Again I woke up with snort flowing back into my throat. Gotta love my nose for a lifetime of sinus.
Holy cow does my body hurt! My back lit up in more ways than I could think of. My legs felt as if I had been two-foot-tackled by four English Centre backs. And my arms! Don’t get me started with my arms.
Searing pain in left arm!!!
“What the hell?!” I turned, too fast for my sore neck. Argh!
“Sorry man, just wanted to see if you’re alive,” Lodeon said, withdrawing his finger, the perpetrator of my agony. “How are you feeling?”
Left foot casted in a moonboot.
Body’s mostly wrapped in bandages.
Iv drip violating my right arm while the left hung in even more bandages.
And the rest, in a world of indescribable pain.
In summary. “Like shit.”
“Could’ve been worse,” he said.
You gotta be kidding me, I replied with my face.
“Dude look,” he nodded towards the ceiling where a television hung. “It really could’ve been worse.”
‘The Hero of Victory Heights’ the newsbar rolled below the anchorwoman. A video began to play on the S-HDTV beside her.
Just as the civilian footage peeped unsteadily from a red truck, an explosion rocked the earth, sending debris crashing down onto the streets. A violent shrill erupted. People poured out of the cross junction at town centre screaming.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what you’ll see next is truly a heroic act by a citizen of Victory Heights,” miss anchorwoman said.
I ran frantically into the frame, spinning quickly to fire the other way.
A colossal hand swung, I twisted and ducked, missing death by a pinky. Lego’s storefront was obliterated. The creature’s mammoth body slithered behind, its plated hide easily rolling over steel cars and concrete roadblocks. I cut the junction through the city’s Shell station. It pursued. With a dozen volatile pumps between us, I turned to face it, feeding shells into Di’s shotgun.
“They’ve been running this across all news channels,” Lodeon said.
“How long was I out?”
“A day and a half,” he said.
A giant plume of smoke took the screen. An inhumane scream followed. The video was cut, then switched to another recording from a higher viewpoint, another civilian footage. ‘Viewer’s discretion’ rolled at the bottom. The monster reared with tremendous force, throwing its four arms aimlessly. A burning wound ate at its cylindrical body. It pulled away from the flame with the same frightening strength, ripping its body where the wound was. Something orange spewed. Innards. It wavered for a moment. Then with a final cry, it slammed against Hollan’s Aparment, flattening all ten beautiful floors of it.
“Video’s everywhere,” Lodeon showed me his iPhone.
CNN. Al Jazeera. Fox.
Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Even Google’s homepage had its interpretation of the event.
“You’ll surpass YouTube’s most viewed if it keeps going at this rate,” he added.
My body stopped hurting in that instance. I was pretty sure that my mind had collapsed inwards. “Parents? Dreamy?” I barely muttered.
“Mi’s with Aunt Noma,” Lodeon explained. “Neighbourhood’s set up a shelter. Dreamy’s safe with Di in the next ward. Vet’s kinda hot, just thought you should know.”
“She’s holed up with the others back in the neighbourhood.”
That made me smile.
Lodeon looked distressed. He stared into distance. “It was a stroke of luck when we found them running down on the main street as we drove in. Some climbed on with Di while others struggled to hang on the outside. We had a clear path then. But when the monster entered the main street, it was a death race. Ten pieces of meat hanging on a jeep must’ve seemed like a Big Mac to it,” he sighed. “And that’s when you said ‘We won’t make it’ and jumped off. You fucker.”
“Yea, fuck you. There was no way I could’ve stopped in time to hand the wheel to Di.”
“That was the plan.”
“Well fuck you again. And thank you for kicking ass,” he said, bumping my moonboot. “You saved us. You saved the town. But please, for the life of me, next time, don’t do it alone.”
“Don’t think I was thinking.”
“Clearly,” a mix of pride and worry found its way onto his face.
“Thanks,” I said before it got awkward.
“Thanks? For what?”
“For not taking the shotgun this time.”
Searing pain in left arm!!!
“Don’t get cocky,” he stood. “Ok, I gotta check on Di and Dreamy. You hang on tight alright? I’ll try to get a picture of the hot vet for you before Ane drops by. Communication’s been really bad since it happened. I’ll keep you updated if anything comes up alright? Try to get some rest,” Lodeon patted my moonboot and left the room.
Now that I’m finally alone… whoah… it all really happened. My aching body was a firm reminder that it wasn’t just a dream. This must’ve been what it felt like to be hugged by The Hulk. My arms were sore as hell from the shotgun’s ludicrous recoil. And the image of the monster thing was firmly etched into my eyelids. It’s gruesome face and pincers closing in on me. It’s stench…
Ok no more of that. Positive thoughts.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
But fuck me sideways, it was all real!
What else could happen? A radioactive bug bites some kid? Gamma ray radiation? A billionaire loses his parents? The world outside my window seemed ordinary enough considering that a Kaiju just pooped on it. Other than a few broken building, the city looked at peace. The sun shone brigh- argh why did I look?! While fluffy clouds cozily hugged it out. Even a pretty little rainbow found its way across the sky. It was literally sunshine and rainbows.
“Good afternoon Hanso,” a voice I didn’t recognise. “May I enter?”
The woman stood in olive, suited from neck to knee. A golden cravat and a gold-rimmed Ray-Bans framed her warm smile. Her dark hair was cropped like Emma Watson’s. She pulled it off.
“I’ll take your silence for a yes,” she strode in.
Mad stride. Tyra Banks would be proud.
“May I?” she gestured to the chair Lodeon used.
Lady, I don’t know who the hell you are.
“You can call me Lep Re,” she introduced, leaning back as she crossed her legs. The sun caught her then, bringing out the olive shades in her hair. A pair of deep-set eyes found me as she shifted her Ray-Bans onto her head. Silver pearls shone, complementing the warmth of her smile. “You are Hanso Low am I right?”
Funky suit. Cool hair. Wrinkles of mid-thirties. Capped with a stride like that, this woman scared me. I decided against saying anything.
She raised an eyebrow.
“Yes,” somehow feeling obliged to answer those silvery orbs.
“Thank you, and manners young man. Don’t ever let a lady wait if you have a choice,” her eyebrow returned to its regular state of equality. “So, you’re all over the news.”
Anyone could’ve told me that.
“You know that don’t you?”
Your point is?
“Alright. Let’s drop the silent game,” Lep Re said, straightening her posture. “I wouldn’t have come uninvited. I’ve spoken to your brother, Lodeon. He knows who I am and what I’m here for.”
“He didn’t mention anything about you.”
“He didn’t want to spoil the moment for you,” she replied. “He also informed me that you’ll misbehave and that I should mention ‘mosquito in the eye’ if the need arises.”
Ha!… of all things, Lodeon. I’ll high-five you later. “Fine, I’m listening.”
“I’ll cut the crap since you don’t warm easily. What you did, no other civilian has. We liked what we saw and we’ve done our research on you. We believe that you might prove suitable for our program.”
“The creature you slayed, it’s not the first and sure as hell it’s not the last. Based on all our encounters, these creatures have no discernable form. No consistency. Tentacles. Claws. Some fly while others swim. We are facing a real threat from an unknown entity Hanso, and we’re only speculating that it’s an entity, as in singular. We haven’t proven if they’re acting individually or operating through a hive mind,” Lep Re explained. “What are they? Aliens? Spirits? Experiments? Where they come from and what they want, your guess is as good as ours. We have yet to find our answers, but not knowing our enemy doesn’t permit us to be unprepared.”
“The creature you encountered two days ago was one third of attacks in this region,” she added. “It is rare that multiple attacks take place concurrently, even rarer is a three-pronged attack, which has only ever happened once before. While we managed to stop one from entering our atmosphere, the other was a marine-based leviathan. It devastated a major oilrig before we brought it down. The third… well, let’s say Victory Heights is lucky to have you.”
Giant monster aliens attacking our world… where are the Jaegers and Ultramen? “Aren’t the governments doing anything? They are the big boys with the big guns.”
“Futile would be a nice way to put it. And a nuclear strike for every foray is plain stupid,” Lep Re answered as if somewhat disgusted with the latter thought. “After the disaster in Tokyork, it became clear that Earth needed a specialised team that would operate and mobilise more efficiently. R.A.I.N.B.O.W.”
“The only assemble standing between us and our extinction,” she leaned forward. “We are the resistance. And you, Hanso, now have the chance to protect our only home. Our planet Earth. To defend it from a threat that’s birthed directly from the great unknown that is the universe.”
“We’ve already agreed that you might have what it takes to be part of the team. So we’ll train you, and we’ll guide you. But what happens when all this gets said and done? Well, we’ll see. It is, ultimately, your choice,” she rose from her sit. “We look forward to you joining the team.”
“The R.A.I.N.B.O.W. Squad. ”
The rainbow outside didn’t seem like much though. “Is this a joke?”
“You read comics I suppose?” she asked.
“Then you know the Avengers and Justice League?”
I nodded again.
“So that’s that,” Lep Re snapped her Ray-Bans back on. “Almost forgot this,” she reached into her coat. “Everyone seems to be crazy over this Steam Player, so here you go. A gift,” she placed it in my right hand, smiled her warm smile, and made for the door.
“Wait!” Damn it. My excitement got the better of me. At least it stopped her. “How would I answer?”
“You’re better than that,” Lep Re said, and strode.
The Steam Player’s dark grey aluminum body had Valve’s logo engraved at the back. Last I read, this piece of tech was reported to only be in prototype. Miss Olive must’ve known people in the ever-elusive company. I tapped on its glass face, probably the first kid in the continent to do so. Fully charged. Nice.
– Draw a circle. – it instructed.
Might as well. I traced a circle. The words dissolved, like steam. Its screen hazed, matching its body’s dark grey. Ah Steam, how we all worship your splendid user interface.
– Steam account log in – Urgh. – Loading –
Let’s have some music.
– Earphones or Surround – it prompted.
Earphones please. Immediately, a thin piece stuck out its top. Wireless earphones! Whoah! I removed them and put it on as well as I understood its streamlined design.
Don’t disappoint me, Miss Olive.
When I was a young boy.
Damn, the lady in olive really did her research.
My father took me into the city, to see a marching band.
He said, “Son, when you grow up.”
“Would you be the saviour of the broken?
“The beaten and the damned.”
*** End ***
In this issue, Hanso listens to Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
Please LIKE if you enjoyed the ride! It's the lil heart on the left. Let me know what you felt when you read it too. :)
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Cover gorgeously illustrated by Tang Xiao Ming.
Again I woke with snort flowing back into my throat. Gotta love my nose for a lifetime of sinus…
In one swift movement, I flipped the sheets, bounced off the bed and dashed to my room’s bathroom. Then with forces unseen, I channeled all my strength to my throat, ridding the phlegm with one satisfying gurgle. A flush, and off it went to my personal grave of goo. Now finally for the toothbrush’s noble duty, flourished with a douse of water to the face.
Rise and shine, Hanso. Always good starting the day as a bouncing ball of energy.
Out the window, the sun yawned, shimmering in gold as it completed its pass across the horizon, casting long shadows in the shape of the neighbourhood’s treetops and rooftops. The world was still serene in its slumber, slow to the call of day as I was. I yawned a lion’s yawn.
It’s been awhile since I last breathed the morning air. I’d even forgotten how majestic that ball of fire actually is when I’m not frying under it during the day. Too many late nights on Fifa recently. Team’s on the brink of breaking into the top division. Exciting stuff. Speaking of which, Champion’s League football happened while I was asleep. To the computer!
Manchester United 1. Borrusia Dortmund 0. Yes! We’re through to the semi-finals. Beautiful sunrise. Awesome football news. All I needed was some good music to put the icing on such a wonderful morning.
iTunes. Shuffle and play.
I stepped back into the centre of my cozy little room. With feet shoulder width apart and hands palmed at my chest, I breathed deeply, fully extending my arms downwards. Then upwards behind in one fluid motion. My shoulders clicked as I circled to my peak. Body tingling as it came alive. I breathed out, and then brought my arms down to front, fully extended once more, before bending with my body to reach for my toes.
Welcome to your life.
Got that right Tears for Fears.
There’s no turning back.
I reversed the motion, inhaling.
Even while we sleep.
Ending with palms touching at my chest, exhaling.
We will find you.
It was as if the sum of all the energy in the Lion King intro had amassed and contained itself within me, and damn does it feel so damn good! Mind’s feeling mindful. Body’s beyond sprightly. Roar! Making a mental note to sleep earlier from now on.
Acting on your best behaviour.
The door went. “Hanso, are you awake?”
Turn your back on Mother Nature.
“Yes mum!” I shouted, turning down the volume.
“Good! Come join us for breakfast if you can,” she said. Her footsteps trailing off.
Cereal for breakfast! God does my tongue miss the sugary goodness of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut blissfully presented in the milky comfort of Dairy Farmers. Could’ve had a bowl every morning and never got sick of it during my days in college. Too bad they’re not as available back here. But still, cereal for breakfast is still cereal for breakfast.
With some clothes on, I looked for my iPhone before heading downstairs.
- Morning sleepyhead. - message from Anne.
- MORNING! CEREAL FOR BREAKFAST! - I replied, hoping that the full caps text would do justice to my excitement, and her soon-to-be-shock of receiving a reply from me at this wee hour of the day.
And with that, I made my way down.
“Gosh, I thought Mi was hearing voices when she told me that you’re awake,” Lodeon said, impressed served with a subtle layer of sarcasm. He sat at the dining table, dressed for work. Grey shirt and black tie with ponytail tight as ever.
“Ha. Very funny.”
“There’s peanut butter and jelly,” mum informed, ironing beside the kitchen counter.
“It’s okay Mi. Cereal would do,” I replied, barely containing my breakfast gusto.
“Haven’t seen you awake this early in ages man,” Lodeon said.
Fridge for milk.
Top kitchen cupboard for cereal.
“Yea… I slept late though. Not sure why I’m feeling so awake right now,” I eagerly sat myself at the table with my precious bowl of cereal. “Long day today?”
“Meeting a few clients,” Lodeon replied. “Shit man, hope I’ll have time for FM. Season’s coming to a close. Crazy. One point ahead of Chelsea with two games to go.”
“So old and you’re still playing,” mum commented.
Lodeon chuckled. “FM isn’t just a game Mi.”
I chuckled along. I knew. He knew.
“Where’s Di?” I asked.
“He just left for the vet. Lil Dreamy’s up for her checkup,” she smiled the mum’s smile as she looked at us. “Always nice to have you two together.”
“I know, I know. Work won’t be in the way much longer. Promise that I’ll be able to do dinner again,” I assured her. The thought of being with the family more regularly was genuinely pleasant, but the orange bowl that lay before me had me entirely. So glorious in all its milkiness. It deserves more of me. I held its spoon, chilled by the paradise it touched. I lifted it to my mouth with the anticipation of a hungry koala, and then, heaven.
“The heck’s wrong with you?” Lodeon dared probe into my mouthly sanctuary.
“The fuck?!” the world outside glowed unnaturally.
Warily, Lodeon looked out of our picture window.
Its glass shattered. “Chicken backside?!?!” he threw his arms up to shield his eyes as I did.
Mum screamed and ducked behind the counter. She was safe.
A second brilliant light flashed.
“Upstairs,” I said. Lodeon nodded. We ran up to my room. Its door was unhinged. Books were off their shelves. The windows, broken. But the mess was nothing compared to the one our neighbourhood was in. For what I saw then, left me with nothing to say. I literally said something that was nothing. Our jaws hung. Our realities broken.
A dark body, greater than any structure in the neighbourhood, rose from ash and cinder.
“Godzilla,” Lodeon gasped.
The beast. Monster. Giant. Whatever, tilted its head back and let loose a cry so vile it must have drawn from the collective fear of the planet into a single breathe. It was vicious even from such distance. What must it have felt like to be right where it was? I couldn’t imagine. Its body was massive, at least fifteen floors high, yet it moved fluidly. It wasn’t machine. Four mighty arms appeared from its silhouette, rearing for a strike. It was not human. They smash into the only tower the neighbourhood had, breaking it in two. It was evil.
“Dad and Dreamy,” Lodeon said. Fearful.
The creature writhed forward to its next prey, obliterating our Town Hall as easily as one, two, three… four.
“We can’t stay here and do nothing,” Lodeon urged. “Do you remember where Di kept his stash?”
I nodded. “You get mum.”
We moved quickly. He took the stairs. I trust that he had the right words of comfort for mum. He always had that in him. I went to Dad’s room. He had told us once before if in case of an emergency, and if only it was truly necessary, we had a minor arsenal stored at the back of his cupboard. I threw the clothes out. Mum wouldn’t mind now. A small crack to the right marked the hidden panel’s leeway. I slid it open.
Leone YG1265 Auto Shotgun. Eight rounds.
Beretta 92FS Inox. Three clips.
I ran down, thinking how these merchants of death now seemed so puny in the wake of the horror that loomed.
Lodeon had mum in his arms. He must’ve told her what we planned. I placed the firearms on the kitchen counter to join them. “We’ll come back Mi. Dad’s gonna be safe.”
Her eyes spoke for her. Her tears and words couldn’t find their way through the shock.
“We will Mi,” Lodeon assured.
I could only nod.
The Earth rocked violently. More things fell off their shelves. The car alarms on the main road wailed.
“Look Mi, we got to go now before it gets worse. Find Aunt Noma okay? Stay with them. You’ll be safe out here. Text us where to find you,” Lodeon instructed. “Take the bag we packed just now. It has what you need.”
She looked us in the eye. She had not the heart to let go but she understood. She gave us a final squeeze.
“Love you Mi,” we both said.
She quickly grabbed the bag and went out the front door. Outside, neighbours were on the street shouting and pointing to city centre. Children sought sanctuary in their parents’ arms while birds flee to the opposing direction, away from the morning sky which now glowed orange, scorched by the flames of destruction.
“Ready?” Lodeon asked.
“Not really. But all those times we spent on the shooting grounds and in Borderlands, this is what we dreamt for right? Heroics of World War Two. Stuff of superheroes.”
“Pretty cool, huh?”
“Fucking scary,” I said, honest to the gods that I had no idea what would happen next. We’ve seen this scene play out in countless movies, but fuck me it was insane that it’s happening for real. I looked at Lodeon, my blood brother. Growing up together, we understood one another with little words. A bond forged through the years of cooperative gaming. He was my guardian as I was his devil. I wouldn’t pick another to have my back.
We knew what we preferred. He was the better aim. I had the better reactions. I took the shotgun.
Instincts guided us to Dad’s Evoque parked on the car lawn.
“Can’t wait to see the look on Dad’s face when he sees us driving his baby,” Lodeon chuckled.
The car shook. Oh well. Highway to Hell I thought.
*** End ***
Thats's the end of the preview issue of The R.A.I.N.B.O.W. Squad. It's my first posting on Tablo. Thrilled that I've finally found the courage to put the story up.
Please LIKE if you enjoyed the ride! It's the lil heart on the left. Would really appreciate it. Let me know what you felt when you read it too. :)
Stay tuned for the next issue of The R.A.I.N.B.O.W. Squad by clicking FOLLOW.
Major fist bump to Tang Xiao Ming who helped visualised the mad book cover.
The morning drive to Ane’s rolled by in the type of grey that came after a slow drizzle. Lodeon had picked me from the hospital when the doctors signed my discharge just a day after Miss Olive’s colourful visit. My body had somehow healed quicker than they’d expected. They were perplexed, citing that they might have overplayed the extent of my injuries. I wasn’t complaining. Another day in there and I would’ve surely caused injuries to myself.
It was a quiet drive home as we skirted around the post-Kaiju town of Victory Heights. The red and blue of siren lights enduringly shone through the night and day as they worked tirelessly to return normalcy to the people. Broken homes to rebuild, and possibly lost bodies to recover. The local officials must’ve had more distress than they knew how to deal with. Di always said that they were the true heroes. Never disagreed. Ordinary men with extraordinary duties. Respect.
Yet as we cruised further from the city to return home, the scars of violence seemed to diminish with the freeway's vast open fields. Its vacuum, a canvass of space for me to drift into.
Before I knew it, we were already approaching Victory Garden. Lodeon slowed, cutting into its turnoff. The neighbourhood welcomed us with its steel arched gateway. ‘Sic Parvis Magna’ it said at the top. I felt at ease seeing it untouched. It gave me a sense of security to know that home had survived the chaos. I gave it a little salute, whispered its words. We were home.
Just a few metres down stood Ane’s. She was twirling her hair on the front lawn. Rynn and Sovia were with her. Boèga and Ju Lie not far behind.
“You sure you can walk?” Lodeon brought the car to a stop.
I stretched my legs out. “I think I’ll be fine.”
“Cools. Let me know if you need me to get you,” he said. I hopped off. His car turned the corner, heading home.
“Dude, it’s good to have you back,” Ju Lie beamed, pulling me into a bro-hug.
“Thanks man, for coming. Sorry you guys had to come all the way here instead.”
“You mad bro? No way we could’ve let you come to us,” Boèga said. “The media would slaughter us for letting our hero suffer any more. I can already picture the headlines, ‘The Uncaring Friends of the Hero of Victory Heights’,” he paused to give his grandeurs title a thought. “Nah, not mainstream enough.”
“It’s nice to see you to Boèga,” I chuckled, bro-hugging him. “What’s happening? What’s with the media?”
“They’ve visited our homes,” Ane said.
“They even spoke Swedish to me,” Sovia added, bemused. She short-person-squeezed me before Rynn gently patted my shoulder.
“Tell me you denied them.”
“Duh!” Boèga interjected. “They didn’t even offer us Starbucks vouchers. Even after I asked! Pfft.”
We all gave him the eyes, our silent appreciation for Boèga’s sense of humour. He obviously basked in it.
“So how’re things here? Heard from Ane that you guys won’t be able to stay long. Something to do with helping the neighbourhood out?”
“Yea, neighbourhood’s on shifts to help with the areas that got hit worst. The initial bursts caused more than just broken windows,” Ju Lie explained. “We’re needed at the school in a bit. Rynn and Sovia too. The Zangs and others are at the overpass now. It’s been tough for them, they’ve been there since four in the morning.”
Rynn brought her phone up for me to have a look.
- H, hope ure feeling better. Sorry man, we can’t be there. Noma’s got us at the school since sunrise. Heard she hasn’t slept for 3 days. Lady’s made of steel. Anyway, drinks on us the next time we head to Double Storey. - message from Zang Ree Unn.
- Drinks on me! Let’s try exploiting my one shot at fame. - I replied with Rynn’s.
“How are you feeling?” Rynn asked, holding on to Sovia’s arm, as the doctor-to-be studied me. Her lips twisted ever so slightly.
“I almost died that first day in the hospital,” my body turned cold by the mere thought of it.
“It was cringe worthy,” Ane’s face said it all.
“But I feel alright now I guess. Didn’t expect to be out so soon. Doctors were surprised as well. Not sure if I recovered fast or they overreacted to my injuries. Lol.”
“Try to give your body another day to rest Hanso,” Rynn said. “The adrenaline of seeing Ane could be masking the pain more than you might know.”
Ane squirreled her. Sovia, the willing unfortunate victim
“Hey guys, we gotta go,” Ju Lie looked at his phone.
“Do you guys need help at the school?”
“Chill alright. Go rest before the press finds out that you’re back,” Ju Lie insisted, forehead creasing. “Victory Garden’s about to get a whole lot of spotlights when the military arrives. The President’s pledged his full support, whatever that means. Hopefully they’ll have a Gundam or something ready for anything else coming our way.”
“You gotta give us a chance to save the day too,” Boèga chipped in.
“For real! The hits you’re getting online are blowing heads off,” Boèga gestured with the enthusiasm of a raging rabbit. “Imagine th-.”
“Alright boys,” Rynn interrupted. “We gotta go. Let’s give the lovebirds some cuddle time.”
“Bye guys!” Ane engaged Rynn and Sovia in a three-way hug-slash-spin-slash-hop.
“Drinks,” Ju Lie pointed at me.
“Double Storey,” bro-hugging. Boèga made me swear it.
“Let me walk you guys out,” Ane offered.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rynn insisted, already ushering the others off the front lawn.
“Thanks Rynn!” Ane called.
Rynn waved an arm.
“Thanks for not letting me do this alone,” I sighed in relief.
Ane wrapped me in a fierce hug.
Searing pain in left arm.
“You’re telling me that you would rather face that giant monster?” she pulled back a little to look at me with mocked disbelief.
“In some ways, yea.”
“Nonsense you,” Ane let go and scrubbed my hair. “Really sorry I couldn’t stay in the hospital with you, Han.”
Her voice choired with all its raspiness, plucking at my heartstrings with each note as clear as it did over a year ago. The world felt simpler when I was tuned to her, brighter. Hers was the single-track playlist I could loop for days on end. The song that’ll keep me anchored for moments high and low. The treble to my bass. Her ballad, my chorus.
“You’re giving me that look again,” her lightly freckled cheeks flushed, gentle clouds to the daylight that was her awkward smile.
“And now I’m blushing,” she threw her hair forward and quickly sat at her front door.
I shifted in close to her. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too, you silly boy,” she prodded my side. It didn’t hurt.
“Ane, don’t worry about the hospital okay? There was no way you could leave your mum after what happened,” I looked into Ane’s living room where her mum was. “It must’ve gotten pretty bad over here.”
She leaned on my right shoulder. “It really sucked that our phone lines died. Luckily, Aunt Noma and the local police were quick to get things under control. They directed us to Atria Park when it happened. Didn’t take long for most of us to be gathered. Met the gang there. Your mum too.”
“Aunt Noma and the police?” I asked.
“More like Aunt Noma led the police,” she giggled.
“Should’ve guessed,” I laughed along. “She’s always been such a dominant figure.”
“Don’t remind me of our last trip,” Ane said.
A snicker slipped through.
“Don’t,” she shook her head.
“Good times though,” I pecked her cheek. There was nothing more than I could ask for than to breathe the same space of air with her.
Ane turned to meet my lips. “Don’t go after another one of those monster okay? Leave it to Boèga and Ju Lie.”
“Pinky promise it.”
Ane took a peep inside. “I better go help my mum,” but her expression differed.
“Go Ane. She needs you now. We’ll text,” I smiled and nodded inside.
“You better,” she said, helping my sore body up. Then wrapping me entirely before I could steady myself. “Goodbye for now,” she eskimoed me, released and spun for the door, lush hair trailing.
“Sorry Aunt Stacy!” I shouted.
“It’s okay Hanso!” Aunt Stacy replied. “You can hardly walk.”
Was I meant to hear that last bit? Lol.
“Bye tiger,” Ane winked by the door. “Text me when you get home,” she blew a kiss before it was shut.
It was pleasant walking home. Absorbing the neighbourhood’s sights and sounds always reminded me of childhood memories. From the distance to the city and beaches to the space in and in between houses, dotted by the adorable individual patches of greens with all its laid-back suburbians, Victory Garden made a good space for the soul to retreat to.
And home. There it stood for longer than I have. Unchanged but for the minor extensions to the front porch and rear kitchen. Its walls were white, the way Di wanted it, peppered with pretty little pots of exotic flowers, the way Mi loved it. These were the two floors of four walls I grew up in with Lodeon. None of us would have it any other way.
“Hany, you walked?” Mi asked as soon as I stepped through the front door. She was sorting some broken frames into a cardboard box.
“Er yea. Feeling much better actually.”
She scanned me with motherly attentiveness. “How’s Ane and Aunt Stacy?” she finally asked when she was satisfied with her analysis, resuming her task at hand.
Mothers. I chuckled to myself. Gotta love them. “She’s good. Aunt Stacy’s good too. Ju Lie, Sovia and the rest were there. They’re gonna help Aunt Noma with the neighbourhood.”
“Everyone’s taking turns. Di and me will be joining them tomorrow. Lodeon at night I think. You, stay put,” she read my mind. “Get some rest. We bought some pastry. Take one before you go up. I’ve sorted the stuff in your room but I wasn’t sure how you arranged them so I left some of it on the table.”
“Don’t worry about it Mi. Thanks!”
Di and Lodeon were shifting the fallen cupboard back to its upright state in the living room.
“Need any help?”
“Go rest man,” Lodeon said.
“Don’t worry Hanso. We’ll let you know if we need an extra pair of hands,” Di said, his turn to analyse my wellbeing despite having a cupboard’s weight on him. Parents. “Nice to see you up and walking again after the stunt you pulled.”
“Ha. Just glad I’m home now. How’s Dreamy?”
“Overjoyed that our backyard still belongs to her,” Di pulled his face.
“At least she’s still in good spirits,” I gleed.
Di and Lodeon grunted as they gave the cupboard one final push.
“You’re right Han. What you said in the hospital,” Di said, wiping a sheen of sweat off his forehead.
“Right about how stopping that creature could probably be less tedious than a lot of other things,” he turned, cracking his back.
Lodeon half-chuckled-half-panted. “Go rest man.”
“Call me if there’s anything okay?”
“Grab the pastry mum bought before you head up,” Di reminded. “It’s on the kitchen table.”
Sausage bun. Tuna bread. Cheese stick.
Cheese stick, I choose you.
My room’s door was back in place. Thanks Di and bro! Other than the broken window and misplaced items, my room was as tidy as can be. Couldn’t thank Mi enough for the years of motherly care.
Black series Boba Fett in awesome battle pose with Stormtrooper.
V mask beside Lord of the Rings Blu-ray.
Moore’s Watchmen next to Salvatore’s Legend of Drizzt.
The others can wait, for my bed called. I plopped onto it, submitting to its realm of coziness. Phroar! If there was a Heaven on Earth, this has to be it. My back worshipped me. Beside me, my iPhone vibrated ferociously. Naturally, being unchecked for the past days, my social media was on fire, but at that moment, it wasn’t something I desired. I swiped past them.
- I’m home! Somehow managed to walk without breaking a bone. :P. How’s the progress over there? Gonna take a nap now. Will be alive in an hour. <3 - message sent to Ane.
Knowing what happened, it was cool how cool my friends and family were. They didn’t probe for details. Instead, they simply let me be. Ane and Lodeon might’ve had a hand in that when I was admitted, but still, I really appreciated them for giving me the space. I smiled to myself, for them, and for this moment to be able to piece my thoughts together.
There was a playlist I made for moments like this. For when my mind sets sail into the plains of enigma. Where endless horizons shone with the grace of hope.
Sync iPhone with Bowers & Wilkins 5.1. Play.
When you wake up in the morning and look into her eyes,
Oh, oh yes.
And everything you're dreaming of is far beyond the skies.
I believe we're going on into the open void.
Far across the sky, never wondering why.
I held the Steam Player before me. It was the only link I had to Miss Olive and her R.A.I.N.B.O.W Squad. Its battery was half drained and I had no means to charge it. A deadline I presumed. And a decision to make. Solely based on that blinding exchange with Miss Olive. There was nothing about them on Google or Wikipedia.
Everybody's got a story, everybody's got their own.
Do you feel any better when you find you're not alone?
Battling aliens. Saving Earth.
As you lay on down and look into the sun,
And you see somebody that reminds you, of where you're coming from.
It was everything a geek would dream of. But this was real. A clear tangible struggle between Humanity and an unknown evil. Real lives were at stake. Most crucially, our only home in the entire cosmic universe hangs in the balance. The battlefield. And I had the opportunity to do something good about it. My choice.
Wondering how did it all ever turn out this way?
Even those who stand so tall can no longer say.
But what would happen to my family and friends? Would I have the chance to walk down the streets of Victory Heights once more? Or lie in the rhythm of Ane’s heartbeat?
Thak thak – Thak – Thak thak.
Lodeon was at the door.
“Yea, come in.”
He closed the door behind him and sat at the edge of my bed where I laid. He was silent for a moment. His hands in his pockets.
Look into the other side and you’ll find you’ve begun.
“Mosquito in the eye, huh?”
He chuckled. “No one else on the planet would have that in their vocabulary.”
“How’s Charyl?” I asked.
“She’s losing her shit not being here with me,” Lodeon sighed. “She’s already on her flight back. Picking her up later before heading to Atria Park to help out tonight.”
Said the sun to the mountainside.
You’ll never find out till you try.
“So, what’s it going to be? Are you gonna save the world?”
And all their words cut like a knife.
You’re gonna have to stand up sometime.
“Yea,” I nodded to myself. “I guess I am.”
*** End ***
Hanso listens to In the Morning by Wolfmother in this issue of The R.A.I.N.B.O.W. Squad.
Please LIKE if you enjoyed the ride! It's the lil heart on the left. Let me know what you felt when you read it too. :)
Cover gorgeously illustrated by Tang Xiao Ming.