Truman’s Show

“I’ve been looking for that book for a long time now. And you’ve done your duty to find it for me,” the strange man said.

“Who are you??” I demanded.

With some odd sense of pride and honor, he said, “I am a protector of the divine Basilisk. You must be, the supposed chosen one. The one who means to destroy our majesty’s reign. I won’t allow it.”

He raised his hand and an energy ball formed.

We all ducked behind the desk as it shot towards us.

“What do we do now??” I asked, turning to everyone else for answers.

“I told you,” Emory said.

Pax got up and yelled, “Watch this shit!”

He jumped on the guy and placed his hands on his head. Then, the most marvelous blue light glowed out of the man’s body as he screamed. Pax simply laughed as the man screamed himself to death, his body evaporating before our eyes.

Finally, a faint blue light was all that remained. I asked, “What the hell was that?!”

Pax answered, “I formed a syzygy with him right now. I put an implant in his brain. People just can’t handle it. It’s the single cool side effect of Vaeda’s experiment. Though, we gotta be careful now because I sensed he already had a syzygy with another Aeon. They are probably close by.”

We ran towards the exit we entered through. The halls were filled with the sounds of our panting and trampling.

We screeched to a halt.

Our way was block by a mysterious man. He bowed and said, “I’m honored to meet you, chosen one.”

“We don’t have time” I replied.

“I only mean to chat. It is important,” he replied.

“Who are you?” I asked.

He put his hand forward to be shaken, “My name is Truman. I am a fellow Aeon. I’m sometimes referred to as the Aeon of Devotion.”

Without shaking his hand, I asked, “So, what do you want?”

Attempting to hide his bitterness, he said, “No introductions I see. I was informed that you’d arrive at this location according to the prophecy. I’ve come to ask for your aide. As you may have noticed, the apocalypse of this world has been initiated. I mean to stop this and protect the current state of things.”

Pandora softly grabbed my arm, “Guhya, hand me the tome.”

I flinched, “What? Why?”

Gadi said, “You can trust her. I’ve foreseen this event.”

Arezo watched nervously.

Hesitating, I eventually handed her the book.

She hugged me, “Thank you, Guhya.” Then she walked over to Truman and handed him the book.

I yelled, “What the fuck is this?!”

Truman said, “Thank you, Pandora. Your loyalty to our mission is admirable.”

Pax ran over and grabbed Pandora’s head, initiating another annihilation event, “I fucking knew you were a traitor bitch!”

She screamed in agony as her body melted away in the fiery blue light. Time moved in slow motion.

“NO!! What have you done!??” I cried out.

The pain of her death was too much, and I was flung into darkness.

The familiar taste of her lips crossed mine. We motioned, euphorically in the sand. Quickly, I was pulled out of the horrors of her death and distracted by our lust. It was oddly particular that we reset to this point. But then, I remembered her betrayal and pulled away, gasping in a panic.

Concerned, she asked, “Guhya! Are you alright??”

I got dizzy and fell over. “Give me a second.”

How was this possible? Were they traitors?

I rushed up and asked her, “Would you betray me?”

She insisted, “No! Of course not. Why would you ask??”

“Are you working for Truman!?” I demanded.

She replied, “Who is Truman??”

I ran towards Gadi, grabbing his shoulders, “Gadi, what about you?? Are you working for Truman?”

He said, “I’ve never heard of such a person in my life. What paranoia leads you to accuse us, oh chosen one?”

I grabbed Pax and pulled him aside to speak in private.

He took his arm back, “What’s your deal man??”

I explained, “I reset because you murdered Pandora, you asshole. But we need to talk about what happened.”

He defended, “Hey man, I don’t know what happened, but I assume I had good reason to do it.”

“Just listen to me. First, don’t kill Pandora, ever. Understood??” I demanded.

“Fine. I agree. For now.” His response felt weak.

My fist launched at his chest, without restraint or thought.

“What the hell man?!” he yelled and grit his teeth. Then, unexpectedly, he laughed and said, “You know, maybe I deserved it. You aren’t half bad.”

Instantly guilty, I said, “I’m sorry. You just really fucked with my head. If I held it in, I think it would have come out another way or eaten me alive. Just leave Pandora alone.”

“Deal,” he said, then he shoved me back and laughed again.

“Okay, okay. Let’s focus now,” I continued explaining, “While underground, we met an Aeon. He was courteous and respectful mostly, but Pandora gave him the book that we are looking for. He seems to be our enemy, despite his niceness. Worse, it seemed like Pandora and Gadi were on his side. I think something weirder is going on though. It doesn’t add up.”

“Aeons do have a tendency to pull shenanigans. I’m not sure what’s going on here though. Do you really trust Pandora?” he asked.

“Yes. No question. Our brains are connected with a syzygy.”

Relieved, he said, “Oh! That could come in handy here.”

“You are right. In the meantime, I have a plan.” I ran over to Gadi, “Hey! Are we only bringing the book back? Is there anything else that must be done down there?”

“It’s just the book!” he said enthusiastically.

I replied, “How about you and Pandora stay behind this time?”

Pandora looked concerned, “Why??”

Gadi said, “That isn’t how the prophecy details it…”

I asked, “Does the prophecy detail your betrayal and your alliance with Truman?”

Defensively, he said, “No! I wouldn’t betray you, Guhya!

He started pacing while thinking aloud, “I wonder. There are gaps in the prophecy. It’s just like ordinary memory. What you experienced could either be a deviation from the prophecy or something that occurs in the gaps.”

His pacing stopped and he concluded, “I don’t think my influence in this fated encounter goes any beyond revealing the exact location of the book, but it seems you would already know where it is, since you already found it before the reset. So! I accept your proposal to stay behind. Just make sure you come back here quickly after.”

The distant sound of thunder filled the air.

I responded, “It’s time to go! Pandora, Gadi, stay behind with Archie and Sophy. You’ll be safer here anyways.”

I grabbed Pandora close, pressing against her, kissing her passionately. Then, I said, “Don’t worry. We will figure this out.”

Nervously, she nodded in agreement.

Neither Pandora nor Gadi seemed very suspicious at this point. Either they were very good actors or something else was going on. After suiting up, we dove and entered the underground yet again.

I dashed right for the book. A distant crash occurred in some faraway hallway, halting our run. “We have to keep moving. Don’t mind that yet.”

Finally, we reached the office room with the dead woman face planted on the desk. I shoved her aside and grabbed the tome. I explained to Pax, “Hey. Last time you annihilated the guy that’s about to intrude on us. Either we need to convince him to back off or annihilate him again. But I’d prefer-“

“You must mean me!” the strange man entered the room.

Without thought, Pax immediately went for the annihilation option. We watched in horror as the man disintegrated into nothingness again.

Without Pandora’s presence, I felt less empathetic over the situation, but some guilt still persisted.

In haste, I said, “Let’s keep moving. Maybe we can avoid Truman altogether.”

The intercom loudspeaker bleeped loudly, “Oh, is that what you think? Ahahaha. Let’s see you try to escape. I’ll be taking that book off your hands soon.”

Had we really changed things so much for events to result this differently?? He must have noticed us as we entered the place. He probably knew where we were the whole time. But why would his plan change?

We ran down the hallway we came from but this time, there was a wall.

“I knew we were going to die in here,” Emory said.

I turned to Arezo, “Can you dematerialize this wall?”

She confidently said, “Yes!” and began to do her work.

Behind the door, 4 armed soldiers waited with their aims on us. Quickly, Arezo replaced the wall again, “Fuck! I think we should find another way.”

We ran down another corridor. Suddenly, I was alone. Everyone else was gone. “Guys!?”

Only the intercoms responded, “This would have gone much smoother if you had just brought your human friends along. What happened to them anyway? Are they dead?”

I headed backwards to find the others. After a few turns, I saw them, just smiling and waiting. I called out, “Arezo! Pax! Emory!”

“Hey Guhya. You look really stressed out. Why don’t you rest for a while?” Arezo suggested.

“What?! We need to leave now,” I demanded.

Pax hurled his fist at my stomach, and I was rendered immobile for a few seconds.

“What the hell man??” I said. What an absurd time for payback.

From behind me, copies of each of them called out, “Guhya! Over here!”

Was it an illusion? I ran to them again. I said, “What’s going on?”

The hallways grew hazier, dimming the lights as they flickered.

Arezo said, “Here!” She blew a kiss at me. “This should keep us unaffected. Let’s go!”

We all ran back to the entrance.

Truman awaited us, “You thought you’d escape so easy, eh? It almost feels like you had a plan ready coming in. Very interesting. You know, the whole world has discovered your plot now. You won’t succeed in erasing this way of life. You won’t reach the Outside. Too many of us know now. At every corner, you’ll meet the resistance. It’s over, Guhya, chosen one.”

Arezo lashed out, “Shut up!” She raised her hands and Truman’s feet began turning to stone. It creeped over his body, drowning him frozen in stone, until only his head remain surfaced. Her powers seemed amplified.

“This isn’t the end,” he said.

In anger, Arezo finished his head, sealing him in stone.

The door to the ocean opened and water flooded in. Arezo recreated our swimsuits, and we plopped through the door. We had escaped. It was over.

As we surfaced, we all laughed in exhilaration. Though, Arezo looked hurt inside. After reaching the shore, it was clear that it had rained. Silver puddles spread all across the rippling sand. Crystal shards sprouted from the sand.

I went to look for Pandora and the others who stayed at the beach. The horrible truth became visible.

Arezo screamed.

All of their bodies were decayed and bloodied. The usual sense of horror and loss was present but to a reduced degree. Instead, a sense of defeat and exhaustion dominated. I collapsed into the sand and just stared at the sky. The reset was delayed this time. Everyone around me screamed in slow motion. Of course, it was their first time going through something like this. Yet, I saw it over and over again.

Arezo kneeled over me and begged, “Go back!! Please go back and save them!!” Her tears crashed down on my face. She rubbed her eyes, still being considerate of where her tears landed, even at a time like this. No one deserved her. She was an angel.

Then, it all went black.

The darkness felt prolonged. But eventually, maybe even instantly, perception restored itself. Bringing me back to a better time. One unladen with my pain. In fact, a tinge of euphoria slipped its way into the back of my dying mind. Fortunately, my pain died faster and faster as I engaged with that euphoria.

My lips met hers and we stood there, kissing again. I loved her. She came to my rescue as my timeline fizzled out like a fading supernova, collapsing itself into a black hole. Another emotion joined in. My fear of the growing gravity of that collapse. One day, I could be pulled in without any escape. Pandora’s shine wouldn’t be able to escape the event horizon. I deeply feared that day, yet it seemed so inevitable with the growing infection in my heart.

Pandora’s voice called out, reaching for me in my dissociated oblivion, “Guhya! Are you okay??”

I fell to my knees and hugged her legs, burying my face in the soft valleys between, hiding away the pathetic tears on my face.

She asked, “You reset again?” Her voice was noticeably affected by my pain.

“Yes,” I answered.

She stood silently and brushed my hair. Then, her body flinched from epiphany, “Wait! Both of the last times you reset; they were during our kisses.”

My face unburied and gazed up at her, “That’s true. What are you thinking?”

“What if… what if you return to the last peak of positive emotion?” she hypothesized.

I stood up, “That’s genius Pandora!!”

She blushed.

“We have to test this out now! If it works that would give us so much more power over this forsaken ability,” I said.

The reality of the future set back in. I turned to everyone else and announced, “Change of plans. We need to stick together. I saw the future and its grim. Something horrible happens on the beach. It might have something to do with the rain. I’m worried it’s a new breed of Sige fog.”

Everyone gasped.

I continued, “Also, I think I have a winning strategy this time. Just follow my lead once we get down there.”

We dove again, this time with the full party among us. After entering, our plan initiated. I said, “Arezo, can you shut off the electricity with your powers?”

She said, “Yes! On your cue?”

“Exactly. Next, Archie and Sophy, both of you wait here by the door. Gadi, you too. Pax and Pandora come with me. And Arezo, I’ll need you to defend your brother and Sophy back here. The people in this place are fully prepped for us. They have multiple strategies to get what they want. They can’t start until I reveal the location of the book though.”

Pandora looked impressed.

I continued, “Arezo, you should build walls into this place. Block the door leading south. We are taking the north door. We will rush in, grab the book, and come back. They will likely intercept but with the power off, they can’t use the fog.”

The plan began. Arezo cut the power. We ran through the darkened hallways, back to the office room. I grabbed the book as usual. Pax impulsively annihilated that same man again. Then, we turned back.

On our way back to the exit, Truman crossed our path, “Well someone came prepared. You are doing oddly well. But why? Is it your prophecy?”

“Back down, Truman. You are outnumbered and out skilled,” I said.

“Is that so?” He started laughing like I was kidding.

Pandora grabbed me. Somehow, I had forgotten about this bit. I used the syzygy to feel inside her head. Instead of her, I felt a foreign influence. He was using her as his puppet.

Pax exclaimed, “I knew she was no good!”

I quickly replied, “No! Don’t do it Pax! She’s under his control. Take him out.”

Pax rushed in and did the right thing: he tackled Truman.

Then, unexpectedly, Arezo dashed in from behind and blew her kiss at Pandora. It freed her.

We all ran to the exit.

Arezo sealed the hallway behind us. We were free. Finally free. We dove upward, through the vaulted door and into the ocean, swirling around each other like a merry go round. A vortex flooded the Akiva base. Truman could be seen as a vague washed-out image, behind the curtain of water.

As we swam up, the top of the water warned of the rain above.

I shook my head and waved my arms desperately, “Wlurghlublurgh!” I swam and got each of their attention. Archie was nearest the surface. He wasn’t responding to my attempts. His hair broke through to the other side. I rapidly swam to him and dragged him back down, signaling to wait it out. Others quickly followed suit.

It only lasted a few minutes, but the worry delayed the experience. The sound-cancelling water forced us inside our minds. It was strangely lonely; despite that we were all there. An unsettling feeling brewed in the back of my mind. It felt like our inescapable demise was looming above. The machine rain was the first sign of our coming apocalypse. It hadn’t hit before that moment, but if events like these were any indication, the world was growing more unlivable with each passing day.

The surface of the water was trampled no longer. We surfaced and regrouped on land.

After our swimsuits dissolved, I ran to Pandora, grabbed her face and started kissing her. I squeezed her harder, like I never wanted to let her go. “We did it,” I muttered.

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