Deep in the woods, voices called out yelling, “Altea, Altea! Where are you?,”
Those were the calls of Alexander and his new friends as they searched for their lost friend. Knowing that Altea could’ve headed off in any direction, the group split into two pairs: Alexander partnered up with Sasha and Lucas with Nyle.
“I heard you and Lucas were like best friends or something,” said Alexander, “How come you were being really cold with him earlier tonight?”
“I just don’t like the way he’s been since Altea joined us.” said Sasha “He’s normally such an open and friendly guy but around Altea, he’s been pretty condemning and unfriendly lately and that’s just not like him. I tried to talk to him about what has been going on and why he’s doing this but he just keeps on finding a way to avoid answering my question or he changes the subject.”
“Ah, I see,” said Alexander, “Seeing how I’ve only just met you guys I can’t really say what I think might be happening since there are still some details I don’t know. However, I hope that once we find Altea, she and Lucas can resolve their quarrel.”
“Yeah, I hope so, too” said Sasha, “it really hurts to see my friends and family divided like this. By the way, how were things like for you before The Awakening?”
“Wait, what’s The Awakening?” ask Alexander, for he did not know what had taken place before he mysteriously woke up.
“That’s strange.” said Sasha, “That was the day everything changed for me, Lucas, for Nyle, for Altea, for everyone in the world really, mostly for all the minors for some strange reason.”
“Well, do you remember, your mom, your dad, siblings, anything?” asked Sasha.
“No, nothing. I just woke up in some kind of chamber filled with ancient technology and walked into the outside world with no memory of who I was and just set off to find who I am. All I have been able to remember so far was my own name.” Replied Alexander.
Sasha was surprised, then said “Wait, no, it can’t be, then you must be-” before she could finish what she wanted to say, the two of them saw something that utterly shocked them.
In the midst of the path beyond them were rows of tire tracks alongside trees and plants that were mowed down in the wake.
“What happened here?” said Alexander.
“Oh no,” said Sasha, “We need to find and tell Lucas and Nyle, go find Altea, and get out of here as quickly as possible, NOW!”
Meanwhile, Lucas and Nyle were traversing another part of the woods calling out the name of their lost friend.
“Lucas?” said Nyle, “Why did you have to be so mean to Altea? She was only trying to get along with us this whole time.”
“You wouldn’t get it,” said Lucas.
“What do you mean?” said Nyle, “ I’m your friend, I’m always here to support you and talk about anything if you ever need to,”
“I said, YOU WOULDN’T GET IT!” Exclaimed Lucas.
“Why do you have to be so rude like that?!” Yelled Nyle angrily, “You keep on saying that Altea was the one being rude, the one not helping, the one killing the vibe and the one ruining everything when really, IT’S YOU!
‘Why do you think she ran away from us? Because you kept on underappreciating her help, pushing her away when she just wanted to pitch in and be part of the conversation, and made her feel unwelcome by making her do more work than the rest of us and withholding warmth and affection from her!
‘And if you keep acting like this jerk you’re being right now, you’re going to make us run away too! I get that she’s also not perfect either but still, you need to tell me what’s wrong cause that’s the only way you can let go of hate and anger and heal the broken relationships around you!”
“Fine”, said Lucas, beginning to shed tears from his eyes, “You know the RV Gwen, before The Awakening, it used to belong to my parents. Every summer, we would travel on it to go to our lake house which was about three days away from our home. Every time we would go there, we would have the most fun kayaking, swimming, fishing, playing frisbee, exploring the wilderness around us, and heating s’mores at night.
‘Really good times they were, but then The Awakening struck and I lost my parents to it. Gwen was the only memory I had of them and the only semblance I had left of the simpler days. When Altea decided to upgrade and renovate her, it felt like that RV that my parents and I used to ride in was gone and along with it, countless memories worth clinging on to. Now, I have no way to turn back and instead, have to look completely straight forward to the dark reality we all have to live in.”
“I get how you feel,” said Nyle, “we have all lost something during these challenging times but do not worry, you still have a family. You’ve got me, Sasha and Altea once we’re able to work things out, and even the new guy who I think was called Alexander if I remember correctly.
‘Not sure if this might help but try to look at Gwen’s renovations as if it were the culmination of all you have experienced before and after The Awakening as opposed to the erasure of countless memories.
‘In other words, those memories of your parents and childhood are still present with you but at the same time, you’ve experienced so much over the past few years, that you’ve changed and grown to become a better and stronger version of yourself and Gwen has too.”
Feeling comforted and rejoiced, Lucas turned to and embraced Nyle. Shortly after however, he had to let go since Sasha and Alexander came rushing towards them calling their names.
“Wait, what’s happening? What’s going on?” said Lucas with great urgency in his voice.
“The Snatchers! The snatchers are here!” Exclaimed Sasha.
“Shoot,” said Lucas, “we need to hurry as quickly as possible!”
“Wait, who are the Snatchers?” said Alexander.
“Really bad people,” said Nyle, “They go around finding and capturing any kids and teenagers that they run into so they can take them to their base and they’ll go to extreme lengths to get what they want.”
“Why?” asked Alexander.
“We don’t know,” said Lucas, “But I reckon it has something to do with this.”
Lucas then showed off the steel ingot that he held during his initial meeting with Alexander and clutched it. When he did so, a yellow heart shape appeared on his chest and his entire body turned into the color of and adapted the texture and properties of the steel ingot that he held.
“Woah!” said Alexander in amazement, “Do all of you have powers like that?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” said Sasha who then had an orange heart shape emanating from her chest she proceeded to pick up and drop Alexander as if he were a feather.
“Well I’m not the team’s medic for no reason.” said Nyle as he let out a green heart shape from his chest and proceeded to touch one of the scabs Alexander received in his battle with the monster he had the other day and watched it heal fully.
“Just wondering but what are Altea’s powers then?” said Alexander.
“Super intelligence,” Said Lucas, “That’s how she was able to completely remodel and restructure Gwen. Whenever she taps into her abilities, her heart shape glows light blue.”
“Oh, okay,” said Alexander, “You said we need to find Altea as soon as possible, didn’t you? Well, let’s get going?”
Just as they were going to find their friend, the group heard a gunshot and scream for help in the distance. Recognizing the voice that called for help, the group knew that it was her; Altea was in trouble.
They rushed to the direction the scream came from and found some men and women dressed in gray suits and helmets with black visors blocking their eyes carrying Altea in a large net and packing her and their supplies up in their gray jeeps.
“Let go of me! Let go of me you dull headed freaks!” shouted Altea as she tried to struggle free.
“Don’t worry Altea, we won’t let them get away with you!” shouted Lucas as he and the rest of the group to keep on pace with the jeeps which were already starting to drive away.
Then from one the jeeps in front, one of the snatchers who was loaded up on one the vehicle’s built in cannons fired off a missile which made physical contact with the ground and sent the group back a few meters.
The sun shines and on the horizon, Alexander walks through the open field. In his head are numerous questions floating around like “who am I?”, “What happened while I was asleep?”, “Who were these mysterious people and voices appearing all over my dreams and in weird flashbacks?”, and most importantly, “What were those glowing heart shapes in my dream?”
He then found a rusting sword with its blade piercing the ground and a rusting shield sitting beside it. “It would be wise that I grab these weapons since I had to fight a vicious monster earlier so, who knows what else is out there,” thought Alexander as he grabbed the weapons that were on the ground.
He then found an abandoned shack in the distance. Exhausted and sweaty from all the walking he had undergone under the blazing sun, Alexander chooses to make camp there for the rest of the day and night in order to regain his strength.
That evening as he was preparing to sleep, a loud revving sound caught Alexander up from his sleep. He then grabbed his sword and his shield and headed outside to investigate. On the back corner of the shack was something Alexander had never seen before: it was a metallic rectangle with wheels, a window and two antennae with mirrors, and lights on its front.
As Alexander continued to examine the unfamiliar machine, he found a door and more windows on its side. Right before he could touch the automatus rectangle to get a feel for it, Alexander was shook when the door on the side started to slide open. Out of the door, a tall boy who looked a little bit older than Alexander stepped out. He had blonde hair, green eyes and in his right hand, he carried a small steel bar.
“You can draw your weapon back now,” said the boy. “I’m not going to hurt you”.
“W-who are you, what is your business here, and what is your mechanical rectangle called?!” asked Alexander.
“The name’s Lucas, I came here to gather some resources for me and my crew, and that behind me is my baby, I call her Gwen and we have been traveling together for many years. What’s your name and what are you doing around here?” said the boy.
“Alexander, and I’ve been wandering in this desolate wilderness for a couple days now and pretty exhausted, so I came here to rest for the night and recoup my energy for tomorrow,” said Alexander.
“Well, nice to meet you Alexander and besides, camping all alone with no food, campfire, or proper place to sleep in the cold of night is just no way to go. Here, my crew and I will get things all set up.” said Lucas.
“Umm, ooo okayyyy I guess?” said Alexander who was a little bit unsettled yet thankful at the sheer amount of friendliness the stranger was showing him.
“Alright guys!” Lucas called, “Let's set up camp for the night!”
“Ugh! Do we really have to? I just want to go to bed already.” said a girl’s tired and annoyed voice coming from the vehicle.”
“Your negativity is not needed here ALTEA!!!” Yelled Lucas “Now let’s come out and show our new friend some kindness and respect.”
“Fine, whatever.” said Altea reluctantly. Out of Gwen’s doors, two girls, and one other guy appeared. One of the girls was around Lucas’s age and like him was tall, her hair had a more caramel color but she wore a cap made of green yarn with a yarn sunflower on top of it. The other girl was short and a little bit younger than Alexander, she had light brown hair, wore glasses, and was overweight. The boy was around the same age as Alexander but around an inch or two taller than he was, had caramel skin, and black hair.
As the camp was being set up Lucas asked Alexander if he would like to help and Alexander responded with a yes but he found Lucas’s over cheery attitude a little bit unsettling.
After camp was set, Lucas said “Alexander, I would like you to meet my crew,” He first pointed to the girl with the yarn hat and said “This is Sasha, she was the first person that joined my crew and my best friend. We have been traveling together for a couple years and at this point, we’re almost like brother and sister. Right Sasha?”
“Humph,” Sasha responded and she then turned away. She then said “Anyways, nice to meet you Alexander.”
Lucas then said “well, moving on,” and pointed to the boy and said “that one over there is Nyle, he is our medic”
“Nice to meet you,” responded Nyle.
“Finally,” Lucas said as he pointed to the young girl with the glasses, “This is Altea, she just joined pretty recently and she is our mechanic,”. Then in an accusing tone, he said as he turned his gaze to her “So far however, instead of helping us, she’s been nothing but a lazy, unhelpful, and selfish little brat who chooses to do nothing unless it's for her own self benefit,”.
Then Altea yelled back “Listen here sugar king, I did you all a favor back there! If it weren’t for me, you and your “merry band” would have been stranded for weeks,”.
“She’s right,” Nyle said, “If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t be here right now. You should show her more appreciation Lucas.”
“Yeah, well so much for her “help” when she turned my baby into the abomination you see before us!” Shouted Lucas as he pointed to Gwen.
“Well, I turned that old rustbucket into a nice living space for us all and made it better and faster than it ever was!!!” Altea screamed back, she then ran off into the woods.
“No, I’m sorry about what I said, come back!” Lucas called back as he tried to take back what he said but his apology fell flat.
“Now look at what you’ve done!” said Sasha, “Not only did you just drive Altea away but you also set a bad example for our new friend here,”.
“I’m sorry you had to see this Alexander, we’re not usually like this, things have just been really hard for us as a group lately,” said Sasha.
“It's fine,” said Alexander.
“Come on,” said Lucas, “we're going to find Altea, I’m a leader and the best thing I can do as one is to have all of us go look for her and make amends,”. And so, Alexander, Lucas, Sasha, and Nyle set off into the woods and started their search for Altea.
He woke up, he looked at his surroundings, he stood up, he saw a room with what looked like ancient technology. He took the first steps out of his stasis pod but tripped. He got up and slowly tried to re familiarize himself with the art of standing up and taking steps and when he did, he began to wonder where he was and why he was there; for some strange reason it seemed familiar but, he couldn’t remember why and how.
As he slowly walked towards the exit, he placed his hand on the ancient yet technologically advanced scanner which immediately recognized his hand print, and then, the metal covered stone door slowly slid open. He found himself in another room with a pair of worn brown shoes, khaki pants, and a discolored white shirt alongside a mirror waiting for him. When he looked at himself in the mirror while he put on the pair of clothes, he looked at his own reflection in shock as if he saw another person looking at him. The reflection showed a boy who looked like he was 12 years old: black hair, green eyes, tan skin, and a thin yet muscular build. Realizing it only to be himself, the boy then tried to remember his name and who he was; nothing. He tried and tried all he could but still nothing; it was almost as if he had become a blank slate. Undeterred, the boy trudged along through the changing room exit and found a dark and narrow corridor laying ahead of him.
As he walked in, the lights in the room lit up one by one all the way to another ancient yet technologically advanced touch ID door. The lights looked like a mixture between torch and lightbulb and gave off a blue and mysterious glow which gave the corridor a wondrous yet ominous feel. The boy calmly proceeded through the corridor until a strange drawing caught his attention. The drawing depicted what looked like childishly drawn people and they all seemed to have heart shaped symbols of different colors on their chests. Some had light blue hearts, others had green, and one even had a red colored heart symbol. He then saw two figures at the center; the boy couldn’t completely make out what they were due to the fact that a brownish-reddish hand smear covered them. However, he could feel something very familiar about the drawing and the people in it but alas, his failed memory kept him from recalling them. Nonetheless, he continued to walk through the rest of the corridor until he found the exit: a stone door with a red glow on its sides. As he approached it, a robotic orb with an orange glow came out from a compartment in the door itself and scanned the boy. A robotic female voice then said “identification confirmed, access granted” while the red glow turned blue and the door began to slide open.
The boy then walked through the exit and into the bright sunlight to find himself in a deep forest. As he looked back, he gazed upon a brown metal dome with overgrowth on top, and he began to feel something very sad and painful about what he saw but yet again, his amnesia would not let him piece together what had happened. Regardless, The Rumbling in the boy’s stomach compelled him to find food. This was not an easy task as there weren’t many edible plants in sight and he often scared the animals away, as well as lacking any hunting materials.
The first two days and nights after that, the boy spent the day searching and went to sleep hungry. Throughout that time however, the boy was able to sharpen a wooden spear for himself and weave a basket of leaves and twigs much to his own surprise, since he didn’t remember having that skill yet it seemed familiar to him. He then hunted some of the nearby deers and squirrels and put their meat on the woven basket. After finally satisfying his hunger, the boy later went to have a good night’s rest.
On that night, the boy began to have a very strange dream; in that dream he heard disembodied voices laughing, and talking. Afterwards, faces began to appear and not just any faces, but ones that looked like the people in the wall drawing he saw earlier. He Began to see flashes of himself smiling with and being next to some of those people. After that, a heart shape, white in color appeared and began to exert a blinding light which then transitioned into screaming, people running, houses and ground on fire, and a vision of a black heart shape summoning shadow energy to seemingly hold something back. After the sequence, the boy woke up with a jolt.
He realised as he looked around, it was already well into sunrise. The boy got up, and continued on his trek through the forest. As he was continuing his journey, he found a clearing ahead. Seeing a light at the end of the woods, he made a mad dash for it grateful to finally be out. At the clearing, he saw himself standing at the edge of a cliff and below him, he saw green and lush grasslands that stretched as far as the eye can see, a mountain range staring in the distance, and most shocking of all, the ruins of a town right next to the cliff’s downhill path. Curious to examine the sight, the boy decided to do some exploration there but little did he know that he would soon be in grave danger as in the distance, a mysterious figure watched him closely.
When the boy arrived, he saw ruined stone houses, damaged and decaying bandwagons, the ruins of a stable, and a cracked, broken fountain. Seeing all this, a feeling of great unease began to swell inside of the boy. He knew something terrible must’ve happened there but he couldn’t piece together what it was. He looked around at the ruins of the houses; broken and charred furniture as well as damaged staircases and floors, the fountain; a broken statue of a raven and a dove, and the stable; perhaps the darkest finding of all. The boy saw skeletal remains both human and horse in many different conditions: some skeletons were intact while others, having an arm, leg, and even head ripped off or crushed to bits. Seeing this imagery began to trigger images of screaming, fire on ground and structures, death, and even a flash of the black heart shape holding a mysterious force back just like in the dream.
The flashes caused the boy to scream and run in terror but, he was stopped when he heard the sound of rustling. He bore his wooden spear and quietly paced around, spear upfront to guard himself of the potential danger. He then saw a figure move quickly around the area. He then saw it again but it was too quick for his eyes to catch. Still keeping his guard up, he rotates his body and spear in every direction. Suddenly, a foul creature jumps in front of him. The monster had skin that looked and had a similar texture to human skin, stood upright while also capable of walking on all fours, sharp claws, a long tail with a sharp needle-like end, spikes on its back, a thin layer of hair on the top of its head, a swirl-like symbol where its face should’ve been, and a mouth with many rows of sharp teeth.
Letting out a horrifying screech, the creature bounded forwards with slashing motions attempting to sink its claws on the boy’s flesh. The boy then moved out the way of its slashes and went for the side to impale the monstrosity. However, the creature caught sight of this and used its sharp tail to block the attack. It then yanked the wooden spear using its appendage of a tail and snapped it in half. Knocked to the floor by the force of the counter-attack, and carrying no other means of self-defense, the boy was left with no choice but to go on the evasive dodging the creature’s sharp claws, and pointy movable tail which constantly tried to stab him. But the creature then grabbed the boy by his shirt and threw him straight into the remains of a house. A flash came back; it was a woman’s voice saying “Don’t ever forget who you are; don’t ever let them break you; and don’t ever give up, Alexander.” “Alexander!” the boy exclaimed, “My name is Alexander!”.
The monster then rushed to Alexander’s location to deliver the final blow when Alexander then got up, grabbed its tail, and snapped it off as it went for the stab. The creature letting out a blood piercing shriek of pain, decided to go for the slash attacks with its claws only to miss again and again hitting the stone wall of the ruined house. Such a forceful impact ended up damaging the razor sharp claws it held. Seeing this, Alexander got the monster to repeatedly hit the stone ruins by leading it to the outside walls of the broken houses and then dodging its attacks so it landed on the stonewalls instead of him. The process rinsed and repeated until Alexander led the creature to the fountain where there, its claws were finally all broken. Right when that happened, Alexander jumped from the top of the fountain with the severed tail of the creature in hand and impaled it through the forehead. Letting out one last scream of pain, the evil monstrosity died. After the gruelling and adrenaline-inducing fight, Alexander set off on foot away from the ruined town. He realized that there was still a lot that he did not know about himself, the strange visions, and what exactly happened to the world while he was in stasis inside the bunker. The only way he can find out he figured, is if he sets off into the sunset and explores the unknown beyond him.
“Where’s Grandpappy?” I asked my Grandmama. She sat in a wooden chair that rocks when you lean, watching the flames of our fireplace.
“Gone,” she answered, focused on her knitting.
“But gone where?”
She sighed. Her hands stopped and she looked up at me. Her eyes that always sparkled like the amber in our trees became a dull, trampled twig on the ground.
“Nowhere. Grandpappy’s dead.”
A part of me knew this. I even remembered it.