn world, with horns on his head and the word God on his tongue.

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Author's note

My entry for Round Two of the Movellas Talent Show, and the sort of sequel to Coloured Errors (can be read as a stand-alone though).
AA

3. Where the messenger begin his story

 

Act 2, Scene 1

 

(Memories are fragments that should be studied. When placed together, like a shattered mirror, they can provide a full picture of a person. The mind chokes with introspection and self-study and grows even more sentient.)

 

Anthony Wailer was bored with life. In truth, he had always been tired of the rules and regulations the world dictated; go to school, go to work, earn money and waste away. He had rebelled against the world and went travelling, living his life his own way, but that didn’t shake off the feeling of fatigue.

He walked into Sentire looking for an adventure, a reality that would ignite his bones, and he rested piles of money onto the desk.

“The highest amount we offer Mr Wailer is six hours. That’s because in the trials it seemed to be the optimal time.” Mrs Littlewood said over the stacks of money. Anthony thought she was patronising since Sentire had been around for just shy of four years and it had been successful for just over three. It was well past the infantile trial phase.

He didn’t voice his boredom as he was hooked up with wires and drops warmed through to his retinas. He was ready, more than ready.

 

(There is honour in knowing what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. But there is dishonour in going too far and there is wisdom in knowing where that phantom moral line is.)

 

//

 

He does not sleep. He emerges into his world with open eyes, although he does not see how he got there, and he stands in a half-destroyed castle. Paintings with cracked frames rest on the checked floor, frescoed walls crumbling to the touch and he walks on bare feet to the front of the room. Someone grand must have lived there, and something terrible must have happened to destroy such a place.

He picks a painting up, the only one with a silver dusted frame, and finds a woman staring back at him. Her pale skin is covered with golden war paint, the same shade as her hair. There is starlight in her curls and a dainty hand rests on the hollow of her throat, the fingertips dusted with the same silver. She looks delicate and deadly, resting against a snow encrusted tree and her white dress is overcome with snowflakes. The inscription reads that she is the War Angel. He believes in the title and maybe thinks that she is a Goddess or a ruler.

Then, in the glint of the broken frame, he sees the monstrous come alive. A mirror still lies on the wall, a crack running diagonally down its surface. But that does nothing to hide Anthony’s reflection.

He still has his red-tinted hair, the curls framing his cheeks, he still has the leaf green eyes and the cupid bow lips. He still has his stature and his strength. But now there are curling black horns running through his hair, pointing to the sky, and his fingertips are painted black.

He looks like a God, a male figure to the War Angel. In fact, he is a God, there is no doubt.

The shatter of glass signals the entrance of another and Anthony turns. A man stands before him, short with pointed ears, and the glass of what used to be a glass bottle glints down at his feet.

“How now fine spirit?” Anthony asks, his tongue sharp with fire.

“Over the hills, over the valleys and through forest alike we see you. Through flood and fire, we need you, a God where the old Goddess left.” The man’s eyes are omniscient, knowing something Anthony does not. “The Copper Soldiers come...”

The messenger tells him of the world Anthony is in while he packs the glass into a neat pile. He is in Somnia, a world that had been peaceful before the villain Cogito had arrived and created his Copper Soldiers. They are hell-bent on destruction, on turning the natural world to metal machinery. The War Angel had defended them but then she had disappeared and now they have Anthony to defend them.

“Take heed that your safety is ensured then,” Anthony says and nods to the messenger. He walks out of the castle with one backward look. The castle behind him lies like an old man on a hill, torn and bent, with a beard of ivy running down from the doors. But it stands and it is resilient. Anthony knows that this is where his story starts, where he shows the world that he is a God, and within one step he sees the creatures.

He goes to them willingly, through the snow that still barely clings to the ground, and he presses fire to their gears with one outstretched arm. The first Copper Soldier he kills hurls a knife at him, gears whirring at the hilt and a blade sharp and brutal. He considers it for a moment, he does not need such a weapon but it reminds him of the life he must have had before this world and so he tucks it into his breeches, tugging his black shirt over it. He immerses himself back into the battle, noticing how the flames he creates is the same shade as his hair, the blood of the creatures the same shade as his horns. It pleases him.

The second Copper Soldier he kills hisses words at him, “You wear your arrogance like a cruel second skin; it will be your underdoing.”

“I wear my skills and strengths like a deadly second skin and it will be your undoing.” Anthony corrects it and kills it before it can speak more.

He sticks to the battles and to the cities he defends. Over the progression of time, he learns how to tease the Copper Soldiers, how to gain information from them. He knows that his enemy Cogito has retreated, hidden himself away in the dead of night like a coward.

He forgets the War Angel and becomes what the people title him; “Bellum Diaboli.” He is a God and he knows that for definite, as definite as his thirst for chaos and battle. He knows his purpose in this world and he relishes in the excitement that runs through his veins like sparks.

On the night when he feels Somnia slip through his fingers his original name comes back to him. He finishes his fight, jams his stolen blade into the sternum of a Copper Soldier, and when the fight is done he stares at the smattering of stars in the velvet sky.

Anthony Wailer shed his virtual skin and came to on a bench in Sentire. He cursed Mrs Littlewood for removing the wires and the implant from his eyes. He wanted the chaos back, he needed it back. But he was the War Devil and he would survive until he returned to Somnia.

 

(Some people survive chaos, some fight it with swords of bitter words and bravery, and some greet it like a lover because its kiss is far sweeter than peace.)

 

//

 

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