We rushed to the source of the cry. It came from behind a prison cell.

It was Vaeda. She warned, “You can’t stay here Guhya.” She turned to the others and noticed their presence, “Echo? Lily??”

Lily moved ahead of me, “Out of the way.” She grabbed the bars of the prison room and melted them away. She left Vaeda restrained though. She demanded, “Where is he?”

Vaeda hesitated, looking at Lily with a sadness. “Kaos… didn’t make it. I’m sorry.”

Lily went quiet.

I asked, “Why are you in here??”

Vaeda’s eyes glowed with worry more than I’d ever seen from her, “You need to leave, now, Guhya. It’s a trap. There’s Angels-“

I interrupted, “Angels??”

Her response was disturbing, “They can eliminate people from existence, from all timelines. That’s why you can’t stay here. The evolved Sige mixed with the remnants of one of my failed experiments, Project Gnosis. There’s no time to explain right now. You have to go!”

A flurry of footsteps arrived behind us.

I turned, it was Arezo, Gadi, and Pax.

Gadi was stunned and muttered, “It’s her… from the dream… the woman who had saved me long ago.”

Pax yelled, “Vaeda saved you?! This is bullshit!”

Vaeda looked at Gadi, “Oh my god. You made it.”

Gadi rushed over to Vaeda in her restraints. He cried, softly, “I remember now. I remember everything.”

Vaeda’s tears came too, “Gadi… It’s really you. Your old self.”

Lily kept looking down, unphased by the rest of us. But then she spoke, “This is a trap.”

“Lily?” I asked. She was straight up lying.

Lily spoke in a self-hating tone, “Gadi has a syzygy with Vaeda. The prophecy that they follow leads us to her. It’s a trap.”

Pax exclaimed, “Holy shit! I knew it would be something like this.”

Then, Lily turned to me, pointing, “And Guhya knew this the entire time!”

Pax turned to me next, “What?! But you promised!! Guhya!!” His hands lit up with the blue light.

I held out my hands defensively, “What?! Just hold on! I can explain!”

Pax inched closer, “What is there to explain?? Huh Guhya?! It’s pretty obvious if you ask me!”

Arezo yelled, “Stop it!!”

Pandora held my hand, shivering.

I yelled, “Lily!! Why?! You fucking traitor!”

Lily looked into my eyes. She was crying. “I’m sorry, Guhya. It’s the only way.”

Pax ran in and annihilated Vaeda. The blue light faded with her screams.

Gadi cried out, “No! Vaeda!”

It was a relief, strangely. If she died by annihilation, she could still return as long as I could go back. This is the kind of realization that made going back harder because it made loss less of a stress. But it meant I’d be tortured again. Tortured by Pandora’s death. Her murder.

Arezo grabbed Gadi and then materialized a wall separating Pax and Lily from the rest of us. She said, “Let’s go!”

We all ran out of the cell and down the hall to a larger open area.

The beast awaited us. As it saw us, it roared, filling the halls and shaking the building. The damned creature had gotten thicker since we last saw it. The residual effects of the Zaza protected against some of the beast’s Sige magic. For now, at least.

We ran deeper into the halls, taking turns left and right, getting lost in the mazes of the Aetherium.

Panting, I said, “I think we made it.”

For a second, it was just silence.

From behind me, both content and somber, Gadi said, “So… this is the reason I don’t see the future past this point.”

I turned around to a most disturbing sight.

“Gadi?? What’s happening to you?!” I demanded answers.

His body turned to chrome and crystal. Colors glistened off of what used to be his body. “Despite seeing into the future, I would have never guessed it would end like this. But… you know… I’m actually not upset.” He smiled.

My eyes teared, “We’ll go back. We’ll save you this time.”

“I’m glad I got to escort you through the halls of your destiny, Guhya. I’m glad to have met you all. Arezo, Pandora, Guhya. It’s been an honor. In these last moments, I remembered everything. It’s okay that we don’t live in the land of eternal sunshine. I see now. I see all the memories I had before and it was worth it. Thank you for spending your time with me. For baring with my insanity. And… I’m counting on you. You still need to make it to the Out-” His body froze.

“Gadi?!” I yelled.

Only the echoes of my cries returned.

“Gadi!!” I repeated in desperation.

Pandora cried. “He made it so far. And just to fade out once he finally got his mind back. It’s not fair.”

Arezo simply cried, with no parting words.

Pandora presented the knife, “We have to…”

I couldn’t take it anymore, “Please, stop saying it like that!”

She looked more frightened than I’d seen her before. “What?”

It felt like I kicked a deer. She could never know. She had no idea how loopy and painful it was. This was the first time for her. Every time was the first time. It began to feel scripted.

In shame, I broke eye contact, “I’m sorry.”

From the shadows, Lily appeared, “I’ll do it for you.”

With a shaking anger in my voice, I said, “Lily… I’ll hate you.”

The footsteps of the Necrokami could be heard, approaching slowly.

Lily cried, “Please, Guhya. Please don’t. I’m sorry. This is the only way I can see Kaos again. If that makes you hate me, then so be it.”

I yelled, “You threw it all away! All that bonding we did back there! Why!?”

Lily looked down and aimed her hand at Pandora.

I yelled, “Lily!!

Pandora offered herself. She got on her knees and presented her body, preparing for annihilation.

I yelled again, “Please, Pandora!”

Pandora replied in a desperate tone, “Guhya… you have to accept it. I’ll see you on the other side.”

Lily annihilated Pandora.

“Accept it,” she said. How ridiculous. Accepting this was the last thing I could do. I had to savor every ounce of blood. Of pain. Of this never-ending moment of misery. I wasn’t allowed to accept it. It was insulting. But then, the tears began, but only just sprinkles.

We were still here.

Lily turned to me more aggressively, “What gives?! Do the timelines just continue after you return??” She squeezed and pulled at her hair, “Ugh!!”

I stared at the flickering remnants of Pandora’s annihilation, reaching out, as if I could still grab her, “I’m going numb. Each time, I have to meditate and focus in on the pain just to feel it again. To feel it strongly enough to return.”

She stood in the way of Pandora’s remains, shaking, and said, “Well, you’ll never see them again then. Do you get that? You fucked up majorly.” She did it again. She was…helping me.

The lights began to pulse. The stomps of the beast approached. The Necrokami was nearly here.

She grabbed me by the shirt and shook me, “Go back!! Go back!!” Her anger turned into tears. She said, softly and desperately, “Please, Guhya. Go back.”

Then, it all went black.

Again, I was home. The only place of true solace. Even in Pandora’s arms, residual pain and guilt tainted our love. Each time I watched her die, the blood stained my mind deeper. In the void, I was free of consequences. In the void, was where I belonged. If only I could regret existing itself. I suppose I could always do it with my own hands.

But… that wouldn’t be how this story ends. No. I refuse. Too many depended on me. We had to reach the Outside. I had to save Pandora. My love. This couldn’t be the end. I would regret not existing even more.

The pleasant taste of her lips and her tongue dripped into my mouth. Sweet? Sour. Sour? It was delicious, like candy. Though, unusual. She bit my lip and pulled.

“Ow!” I yelled. A stream of unfamiliar thoughts flooded my mind. I saw Kaos comforting Lily, saying he would never let “it” happen again. And then, the imageof a domineering yet, somehow kind, Vaeda looming over me.

She exhaled, euphorically. Her hands softly caressed my face. She licked my cheek. Her lick turned to kiss. Her hands moved passed my face, as the sound of chains clanked. She pressed her chest against mine. It was warm. Cozy.

She inhaled deeply, then grabbed my face and joined our lips. Her tongue burst through my lips and pried them open. Then, she exhaled the smoke of Zaza into my lungs. It was so unlike her.


I pulled back and finally opened my eyes.

It wasn’t just unlike her. It wasn’t her.

It was Lily. And she was dressed very differently. She had a silver-hooded jacket with a sparkling white choker that held a gemstone at its center. Her smooth chest was exposed through her loose jacket, though not entirely, barely revealing the tip of a nipple. Her arms were contained by chains. We were in the dungeons nearby where we last saw Vaeda.

Lily smirked, “Thinking about your ex again, naughty boy! Come on, this is like the third time we tried to erase your memory.”

I backed up, stammering, “Li-Lily?? What?? What’s going on?!”

She walked closer, “Aw, poor Guhya. You just need a little more Zaza.” She inhaled and kissed me again, feeding me the smoke from her mouth. Then, she said, “You gotta stop calling me Lily when we’re getting freaky. I told you; I try to separate work and play. I’m Lillith right now.”

I shivered in horror.

“Oh, I see. It seems you’ve just returned from the future.” She nuzzled me, trying to comfort me.

I resisted and pulled away from her, “What’s going on here? Where’s Pandora??”

She sighed. Her arms folded and her eyes avoided contact, “Your ex is gone, man. Why do you make it so intense like this? I’ll admit, it is kind of a turn-on, bringing up your dead ex and all. But I get jealous too, ya know?”

Dead?!” I yelled.

She rushed in and shushed me, her finger on my lips, “Have you forgotten again? This is getting really weird now. Pandora is gone. She’s been gone for months. That’s why we got together. I helped you cope. We both lost our exes and helped each other.”

I grabbed her by the neck, “What did you do to her!?”

Her hands softly moved across my arms, then a surge of incredible euphoria burst through my mind. It was unnatural. My whole body relaxed and my grip loosened.

She moved in and bit my lip again, then whispered in my ear, “You’re gonna corrupt me. If not all the Zaza I’m hooked on, it’ll be you who does me in. I can feel my innocence fading. You’re becoming… a monster… and I think I like it.”

My head sank into her exposed chest. It was soft, almost irresistible, but the faint sense of guilt still persisted, even with Lily’s Zaza kiss. I couldn’t betray Pandora like this. But was she really gone?? I was still disabled by the blast of euphoria. My thoughts fluttered. She must have used her powers.

“You know, I’m definitely better than your ex. No one could top a telepath in sex… You are so worried about her,” She looked down at my face and postured my gaze towards her eyes using her hands, “But she’s dead now. So, I guess you’ll just have to kill me.” She smiled.

Weakly, I tried to push her off but failed.

She grabbed my arms and we moved to the ground. Her hands pinned me down and she slipped her tongue against mine. The taste kept shifting, raspberry, lemon, chocolate, roses, and lavender, like a morphing rainbow of delicate flavors.

She pulled back and put her hands on my temples. Another incredible gushing pulse went through my body.

“Oooh,” It was nearly the best feeling I had ever felt. I moaned and softly said, “Oh my god… No, wait… Please wait.”

“Fine! I’ll entertain it.” She sat up, her bottom on my crotch and her arms crossed, both legs on either side of my torso. “What is it?”

Still weak from the spinning euphoria, I struggled to get the words out, “The past I came from… it’s not this one. I don’t remember any of this.”

She rubbed against my crotch with hers, “Yeah. You’ve said that a few times now. I can give you back your memories in a second. I just wanted to finish first, you know?”

That’s right. Since she could suck the memories out of my head, she had my memories, even those of me returning back in time. This was probably affecting her. It didn’t make sense how we ended up here though. “But why? Why is this happening?”

“Yeah. It is fucking us both up, your return ability. But come on, you can’t tell me this isn’t fun as fuck.” She gently moved her hands across my chest, tickling my insides with butterflies, “As for your memories, I assumed there’s something going weird with your brain lately. Maybe trauma from losing your ex.” She fell towards me again, propping herself above my face with her arms, her hair dangling over me.

I replied, “No… I don’t think it’s that. I just came from a different timeline… Something is different.”

She peered passed my head. Then she said, “Oh my god… I think I figured it out!”

Exhausted, I looked up at the ceiling, “What?”

She moved her hands around in gesture as she explained, “So, you know I’m a telepath. I can take the abilities of Aeons. One of them is Kaos’ ability. His mind changed so that he can seek out truly random occurrences. Once, he told me that this means there are many universes where his outcomes differ more radically than anyone else’s. Most people’s paths are confined to their desires, which stem from genetics and experiences. But Kaos has managed to escape that restraint. And I have his ability too!”

My gaze contacted hers, “You think I’ve managed to land in another timeline with you?”

“Duh! How about we finish up now, I’m still hungry.” She got closer to my face, licking her lips.

I squirmed, “Wait! I can’t! It’s not right!”

She licked my face, “Ooh Guhya, yes. The wrongness makes it taste soo good.”

Struggling, I said, “I thought your name meant innocence??”

She lightly hit my chest with her fists. “It’s Lillith during sex, I told you! If you want out of this timeline, you’ll have to kill me again.” She smiled.

I clarified, “It won’t work. It only works with Pandora. Can we just look for the others? I’ll figure this out soon.”

She leaned down closer to my face, “And what if you can’t?”

If Pandora wasn’t in this timeline, there’s a possibility I wouldn’t be able to go back again. I replied, “Then… then I’ll take the memories you planned to give me, and we can proceed like normal in your timeline.”

She sat up, toyed with her chains, and her expression turned a playful menacing, “You’ll be mine!”

I stood my ground against her Yandere ploy, “Don’t count on it.”

She got up and held her arm out, helping me up.

My emotions were tied up and confused. First, I was mad. Then, her seduction totally sedated me. The memories of before the reset were foggy and replaced with loops of arousal. I didn’t exactly forgive her, but I also didn’t feel the anger. I just couldn’t. Yet, I wanted to on mere principle.

Lily turned to me and smirked. She must have read my thoughts.

I said, “Let’s get to Vaeda now.”

We ran to the cell I remembered Vaeda to be in. To my relief, she was still there.

Like before, she was worried. “Guhya?! You can’t stay here-“

I cut to the chase, “I know. Angels. It’s a trap.”

Her head tilted slightly, “How did… You already went through this?”

I replied, “Yes. I need to know what to do next. Gadi said we need to meet with you, then there’s only a few more steps left to finish the prophecy.”

Vaeda explained, “There’s a room a mile north, towards the center of the Aetherium. There’s a makeshift Psychonet access point. It doesn’t require any of the usual prerequisites. You can simply enter.”

I nodded.

Vaeda turned to Lily, “Lily. I’m glad you’re alright.”

Lily refused to look her in the eye, “I’m still pissed at you.”

Vaeda’s face was ridden with guilt, “I know it. Rightfully. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have risked all your lives like that.”

Vaeda turned back to me, “Oh… Guhya… Before you plug into the Psychonet, there’s something you need to know about Echo.”

I held out my hand, commanding her to stop, “Wait. I want to hear it from her.”

She hesitated, “That’s fair I suppose. Just don’t forget it.”

A flurry of footsteps arrived behind us. It was Arezo and Pax.

Quickly, Pax aimed his hand at Vaeda, “This is your fault!!”

Lily got in between them, “Not today.” She stuck her hands out and rock structures protruded from the ground and then locked Pax in stone cuffs.

Pax struggled, “What gives?! Why are you protecting this fucking devil!? You know what she did! To you! To Archie, Sophy, and Emory!! She’ll do it again and again!”

Lily’s teeth grit, then she walked up to Pax and put her hand on his forehead.

Pax screamed and his body dissipated into particles of blue and white.

“Lily!!” I yelled.

Lily screamed, “Agh!!” and slammed her feet on the ground. After a moment of exasperated breathing, she collected herself and turned to Vaeda, walking slowly to her.

Vaeda said, “I understand if you do it.”

I yelled, “Stop!!”

Lily grabbed the chains and melted them away.

Vaeda looked shocked. She rushed in and hugged Lily.

Lily pushed her off, “No. I’m still mad but you shouldn’t die.”

Arezo just watched, stunned in the corner.

The air flickered and glimmered. A ghostly creature appeared before us. It was a woman. It was… an Angel.

“Run!!” I screamed.

It was already too late though. The Angel spoke, “This fate is chosen.”

The Angel touched Vaeda’s face. Then, it vanished in a single blink.

Pixels consumed the right side of Vaeda’s face as she screamed and writhed in agony, flailing around in the cell. An emotional transformation could be seen in her frying face. Her alteration ended in shimmering gems.

It was like with Gadi.


I turned to Arezo and grabbed her by the shoulders, “Where is Gadi?!”

She didn’t answer.

I asked again, “Arezo! Where is he!?”

A tear trickled down her cheeks, “I’m sorry… He’s… he’s gone.”

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