“Face it,” Aryan waved his hand. “Everything’s gone now. We can’t do anything.”
They sat on a hill. It used to be beautiful, and still was now, but it only ironically reflected how red and chaotic over the other side.
Shefede leaned back heavily onto the grass. He didn't care if there was a small piece of rock under his back that was uncomfortable.
“Maybe you can see this as a dream.” He turned his head to the left, seeing his companion, and the fire burning in his eyes.
“At the end you are the one who can accept this as a dream.” Aryan smiled sadly at that comment, “I am too weak to protect myself. Let’s go.”
He stood up first and Shefede followed. They walked down the hill slowly, Aryan carefully balancing but Shefede stumbling behind him carelessly. They crossed the river, their feet icy cold, and onto the ground again. Sand and soot was dry under their bare feet, stuck to the cold, wet skin, but it wouldn’t matter after a while.
The village was burning, and soldiers were running around yelling and slashing against living people. One spotted them and yelled in a language that, after a while, the two were scarcely able to understand.
Aryan gave nothing away and kept on walking. Shefede shuffled to behind Aryan and followed up as that soldier yelled one last time and, seeing that the warning didn’t work, slashed clean across their necks.
“Every time.” Shefede laughed as he swept the floor with a broom, “Every, single, time, Aryan. You just do that. You know you’ll hurt yourself a million times this way.”
Aryan shrugged as he did a dust angel on the floor, in the middle of the drawing. “I can’t be bothered to care. I probably have, anyway.”
“Move your lazy arse.” Shefede poked his friend with the broom at the side, “Move, I gotta clean this up.”
Aryan rolled across the floor in a floppy motion, but before he could sit up or pat the dust from his clothes the door was knocked loudly.
“Come in, it’s not locked.” They said in unison.
A figure’s long shadow was illustrated on the ground as soon as the door was open. The living room was dusty and lack of normal furniture or decoration save the two hung portraits on the wall, and the walls were white and floor was a grey concrete.
“This place is shit.” The guy coughed as he sat down on a creaky chair, “You guys really need to do something.”
Shefede swept a pile of dust at Jon’s face to make a point. “Nope. Just do your thing.”
“Fine,” The visitor put a pen in his left hand and started to fill in the paper in the other. “Names, Shefede Kinston and Aryan Goth. Destination?”
Aryan stood up and patted himself violently and got dust everywhere. “I think it was called Sand Columns, on, like, Juna or something.”
Jon turned his head to Shefede for more valid information, only to see the latter nod. Aryan paced onto the balcony and leaned back with both arms stretched out; his pose looked like a chicken from Shefede’s angle. He pretended to hit his friend with a long throw for being commented as a kind of flying animal.
“Universe?” Jon said, his hand swiftly moving across the page.
“Second.” Shefede now had finished sweeping and leaned the broom against the wall. “And the mission was from First Lab to observe the living of the native people, with an essay. We’ll give you that in a week’s time and the reason for ending mission early was that they had a revolution and native people were massacred by government soldiers.”
Jon winced as he recorded it down. “Ouch.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Shefede agreed and looked at his friend, who was pretending not to care. “And let’s just say that Aryan got emotionally attached somewhere along the line.”
“Okay, my job here is done.” Jon stood up and left with a quick, informal salute.
“Why did you tell him that?” Aryan questioned after the door was closed and the yellow, dim light from the corridor was cut off completely, and only a small slit of it could be seen under the creaky wood.
Shefede shook his head as he advanced near the living space of the apartment. “We’ll have to write the whole thing. They would have to figure that out anyway.”
Aryan only grumbled in response and followed into the room. Shefede was facing the wardrobe, his body completely still.
“Trying to pick an outfit?” Aryan asked, smiled and nudged his friend slightly aside to get a better look at the wardrobe.
“Shit.” He said quietly, and turned around to pull out a wallet from the beside-table drawer. “Let’s go, go, go.”
And they left the almost empty wardrobe behind, with its two doors still opened up wide.
“I hate how every time we just waste clothes, and we still have to wear good stuff.” Aryan complained as he threw a T-shirt onto his friend’s arm. “This is so annoying.”
“You know what I think, “Shefede agreed with a nod and suggested, “The officials should provide our clothing, and badges that say ‘we are not gay’.”
True, just about everyone in the mall was suspicious of their relationship on different levels. They could feel their backs being stared at by so many pairs of eyes it almost felt hot.
Aryan rolled his eyes and put another pair of pants over his shoulder. “I think you are yet to discover and embrace your sexuality, but the clothing I totally agree.”
“You fuckin’ need to discover your sexuality.” Shefede mumbled. “And I think we just need suits now.”
“Yup.” Aryan said as he paid for the clothes and his wallet dramatically slimmed down by about half and they advanced toward the men’s clothing store. On the way over on the escalator, a familiar female voice called out their names from behind. Shefede turned over to find Juna stepping down behind them, descending at the same pace.
“Hey,” Shefede said with a smile, “Guess what? We went to a planet named after you.”
She grinned and smoothed her fringe back with her long, slender fingers. “I’m not surprised. How was it?”
They chatted a bit more and Juna agreed to pick out best-looking suits for both of them, and after about fifteen minutes of executing weird suits they settled on grey ones- Shefede’s light, and his friend’s slightly darker.
“There we go.” Juna smiled. “What do you say?”
Aryan grumbled. Shefede nodded and bagged the two suits.
“We have to get he essay done in a week. Thankfully our notes are still with us.” He said, opening Aryan’s wallet to find that the award from last time was almost half gone. “Where did all the money go?”
“On the T-shirts and pants, what did you think?” Aryan rolled his eyes. Shefede ignored his companion’s arrogance and paid for the suits.
“As I was saying, Juna, we have to get the essay done in a week, and when we do go to the Labs we have to dress up like going to a ball.” Shefede smiled at the clerk and left the shop, on his way dragging Aryan’s shirt hem with his spare hand like looking after a grumpy puppy.
“I hate balls.” Aryan said, trotting along.
“You have them.” Juna pointed out and laughed hysterically, and inhaled deeply after a fit of laughter. “Oh my gosh! I am so immature!”
Aryan dragged his heavy feet step by step behind the happily chatting two and face-palmed himself.
“Really, Aryan, what’s wrong?” Juna asked after she calmed herself.
“Tired after just then, that’s all.” He waved his hand dismissively. The two in front continued to chatter as they walked toward the apartment building. Juna left at the lobby door and the two of them rode up in the elevator car, silent, Aryan almost falling to sleep during the forty-three-storey ride.
By the time Aryan woke up, he was in the bed and Shefede was sitting at the desk, typing away the essay they were supposed to write.
“You getting better?” Shefede turned to him after a click of a full stop. The lighting in the room was dim but it was enough to see that there were black rings under his eyes, which Aryan was confused to see.
“What happened?” He tried to sit up, but a splitting headache made his elbows lost the already-weak strength.
“I think Princess Alora’s dose went a tad too far and now you’re having symptoms of alcohol poisoning or something.” Shefede stood up from the screen and walked over. “You okay?”
It was at the mention of the word “alcohol” when Aryan smelled the unpleasant stanch of the bucket at the side of his bed. “I puked?”
“Yeah, a few times.” He passed him a cup of water. Aryan sat up with Shefede’s hand behind his back and took a few sips. After that he laid down again, only to find that his eyelids were no longer heavy like before. But before he could get up or say something, Shefede muttered, “Get some rest. I’ll just get an outline and you can finish touch, yeah?”
“’K.” He said, and when the blond started to type again, he just looked at the side of his face, illuminated by the light coming from the computer screen, for a long, long time.
Shefede sat down at the computer and turned it on after carrying Aryan to bed. The guy fell asleep at the doorway and had to be dragged in like a dead, heavy body. And Shefede had had experiences with dead bodies, but those moments were already recorded.
The computer asked for a user name and a password. For the user name he just typed “Kinston”, but after about two weeks’ time with the Sand Columns, it took time for him to remember his password.
He ought to change it. It was from the last mission, but Angelique was safe from the Maroons now and away. Her memory should have fully recovered, too, and that was the last thing Shefede would want to know before leaving her.
After opening the panel for changing password, he thought about what to change to- usually it was another girl from a mission, or some time special that he wanted himself to commemorate. But this time, he wasn’t so sure.
Aryan’s soft murmurs in bed about Princess Alora only reminded him that he should get on with the essay, so that was what Shefede did. After only a few chapters into the environment of Sand Columns, Aryan stirred and Shefede was quick enough only to get a bucket for his friend.
It was then when he knew that Princess Alora had given too much dose, but by accident or on purpose, in this short period of time, they wouldn’t know. It would only be after two weeks or so, when the Labs successfully got in contact with the Desert Kingdom people in a way or another, which they could connect and look back.
In the following two hours, Aryan vomited another two times and woke up once, asking about what happened. He must have been on a fever, because even his back was boiling hot when Shefede touched it. For that, after Aryan had gone to sleep again, he took off his friend’s shirt and kept an eye on him every few paragraphs.
The second time Aryan woke up, Shefede was no longer at the desk but presumably outside. The light in the kitchen was on, but it wasn’t too bright as somehow there was a pillow of shield in front of his eyes.
Leaving the bed was cold to Aryan, as he was possibly sick or very sick, so he swung the thinner blanket over his shoulder as a cape and left the bedroom, on his way finding out that the bucket was gone.
Smell of food came from the kitchen and the microwave was open, with food inside. Aryan walked down the corridor to see that Shefede was washing out the bucket and that he had just finished, leaving the bucket up-side-down beside the shower.
“I made food.” He simply said as the tap was on and his hands were running under the water with bubbles, “Fish fillets and pizza. Tomorrow I should probably go get the awards, since you’re so sick.”
Aryan wanted to protest, but just followed Shefede along as they left the bathroom. “What’s wrong with me?”
“It looks like a slight alcohol poisoning, but I’m not sure because I wasn’t there to see the dose made.” Shefede said, putting on the gloves and lifted a dish of fish fillets out. “Close the thing for me, please.”
Aryan grabbed both sides of his cape to spare a hand and shut the microwave, and picked up the pizza plate on the way back into the bedroom.
Shefede took a chair from inside the wardrobe- it was there because they were too lazy to take it out and there was no room in the bedroom to make a spell cast (although now it was almost empty because before they went they threw away all the fast-food wrappings)- and they sat in front of the computer to eat and write the essay at the same time.
Aryan was more than normally sick. His hands were cold and forehead was boiling hot at the same time, Shefede doubted whether he could still sit up. But Aryan did fine even when he was proofreading the beginning of the essay.
After about twenty minutes, they finished the food and it was Aryan’s turn to have the seat and Shefede volunteered to do the dishes.
“It’s not like I would.” Aryan said when he stood up and almost fell, but successfully into the other chair. “Yeah, yeah, I can read. I’ll be fine.”
Aryan’s eyes were blue, and right now they were scanning across the pages of the essay, filling in gaps occasionally and trying to be helpful.
“I’m back.” Shefede sat down beside him, “I got you a drink, too.”
He nodded thanks and reached for it, then took a sip of the dark chocolate. “Shefede, I have a serious problem.”
“Hmm?” His friend was sipping too, his eyes over the edge of the cup at the screen.
“I have a pimple on my forehead.” Aryan pouted and frowned, turning to look at him. “What do I do?”
Shefede reached up to swipe at Aryan’s fringe. He frowned slightly and let it down again.
“It’s fine, just keep it covered up.” Shefede said, turning back to the screen. “Wouldn’t hurt your chance with the ladies.”
Aryan just huffed and kept on reading the essay. The room was filled with silence and a dim monitor light.
“You wrote a lot.” Aryan said, “But like, missed the bit why the soldiers came that night.”
They shuffled and swapped seats. Aryan sat and watched his friend type with hyper-speed and his mouth sucking coffee- loudly- from the mug at the same time in dull amazement.
“Is this your account or mine?” After a while, Aryan asked.
“Mine.” Shefede said, his eyes not leaving the screen until just then. “You want more drink?”
Aryan only nodded and held up the mug as Shefede walked past him, taking it to the kitchen to make more bittersweet drinks for the both of them. During this time Aryan yawned twice which his glance was locked on the screen, and by the time Shefede got back he couldn’t understand the pages any more.
Shefede stood in the kitchen and stirred the two drinks at the same time. In the opposite room, though, he didn’t hear any keys clicking, so he assumed that Aryan dozed off. In his state it wasn’t surprising, as he had seen it happen a few times before.
Although, that being said, none of those times were him being drugged by Princesses or anything. Especially Princess Alora- even her looks could drug straight, horny males like Aryan.
It was surprising to see that Aryan was still holding himself together after five minutes, sitting in front of the computer, his head turned to Shefede as he walked in.
“Just drink the chocolate and take a bath and go to sleep.” He ordered. Aryan nodded tiredly and Shefede noticed that his eyelids were already half-closed.
Automatically his fingers clicked away at the keyboard and retold what happened in Sand Columns when Aryan’s bathroom songs came distinctively down the hallway, Shefede’s mind wandered off until he looked at the screen and found the last line of the essay out of place.
He stared at it for a moment, confused; then hit the delete button twelve times quickly with his right pinkie until it shrank and disappeared.
After the long, hot-then-turned-cold-then-finished bath, Aryan dressed himself in his usual black sleeping gown that somehow went with his wet and, therefore, darker hair. Humming the tune of a Sand Columns nursery rhyme, he carefully tucked a towel around his wet hair and drew a mustachio on the steamed mirror, and laughed at it.
“I left a mustachio in the bathroom if you want it.” He said to Shefede as he entered the bedroom and found that his friend was already getting ready for his bath, gathering the robe of his in a bunch.
“I’ll have it.” Shefede said, and added as he entered the corridor, “Log off my account and play games. I already saved the essay.”
With the bath and the word “games”, Aryan was already half woken-up and sprang to the computer. He did what Shefede said- logged off- and logged in to his account. The user name was “Goth” and password… Password…
Oh wow, that failed, didn’t it? Just like about every other time he went on a mission. After logging in Aryan changed it to Sweet.Smile.Of.Vengeance instead and was pretty happy with that. He clicked on the browsing icon and started a game of poker.
The water was at least relaxing him physically if not mentally. The things that had been happening for two weeks were going around in Shefede’s brain as he sat in the bathtub. But, however comfortable it was, the water would always go cold and the bath would always have to end.
He stood up then, and unplugged the bath and watched the water swirling away. Shefede picked up the towel, dried himself and wore a T-shirt and a pair of boxers. His gaze then turned to the mirror and, slightly lowered himself to the right height, smiled with the mustachio.
“Shefede guess what guess what guess what,” He was bombarded with a high-pitched shrilling voice, “I got a straight I won I won I won.”
Shefede was still trying to dry his hair with the towel. “Mkay. How much?”
“Like, five hundred bucks.” Aryan grinned widely with pride written across his face, “I’m awesome! More pizza!”
“Sure, sure.” Shefede was trying to get water out of his ears as he sat down on the bed. “I think we both need some rest, yeah?”
Aryan grinned and sat back down bouncily onto the chair. “Nope, more poker, more pizza!”
Shefede rolled his eyes and picked up a book from the bedside-table that he was reading from before they left. “Gambling is bad.”
“You’re bad.” Aryan mumbled as he clicked “START”, “I’ll go to bed later. What are you reading?”
“Some book.” Shefede said with a faint voice; he was already stuck in between the pages. To that Aryan only shrugged and turned back to his round of awesome poker game, to which Shefede had no idea why he loved it so much.
The night was quickly passing when already the words on the pages were no longer comprehensible. Shefede looked up at Aryan who was still playing his card game and looked like he was pumped and drugged with heroin.
“Are you going to bed soon?” He asked, out of habit, knowing that he would say no.
“After this round.” Aryan said shortly, which was good enough. Shefede turned off the reading lamp and snuggled down among the blankets, waiting for Aryan to finish.
He thought about what Princess Alora said when they told her that they were leaving so suddenly. Aryan insisted to hide most information from her lest it affected their partnership, but to Shefede it looked like he just didn’t want to break her heart.
They left her castle so sudden, though. He was thinking so far back, Shefede didn’t even realise that Aryan already slipped his footwear off and climbed into bed.
“I keep thinking that we need to buy another bed.” Aryan was saying. He was standing up and facing away from Shefede- which was to say, toward the wall, because he slept on the inside- while taking the black dressing gown off. It slid his shoulders and, in the dark, it made him look alabaster. “This’ll get awkward.”
Shefede turned away. “Not now at least.”
A big, heavy item flied sloppily past his head and he knew it was the sleeping gown.
“Aryan,” Shefede said sleepily, “Are you naked?”
“I have boxers on.” The reply came lagged. Very soon, the last mission had worn them down to the bones and to sleep.
The room was dark, the colour theme of it grey and dull, outside the moon was shining bright and the wind fiddled the curtain. In the hallway no light was lit and in the streets, people gradually went to bed and the only things noisy were the pubs and night clubs down the street, where people wouldn’t care.
Somewhere a dog barked and another one did, too. A cat walked along the roof of the opposite building.
Aryan was on his back, a pillow in his arms and drooling. Shefede woke up dizzily once with his blanket on the floor, and after ten minutes he decided to snatch it and go back to sleep.
It was nice back home, too.
Aryan woke up to the sound of the coffee machine and someone knocking on the door. He laid there as Shefede’s steps hurried across the living room and through the opening of the creaky door.
“Thank you,” He heard Shefede said, and the door was closed again. He didn’t come in the room, but the door was left open and the window was bright, which meant that Shefede thought it would be okay to wake him up now.
Aryan sat up and shuffled his butt across the bed, only to find that Shefede’s side was still kind of warm. He sat there for a while with his feet in slippers and just did nothing, like what usually happened first thing in the morning, having a blank mind.
“You’re up.” Shefede said, smiling with a mug in his hand. It must be coffee. “Good morning.”
Aryan stretched in response. “Who was that?”
For two seconds Shefede’s expression was blank; then he made a silent “oh” face, “It’s the mail guy from the Labs. He thought the letter might be important.”
“Who, the hot one?” Aryan held the letter and sat down on the ground, scanning it with his curious blue eyes. Shefede shook his head.
“Yes, the hot one. No, you can’t change my sexuality.” He said, “Want me to make breakfast for you?”
Aryan smiled with mischief and nodded as his fingers worked the envelope open. “Yup.”
Dear Shefede Kinston and Aryan Goth,
We are happy to inform you that the First Lab has received your information on returning from Sand Columns, and we congratulate you on your safe return. After your essay is handed in before seven days on your request, you will have the second half of your award. We know that you understand the operative system well enough, but if there are any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Labs.
All the Best,
Behind the letter there was a set of hand-written numbers and letters.
And a thin, rectangular card that looked just like a normal bank card. Shefede returned with scrambled eggs on plates and a mug of hot chocolate for Aryan. “Does it just say we’ll get more money in a week?”
“Yup.” Aryan took over the plate and swapped it with Shefede, who was sitting in an old chair. “You’d think they’ll make the password shorter, for the spell’s sake.”
Shefede purred with annoyance in response. “Those magicians have a few lines lost from the diagram.”
Aryan laughed and successfully kept all the egg pieces in his mouth with chocolate.
Aryan was laughing when he suddenly almost fainted. The chocolate mug was spilled and also was the plate, but there weren’t much left. Still, it was quite a mess, but Shefede just considered himself lucky since nothing broke.
“Yeah, yeah I’m okay.” Aryan said weakly, although he was obviously recovering, “Sorry.”
“I’ll take this.” Shefede said as he stood up and placed the plate and mug on the chair and took off Aryan’s black gown, “To the wash.”
Aryan shook his head quickly like he was trying to reconnect to his senses. “Okay. Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Shefede mumbled, rolling the gown into a ball shape and opening the apartment door. He left the door ajar and walked quickly across the corridor to the laundry room, where he took out the clothes from the night before and put them in the dryer and put Aryan’s dressing gown in a separate wash. Returning to the apartment he remembered to close the door behind him.
Aryan was sitting in the sad-looking, tattered loveseat sideways when Shefede returned from the laundry.
“Are the washings done?” He asked, looking up. Shefede noticed that his fingers were playing with the letter unconsciously, in a somehow seductive way. He walked over and took it.
“No, they’re now in the dryer.” Shefede said, “Let me record the password first.”
“Mkay, whatever you say.” Aryan pouted and leaned the side his head against the back of the seat.
His head hurt. His body hurt. He hurt all over, and there was a small, tingling feeling from the stomach that told Aryan that he might not hold the eggs and chocolate down.
But Shefede already looked after him enough. Not only this time, but just about every other time. Maybe entertainment would make Aryan feel better.
He stood up and went to sit down in front of the computer, logged in his account- Sweet.Smile.Of.Vengeance - and started a game of poker.
By the time Shefede walked over and demanded the use of the electronic device, Aryan had lost fifty bucks.
“Eyy,” He was protesting, “But I won five hundred yesterday.”
“Before you lose everything,” Shefede sat down, “Just get the money from the bank or something. Put it in the card.”
“Okay.” Aryan said meekly, part of him too tired and hurt to argue, “You’re not coming with me?”
Shefede shoved the keyboard back under the desk. “Oh hell, I can write this when we get back. We can buy pizza.”
“Yay~” Aryan clapped his hands quietly under his chin, “Can I go in boxers?”
Shefede rolled his eyes. “No.”
“Awwww~! Please!” His eyes grew bigger and more watery the more Shefede stared angrily at him.
“Humph.” Was all the answer he got- but it was better than none- so Aryan just found a T-shirt that was meant for Shefede, put it on, and followed his friend outside.
The elevator ride down was uninterrupted, maybe because it was not a work day and ten o’clock in the morning. They arrived at the lobby to a group of emos talking about hair dyes.
“Kinny, how’s life been?” Aryan waved happily, smiling weak.
“Self-harming.” The emo shrugged.
“That’s good.” Aryan gave him a thumbs-up and hurried after Shefede, who only nodded like ’sup-suckers at them, which they also accepted.
Outside on the main road there was a lot of traffic, and finally they got to the ATM.
“There’s like, two thousand bucks in here,” Aryan mumbled, poking at the small keyboard, “And what I got on poker last night.”
“That’s good.” Shefede said, swiftly yanked out a gun from behind his belt at a man, his expression remained icy cold as his thumb flicked the safety off. A few pedestrians froze.
The man pointed the knife at him, backed off slowly a few metres then broke into a run.
Shefede shoved the gun back behind him and asked like nothing just happened, “So they’ll give us the other two thousand in a week?”
“They’d better.” Aryan smiled and skipped ahead as Shefede hurriedly put the card back into his wallet, just so Aryan wouldn’t spend the money all on pizza. “Race you to the pizza shop!”
“It’s not a pizza shop.” Shefede mumbled as he quickly paced after his friend into the supermarket. To that Aryan only grinned as he walked backward a few steps to see Shefede’s face- or rather, just to let Shefede see his face- and replied, “They only sell pizza to me!”
Shefede shook his head as he pushed the half-closed glass door open, “I am not about to start interpreting that sentence.”
Aryan paid zero attention and was piling up Hawaiians on one of his arm. Shefede went for the daily essentials, like all the other normal food they would need, since every time before they went on a mission all the food would have to go.
“I’m getting toothpaste,” Shefede pushed a shopping cart near Aryan, who dumped all the pizza boxes into it, “What flavour do you want?”
“The blue, shiny ones.” He said without hesitation, “The ones with sparklies in them. Like the square sparklies.”
When it was time for them to leave the supermarket, Aryan and Shefede were both carrying loads- the former with a bag of pizzas in one hand and fruits in the other, and the latter with all the normal things they actually needed.
After crossing the road and skipping at the same time with stuff in his hand and almost spilling them, Aryan tried to be more careful as Shefede scolded him like a child.
“I am just high on life.” He pouted and protested, and once again nodded at the emos, who were still where they last left them.
Kenny stood up slightly straighter. “Can I have a fruit?”
“Sure.” Aryan put the pizzas on the ground.
Very quickly Kenny picked up an apple and said, “Thanks.”
“No probs!” Aryan smiled and rushed into the elevator Shefede was holding for him. “Bye!”
Shefede was unpacking all the stuff in the bathroom- he was up to the toiletries- when Aryan called out his name from the bedroom. He put down the blue, sparkly toothpaste tubes and entered the bedroom, finding Aryan sitting there facing an entrance page.
“Open the thing, I wanna write the essay.” Aryan ordered, “Or edit, whatever.”
“Mk, then look away.” Shefede said and leaned down toward the keyboard. Aryan buried his face in his friend’s arm as he typed, feeling the muscles contrasting and relaxing, then straightened up. “Here you go.”
He left Aryan to his own device, happily typing the essay away and adding small, fairy-sounding details- which were true to the last word since the people of Sand Columns seemed very fairy to Shefede’s eyes. Meanwhile the toothpastes had to go where they had to go under the washing basin.
It wasn’t long before someone knocked on the door.
“Why are we so famous?” Aryan complained as he went to get the door, but Shefede also followed to check who it was. Behind the door it was Juna, soaking wet in the rain outside that somehow started without any of them noticing. Her hair was sticked to her neck and body and her black dress looked like a wet suit, only sticky.
“Oh my gosh,” She entered to Shefede passing her a towel, “Thank you! It’s so raining outside and I couldn’t get to the station in time!”
Aryan pulled over a chair. “Are you in a hurry?”
“Yes, I am seeing someone.” She smiled, her hand fluffing the towel quickly over her hair, “I think that counts, doesn’t it?”
Shefede shrugged and rummaged a mess in the corner to find an umbrella, “There you go. This should do, yuh?”
Juna stood up and received it. “Thank you. I’ll be sure to return it sometime.”
Aryan was already half-way across the living room with his destination being the essay and- quite possibly- more poker games when he said happily, “You’d better!”
“Is he sick or high or something?” Juna asked in a smaller voice, to Shefede who was opening the door for her.
“He’s on overdose from a princess. Long story, but I’m sure the essay will explain a lot.” He answered. “Presentation in a week. Or six days from now.”
“Okay, bye.” Juna smiled and closed the door behind her. Her footsteps across the hallway to the elevator fainted quickly. Shefede returned to his work, but then didn’t bother to do any more after the toiletries so he sat down on the ground and turned on the TV.
After three rounds of poker Aryan didn’t win nor lose any money, so he decided to join Shefede on the ground. They totally just laughed their head off at the stand-up comedian show, but then the news flash came on.
“After two weeks of investigation, we still don’t know where or when the mysterious ‘material’ had landed. A long, blue strike was seen in the sky from several cities but no crate is found so far.” The female voice spoke over several short muted videos filmed by smart-phones of the long, blue strike.
Aryan frowned. “Wait, was that after we left?”
“Probably.” Shefede said.
“We really need to catch up on stuff.” To that Aryan remarked.
“From the Labs, we had another pair of brave mission duo returned safely. The presentation is due in a week, and already a lot of fans are looking forward to the big day.” This time she talked over montages of posts on websites being scrolled about themselves.
“Why did we become famous?” Shefede asked, confused. To that Aryan only laughed and grabbed a cushion from over his right a bit to put behind his back against the wall.
“Because we’re expert magicians, my friend.” He said. Shefede tugged at the cushion so he too could have a share. “Go get a drink.”
Shefede rolled his eyes and returned his gaze to the TV screen quickly. “If we are expert magicians, you can get a drink without getting up.”
Aryan punched his arm and stayed where he was.
“Three men has been found dead in the back alley of Griffin and the murderer is thought to be spotted wearing a pink sweater and skinny jeans around the area. If you have seen anyone who looks suspicious please report to your nearest station.”
Shefede frowned. “What?”
Aryan shrugged. “I have absolutely no idea.”
“It’s not even our area of expertise.” Shefede shrugged. “Do you think Kinny may know?”
“Do you think Kinny is hot?”
“Just asking.” Aryan shrugged and got up because ads came on. “I’m getting food ’cause I can. Do you want any?”
“Yes I’ll have whatever you’ll have, and no I am not gay if that’s what you’re saying.” Shefede changed the channel to another stand-up comedian show which caused the food to delay for another twelve minutes with Aryan standing still and finally sitting back down.
The afternoon tea turned out to be a packet of chips and a big bottle of coke as they sat against one cushion and the traffic noises and sunlight spilled in from the balcony. It was a good enough day to be out, but they couldn’t be bothered.
“The essay is half-finished, by the way.” Aryan said as he munched on more chips. “I think you should probably take a look at it too before I do some more stuff.”
Shefede got up and went into the bedroom.
“I wanna go to Benny’s, if you want to come with.” Aryan called out, “I don’t feel as sick now.”
“You can go, I’ll stay here. When will you be back?”
“Just make dinner. Or if you don’t want to, come to Benny’s and maybe he’ll make dinner.” Aryan was already putting shoes on, “No offence but he’s better at it.”
Shefede grunted as a reply. Aryan locked the door behind him before closing it and walked down the hallway, the orange light coming on because of his footsteps or motion- he could never remember which one- as he approached the elevator.
He stood between the two elevators until he got bored then moved to lean on a wall, until one finally arrived at his level. After he got in he realised that some naughty kid pressed all the buttons and left so it was stopping at every level above him, from sixty to forty-three. He pressed all the buttons below to keep it from happening.
Outside in the lobby, when the set of mirrored doors opened, Kinny was still there but only one of his friends remained. Aryan nodded at them and exited the building and the slightly-too-narrow alley way outside into the main road, which was called Cupid Road for some reason. The news that were on today talked about people being killed at Griffin by someone in a pink sweater- strange- and that was just down the street, two stations away from here.
Aryan hurried down Cupid Road as some of the sprinkles from earlier today started again. He tried to stick to near the awnings but everyone else did too, so not much dry space for him. Finally after a five-minute walk he reached Cupid Road Station- that one place he was so familiar with if not his immediate shelter. Actually, sometimes it had been a shelter too.
He swiped his VIP card at the machine and it beeped to tell him that his train fee was under ten bucks. He made a mental note of recharging soon. Feeling lucky after jumping on an almost empty train with hardly a wait, Aryan sat back against the cold, metal seat and watched the dark tunnel outside go.
“Griffin Street Station, this is Griffin Street Station. This train terminates here.” The PA announced and woke Aryan from his scattered daydreams. He wandered out and found that the rain had stopped, which was exactly what he needed since Benny was also living downtown. Aryan’s steps were a bit light because he was going to see a best friend after two weeks of dangerous mission.
The walk seemed much shorter even if the distance to Benny’s was about the same with his own place to Cupid Road Station, but maybe it was because he was nearer to the destination, Aryan soon found himself in the elevator car of his best friend’s apartment, and Benny was only living on the twenty-third floor.
There were lights coming out from under Benny’s door and laughter behind it. Aryan pressed the doorbell thinking that knocking may not be heard. Although that worry was solved after a short while when the door knob was turned.
“Hey Aryan,” Benny gave him a warm, friendly one-arm hug, “You’re back! Welcome! We just blown the candles, by the way, so it’s just fun now and no more normal stuff.”
He entered his best friend’s place and found a party. That was when he remembered that it would be Alasil’s birthday tomorrow, and Aryan had in his pocket just the thing to give before the magician went away on a mission.
“Happy birthday Las,” Aryan gave his friend a hug the way Benny did for him, “I brought you something from Sand Columns. Just for you, by the way.”
Alasil laughed. “Like you totally remembered. I bet something that it was Shefede who remembered it.”
Aryan frowned as he fished in his extremely big jacket pocket. “Eyy no! I totally remembered.”
He took out a small piece of round and slightly flat purple stone. It was half-transparent, had a light blue swirl in the middle and a rounded, drilled hole; it even came with a thin, metal chain through it and a clasp. Alasil gasped as he looked at it.
“This is just beautiful.” His words came out more breathed than said, “Thank you so much…”
“It’s okay. I got it from the market.” Aryan shrugged. His memories quickly flashed back to the moment before they left, to when the whole village of Sand Columns was burning and the soldiers were pillaging. His heart ached for those innocent, happy people. He didn’t want to think about it any more. “…The mission was to observe and it ended up with all the people there dying.”
Alasil had a solemn expression on and only a small sprinkle of sadness. Being a magician himself, he knew what it was like, and having more emotions and being closer to Aryan than Shefede, he also knew how much it hurt to get attached to the things they were meant to be only observing.
No-one said anything then, all the people in the room- about seven or eight- were quiet, silently respecting and mourning the loss in another universe.
It was peaceful and beautiful, and no-one said “let’s not think about sad things”.
The party went on; they didn’t put that topic behind but, rather, everyone shared a bit of where they last went or before that and the beautiful things they had seen.