They were all dead, every single one of them.
“Everything you do will hurt someone” The voice said in Aaron’s head, with every word drilling torment into his mind.
Aaron didn’t even mind opening his eyes, he could feel the pitch-black umbra suffocating him. Tickling whilst it sickly crept over his skin. It coiled around in his short hair, as the voice started its vicious chanting again.
“He left because of you, he hated you, and he still does” That one made its way to Aaron’s heart, deep into his heart just to pierce it with verbal blades.
Another voice joined in. “If he’s still alive. He probably took his own life because of you. He preferred death and pain before you, Ha!” That one made Aaron lose this twisted game. Letting his mind run loose, with self-destructive thoughts to decay his sanity.
A strange numbness filled his body, and an unpleasant warm feeling spread throughout his chest. “Don’t you think so? Don’t you realize how much he hated you? He wanted to kill you. Maybe he will someday.” It sounded like the voices were laughing the words out.
He lifted his heavy arm, to feel his torso. His clothes were wet, soaking wet. The sticky liquid felt warm on Aaron’s hand. It took some time before he realized what it was.
He opened his eyes, staring down his chest. Thick crimson strings on his hand were connected to a bloody hole on his chest region. He just stared at his open wound, without reacting, before the pain came. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t, like there wasn’t any more air in the now illuminating room.
One of the playful voices returned. “I’m sure your ‘friends’ don’t like you either” The grinning tone of the voice sent a shiver down Aaron’s spine. “Hell, your mother and father left you in the forest so rot, and you still think they care about you?” Aaron’s eyes started to twitch, as if something went upside down in his mind. “LIES!” He screamed so loud that it even scared himself. It sounded like the voices were whispering to each other, making an unnerving sound dancing around the room. “Lies?” A deeper voice broke the silence. “Why should we lie to you? We are you.” They giggled in a hellish manner. “We are just trying to help you.” The voice said in a strongly condescending tone. “After all, we are your only friends.” Aaron let go of his bleeding chest to cover his ears with his hands. He could feel the blood on his hand stick against his ear, almost with the feeling of blood running down into his ear.
Pain hit him, it hit hard. It felt like his chest was going to burst, as he dropped down on his knees. “SHUT UP, EVERY ONE OF YOU!” He screamed his lungs out, as a taste of iron spread inside his mouth. “You still don’t get it do you?” The voice paused, to let Aaron consume all the words. “We… Are… You”
The white light that tangled Aaron felt relieving, and the blood disappeared from his white shirt, leaving his hands clean.
“We’ll be waiting” Finished the voice, as it faded…
A white ceiling was the fist Aaron’s eye met when he opened them. Clad in cold sweat he stared at the ceiling for minutes. Still paralyzed with the thought of those voices. He suddenly kicked himself into reality, and tried to get up. A shivering pain ran through his shoulder as he pushed his body up to a sitting position. The room was dark, but not too dark. Slight light shone in from the wooden windows, illuminating the wall on the other side of the room.
Two people, sitting in the guest chairs were sleeping on each-others shoulders, looking peaceful. He couldn’t recognize their sleeping faces in the dark, but had a pretty good idea whom they were.
He turned to sit on the bedside, whilst trying to ignore the tickling pain still poking around in his shoulder. As his eyes slowly got use to the dark room, he could see the faces of the visitors. A young girl, around his age of 19, was leaning up against a tall man with dark skin and dreadlocks. Aaron sat there and watched them, as their faces was revealing more and more context as the light contrast was adapting in his eyes.
No sound was to be heard, which made Aaron realize his wonder of what the time were. He slowly lifted his cold feet down to the wooden flooring, and thus to get on his feet.
He walked out on the hallway with precarious and delicate steps, looking for a clock or anything that could give him a sense of time.
Aaron was walking around in a patients-tunic, with some linen bag, leaving a faint sound of soft fabric in friction as his trail.
He stopped, to breath in the strange cool air of what seemed like the medical wards hallways. Blueish wooded walls reflected the shallow light coming from behind the thick white curtains.
Reaching the end of the hallway, he pushed open a big double door, and stepped out on the terrace.
The strange dim sunlight from behind the trees met his eyes like needles. He covered his eyes with his hand, and walked over to the railing. He took a breath of the morning air, almost feeling like the morning dew was resurrecting his tired lungs.
He was looking over the rooftops of the proud forest town Erías, which made his home.
Not a soul was alive in that time of the morning, thus the streets were whispering with the wind, and the dust on the roads was dancing frenetic dances with the fallen leaves.
It was like an ocean, with the roofs as waves, streets as the quiet seabed, and with the tall proud trees as the unknown land beyond the wast desert of water. Even the people of the noon, wandering around the usually ever so crowded streets, could be the colourful life beneath the clashing waves.
Aaron was still taking deep breaths, as if the air was limited. His knees touching the cold wooden railing, he leaned he body a little further over, to see down the streets to left and right: Still not a soul. As he saw the finely patterned cobblestone road; his mind drifted away with the ocean again.
‘If only I could see what was on the other side…’ His mind were drifting away, as he leaned a little more over the railing. His legs were aching to jump out in whatever his mind carried them towards. ‘If only I cou-‘ His train of thought suddenly broke as a familiar voice cried quietly from the doorway.
Aaron froze for a second, unsure if he should turn. The voice called again, closer, and more solemnly. “Aaron? What are you doing out here, it’s around seven Celsius out here.” Aaron turned around, to see the owner of the familiar voice.
A tall man, looking about a year older than Aaron, stood meters from him, looking at him with dead-tired eyes. Aaron instantly remembered his name, and stood looking inquisitively at him. He had tied his long dreadlocks up in a ponytail-like fashion, and was wearing tight white zip jacket. “Seven… Celsius?” Aaron said, as if he was tasting the words on his tongue. Then he realized he hadn’t felt the cold before he mentioned it. He looked down at the thin tunic, and felt the cool breeze fly through the textile like wine through the mouth of a flask.
“Hey, are you alright Aaron?” Worry grew in his still waking voice. “Now that you mention it Altai, I’m feeling a little dizzy.” His voice grew weak. And Altai jumped forward to support his fragile friend.
Aaron took a hand to his forehead, whilst Altai held around his shoulders, holding his weight. His hand grew boiling against the pale forehead. “Come on, let’s get you to bed again.” He guided him through the doorway, and somehow managing to close both of the doors on the way in, with Aaron hanging almost dead-weight around his shoulders.
Aaron mumbled something that Altai chose to ignore, as he was too busy not waking up the still sleeping girl as he entered the room again. He sat Aaron down on the bedside, getting the corpse-like boy to lay down.
“Now, you get some rest, then I’ll go down and talk to the receptionist to see if I can get you home.” The already low voice faded from Aaron’s ears, as his head hit the pillow.
Closing his eyes, he couldn’t even hear the sound of thunder…
It was not more than an hour after he fell asleep, when rain and lightning crept over town. From what seemed as a such clear blue day, altered for the worse.
Altai had been gone for more than two and a half hours when he finally returned. He giggled a little to himself when he entered the room.
Ceil, the girl who was also visiting Aaron, had snuck over besides Aaron in his hospital-bed. Ceil’s brontophobia hadn’t change the slightest from when she was little. Altai took the seat from which he was sitting on before, eyeing the otherwise humorous, suggestive scene before him.
Using Aaron’s healthy shoulder as a pillow, she was sleeping with a stolen blanket. Aaron was fast asleep, not noticing the girl resting on his shoulder.
Altai broke another grin on the thought of her helplessness when it came to anything with more than 100 volts.
The small window made him wonder about the time; it was around 5 when he found Aaron on the terrace. He stared into the air, trying to find a sense of time in his drowsy mind.
‘It took about an hour before the lady behind the reception desk got some bloody time to talk with me, and it took another whole hour to get Aaron permission to return home around noon.’ The simple game of remembering left Altai with a falsely confused look on his face. ‘Followed by some waiting in the hallway… 8 in the morning I suppose.’ Mumbled he, drawing the conclusion.
A quiet knock on the door startled him, as he was still in his own thoughts. A humming creak filled the room, follow by a young girl sticking her head in. She looked on the sleeping youngsters in the bed, and her facial expression gave away the questions in her head. She exchanged a slightly confused glare with Altai, as she handed him a little sealed note.
“It’s from the Council” She whispered, as she turned her wonder to the sleeping kids.
“No name? There isn’t any address on either.” He said, a little confused, trying to get her attention away from the bed.
“No sir. A tall man came and delivered the note as you see it.” She gave him a wondrous glare as he untied the small velvet ribbon, and unfolded the beige piece of paper.
“How did he look? Describe him… Please.” He said in a slightly too demanding tone, whilst letting the letter wait in his hands.
“Ehm..” The short pause of thinking made Altai bite his lip in impatience. “He was tall… He wore glasses… He had a strange beard…” She trailed off, obviously no help to Altai, who turned his head down to the letter.
The Council seal was stamped proudly on to top of the paper, making a fine start of the letter:
“Dear members of squad β three – Scouting specialist, and secondary task force units – I’ll have to ask you of an urgent summoning, as I need to share a couple of words with you due to the outcome of your last deployment in the ghost town of Ashen – ≈5 miles N, NW.
And due to the recent compromised state of health surrounding unit 1 of your team, Aaron Rivers, I’ll be forced to omit him. If a second unit can’t attend the meeting too; the last unit will have arrive and to report it one hour before the designated time of meeting, which is stated at the end of this letter. Please attend unarmed, though the gate inspectors will be forced to inspect you for any arms nevertheless.
The designated meeting time and location is:
10:15 After midnight – the council house of Erías, Mayburry street 32
Signed: The administrative advisor of the Council – Matthias Kelt.”
Altai read the signature out loud, and sighed stressed to himself.
“Matthias Kelt?” The nurse asked with her eyes peeled. Altai gave her a strange, absently tired look, and tried to cure her never-ending confusion with a simple ‘yes’.
“Sorry sir, I’ll leave you to you business.” He couldn’t even give her a half-hearted thanks before the door went shut with a swift pull of the door handle.
He read it again, looking for anything he might have missed, as he noticed the time of attendance. His eyes grew wide in realization. He had one hour to reach the Council house, and fifteen minutes to find a room, which wasn’t even mentioned in the letter.
He rushed a note to the two sleepyheads, before quickly grabbing his white jacket of the coat hanger, and ran out on the hallway.
It was still raining loudly, as the raindrops were drumming on the glass windows. The thunder hadn’t stopped either, but with that short amount of time Altai had before the sudden deadline, he didn’t care about the weather, there wasn’t time for caring about anything else than how fast his legs could carry him.
He rushed to the double doors, which made the main entrance, and pushed them open with all haste, jumping over the stone stairs, and down on the slippery main road…