Lage’s Game ~ Chapter Six Part One

Kayla slammed a bottle of vodka down onto the kitchen table. The table was a round thing, wooden and solid. The kitchen was small, but bright and cozy with some dangling plants here and there.

Shaking, Kayla put together a drink for herself. For once she didn’t try and smile at me. She just squeezed out that lemon – then tipped the whole drink back.

Straight aways, making a face, she poured herself another one. Then she sat down, adjacent to me. She put her head in her hands, fingers running through her blonde streaked curls. Then she looked up at me. She was empty, haggard.

“I-” she started, but then was lost for words. She drew the vodka drink to herself.

“They’re here, that’s what it means,” I said flatly, unicorn in my lap. Wretchedly, it still comforted me. It felt like a survivor now, like me.

“Hon,” she said, voice trembling. “The police had that, the fact it’s here,” she took a deep inhale. “They gave it away.”

“To them,” I said stoically.

Kayla nodded, eyes shimmering with tears. “They’re here,” she croaked. “I thought – that if we left the city,” she picked up the vodka drink and tipped some back.

“It’s okay,” I said sternly, knowing that was the right thing to say.

It wasn’t. She burst into tears, sobbing. “It’s not!” she sobbed. She covered her mouth with a hand, tears trickling down her cheeks. Shaking, she drew a large breath. “I’ll get a security system,” she babbled. “I- we’ll figure something out. We can move.”

“Again?” I asked. “They’ll follow us.”

She tossed back her vodka with a gulp. “Nunavut or something,” she mumbled. Then she rose, still trembling. “Let’s go to bed. Sleep always helps. We will feel better tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t want to tell her that they almost always struck by night. I just nodded, stomach tight. I didn’t tell her that I still needed supper. What point was there?

Slowly, lights were switched on for us to walk upstairs to a small bedroom where she drew out blankets from the closet. Then, quite suddenly and haphazardly, Kayla put all the blankets away and announced that I would sleep in the bed next to her. I didn’t argue. I just put my pajamas on in the bathroom and brushed my teeth.

That night, I lay on my back with eyes wide open. The moonlight drifted in through the thin curtains. Kayla shifted and shifted. Finally, an hour later, she fell asleep.

I lay there and listened for the crick of the door. I listened, body tense with every bird chirp and cuckoo from outside. I listened, heart pounding in my throat and mouth turning dry. I checked the glowing clock by the bed, watching the time seemingly freeze – only to tick off a number every so often. It was agonizing. Then, three am struck.

I heard a footstep almost in time with the flickering change on the clock. I froze, every muscle tense. I gripped my hand in my pocket, clenching my keys that I had snuck into bed. I was going for the eyes this time. No hesitation. They wanted to send a message? So would I.

Soft, quiet, thumps were barely audible. The stairs creaked a warning. I hoped Kayla wouldn’t wake. She’d just get hurt and get in the way. No, this was my battle.

The footsteps stopped before the closed bedroom door. For three heartbeats, nothing. Then, the doorknob turned with a click. The door swung open – and squeaked oh so loudly.

Kayla gasped, sitting up in bed. With a grappling scramble, she flicked the light on from her bedside. Light glowed gently out from the lampstand near her side of the bed.

I Had sat up despite myself, and Kayla was gulping for air, looking from me to the opened door. “Stay there,” she whispered before picking up a beer bottle from beside her bed.

Then, as bravely as she could, she walked to the darkness of the corridor. The beer bottle was lifted as she switched on the lights in the hallway.

She yelped, then stepped back. She was frozen stiff, but then she shook herself. “There’s nothing!” she announced. Turning her back on the hallway in a stupid move, she announced to me with wild eyes “There’s nothing!”

Then she looked again into the hallway, as if to make sure.

“What did you see?” I asked, stepping out of the bed. I walked to her side. She glanced from me to the hallway.

“A man. He was wearing green. It- but he just vanished. Must have been a shadow,” she said, looking around once more.

I walked out into the hallway. I wished I could sense leftover energies, like some psychics could. What did that man want? I even walked to the spare room. The door was locked.

“They couldn’t have gone in there so quickly,” said Kayla tensely. “Come back to bed.”

I did. Again, we lay down. Kayla set the beer bottle back on the floor beside her – and there was the sound of tires crunching on the road. It stopped before our house.

“They’re here,” a male voice announced from the hallway.

Kayla leaped up. Bottle in hand, she stood by the bed, shaking all over. A shadow stepped out of the shadows and into our bedroom.

“They’re here,” the man repeated, and I saw an outline of a cloak on his form. “What are you going to do?”

I stepped out of the bed, the floor cold to my bare feet. Ice prickled over my skin. The moment had come. The final showdown – or so I hoped.

“Who are you?” asked Kayla. “What do you want?”

“I’m not with them, if that answers anything,” he said. “But you will need to decide fast.”

“I’m killing them,” I announced breathlessly, keys in hand and ready to scratch and maim.

“I won’t let you do that,” he said somberly. Downstairs, the front door softly clicked open. He whispered now. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to kill them,” I repeated.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 14 part 1

photo of brown concrete buildings
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Kuryo POV

Suzy was crying. Again. My head was pounding from ‘why not’ essence. Because why wouldn’t I still have a headache?

“Suzy, suzy, it’s okay,” I murmured to myself, only half-asleep. I’d slept, brainstormed and slept and now had just given up on some brainstorming. Because, really, how could I stop an invasion into the gods’ realm? I mean, yes, I had certain powers. But let’s face the reality → my wings were cut. I was stuck here. Really, really, stuck.

Was that an excuse to not do anything? Really, maybe, probably? I wanted to go home now. I just wanted to grow my wings back, zap home, and flake on the couch with Aaliyah and Jade. Charr would talk endlessly about her homework. Chaos would brew coffee.

That’s it, I thought as I tucked my beak under my wing. Maybe I should just stop poking my nose everywhere. Maybe I should just go home.

Suzy wailed loudly in the back of my mind. She wouldn’t admit why she was terrified, just that she was. And frankly, I wasn’t ready to go poking about inside her mind to try and figure it out.

“But we’re supposed to go back to the Academy!” she cried out, shaking me within myself.

I closed my eyes and tried to shut her out. I want to go home, to my home, I thought as loudly as I could.

Apparently, Suzy could scream louder than I could, mentally.

My head split with pain as she screamed “But the Academy! It needs us!”

Oh, good gods. Jesus on a stick, as Chaos would say. Please, Suzy. I’m trying to rest here.

Then, just as I wanted to mope and curl up miserably in myself, I felt a shift in the aether, in the weaving of this world.

My head popped up on its own and I eyeballed around me. And right there in the living room, wobbling on unsteady legs, was me, version two point oh.

Oh, hello jerk, I thought angrily. I sat up – but this wasn’t the dude who had sold me to the Academy. This was the one who had previously tried to kill me, a few years ago. Or at least I was guessing by the fact that there was shorter hair and something shifty to his eyes. I remembered those eyes.

Squawk! I sat up, beating my wings at the cage before me. Just to say hi, in an angry sort of way. Or maybe a ‘fuck off’. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be rescued or to tackle him down.

He walked over, looked me up and down with a pause, then picked up the whole cage, me included. I squawked, pecking at him. It had zero result. He picked up the cage and put it under his arm, holding a strange black object in his hand.

He was looking at this object when the being came out of the other room and running over, hair flying about and surprisingly not naked. What? He always seemed naked these days.

Me two point oh jammed at the device, and frowned. The being/my other captor exclaimed something. Me two point oh answered and I squawked, beating my wings at the cage door. Let me out! Let me the fuck out, I’ve had it!

“Kuryo! Kuryo!” a voice shouted.

I spun this way and that – and then Aaliyah was there, crouchign down before the cage. “Kuryo! It’s me! Can you see me?”

“Aaliyah!” What was she doing here? I threw myself, my soul, forward and out of the cage to hug her. We embraced, soul to soul and happy.

Soul to soul? I looked her over. This was her, in soul. No body. “What are you doing here?” I asked, leaning back to look at her.

“I’m dead I,” she pointed to the other version of me. “He killed us. Me and Jade, and Chaos is missing -”

“What?”

She shook me. “You need to run! He’s going to hand you over to the these people – I stalled his machine but you’ve got to run!”

As she said that I felt a flicker. The machine was nearly working again.

“Move!” Aaliyah shouted.

I jumped back into my body, shunting Suzy out of control. In a flash I seized the energy, the matter of this cage, and I wrenched it apart. As I fell I switched forms, landing on my human feet.

There was a shriek from the being, and a yell from the other me. I bolted for the door, knowing that if he caught me I didn’t stand a chance.

“This way!” Aaliyah was running beside me, switching into her dragon form. We darted around the apartment, yanked the door open, and were out in the hall.

I was so happy I’d followed the being out the other day. Now I knew the way out of this building, into an elevator-esque thing that sent you several flights down at a time, like a portal.

Nothing seemed to be working fast enough. The portals felt interminable as I heard the footsteps of other me just a flight above us, just one button click away.

Finally we burst out into the lobby. There there was a yelp from a surprised attendant, we raced the several feet across the carpeting, and we banged out through the steel doors.

The crowd stalled me for a moment. Where to run? There was peasants everywhere and I stood out like a clown at a funeral.

“Hey!” a hand clapped down on my shoulder. I squirmed, spinning and coming face to face with this other me. I grabbed his soul and twisted. His eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed, soul and body out of sync and disorganized.

I spun and bolted. No aim, no direction. I just went left.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 6 part 1

Kuryo’s POV

We were traveling, whizzing in crow form with the Academy’s subconscious within me. We had long ago left the pocket from which the Academy had created its little haven and we were now whizzing through one dimension when – WHAM. Something smashed into us, completely out of nowhere.

It was a soundwave, that I was aware of. It ricocheted off us, sending us reeling to the left.

“Oh no!” squealed the academy – who I’ll call Suzy for simplicity’s sake – inside my head. “It’s them!”

“The rebellion?” I thought just as I righted myself and turned around. And no, it wasn’t the Rebellion. Those bums had never pulled themselves together like this. Instead I was faced with a giant ship of the interspace travelling thing.

Now, traveling between dimensions should have prepared me for actually meeting an inter-dimension traveling thing, but I had never met one before. It was an absolute shock. Which was why I got caught.

A laser, light beam, whatever you want to call it, burst out of the ship and zapped over us. It tingled like ants on fire over my skin and between my feathers, and suddenly I was no longer in the ship. Instead I was in a tube full of green-ish liquid, in my human form.

“Oh no, no, no,” moaned the voice in my head (suzy) as I got a good look at what was outside of this huge tube.

There was rows upon rows upon rows of other tubes, all upright like mine and capped with a lid, filled with sleeping creatures and, mainly, humans. Between the rows marched – not humans.

“It’s them,” wailed Suzy within me, curling up and sobbing in the back of my mind.

Oh, them? The tall, not quite proportioned correctly not-humans? Because, they looked like humans at first glance. But they were just a smeedge too tall, too lean, too… ethereal looking?

Placing my palms on the glass, I sensed the world with my powers. I felt the lives in all the tubes, all pulsing and asleep. I sensed the life within all those non-humans, calm and placidly watching me like I was the latest curioso. They were remarkably the same, just in different casings. Like all life, really.

Two of them, dressed in long burnt red robes, came to stand before my tube. One placed a palm upon the glass.

“Where is your traveling device?” they asked, and it reverberated through the tube.

I gasped for air – and found the liquid breathable. I choked on it, gulped, and found myself breathing in liquid. Whoah. Weird.

“Your device,” the creature repeated starchily.

I made a point of looking down at my hands before back up at them. “I dropped it,” I lied. No need for them to know I didn’t need one.

They both cocked their heads as if smelling the lie. I held up my hands, defenseless. In the back of my mind, Suzy hadn’t stopped her wailing and it was seriously distracting.

What looked like a taser was set against the tube and – zap! It was a taser.

My hairs stood on end, my limbs quaked, and my brain was dizzy. Wow, that was a high voltage.

“Your device,” they repeated.

I turned out my pockets. Shook out my sleeves. “There’s nothing!” I exclaimed furiously.

The taser was approached to the tube, but the other alien shook its head. It said something dismissively in their language, which was melodious and sweet. Noxiously sweet, like your aunt promising to give you candies when she was really taking you to the dentist.

I banged a fist upon the tube. “Can you let me out now?” I held out my arms. “I got nothing on me! I have somewhere to be-”

They both started laughing. Again, they spoke with each other, and they casually pressed a button at the base of the tube.

ZAP! Lights out for me.

Except, Suzy woke me up. My body was asleep, but I was sitting above it, tied to it but still alert. Suzy was sitting beside me, on the top of another tube. This one contained what looked like a wild pig.

“They’re slave traders,” she sniffled. “We shouldn’t have come here. They’re going to sell us!”

“Who are they?” I asked as calmly as I could.

“They’re from the Arka dimension. They finally figured out the dimension jumping, and,” she sniffled dramatically, “they’ve been invading everywhere and taking over dimensions. They’ve even attacked the Academy. It’s a mess.”

“Oh,” I said. Suzy sobbed, covering her face with her hands.

“I’m scared,” she squealed.

I put an arm around her shoulders, but took a moment to look around. There were many of those species strolling around, patrolling and checking on the tubes. They weren’t very magical though, if they hadn’t noticed us sitting up here.

“It’s going to be fine,” I said, honestly believing it. The Academy wouldn’t let its subconscious be gone for long. At worst we’d be re-kidnapped.

But Suzy was growing hysterical. “We shouldn’t have left home!” she wailed.

I squeezed her shoulder tighter. “It’s going to be just fine,” I whispered, kissing her gently on the side of her head. I could feel her panic and fear, so I tried to press calm and happiness into her. At least we were together. We were each other’s tickets to freedom. The Academy would come for her, and I’d escaped everywhere I’d been trapped before. I could certainly do so again.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 4 Part 1

Chaos’s POV

With a thud I landed in a blurr of brown and beige and green. My feet dunked down into slushy mud. I lost my balance and toppled over, arms flailing. I landed face-first in mud.

Ugh. What an entrance.

Spitting and cursing I propped up on my elbows. Before me, a breathtaking view of valleys and farm houses stretched in spring hues with mud spattered here and there. It was where Bella had once taken me to see the view – except now it was spring.

A lump rose in my throat. I crawled up to my feet, feeling betrayed by myself. I just had to come back here, didn’t I? Well, bugger it all.

I looked down at the black box in my hand, cursing myself and my squishy sentiments. I would go back and – something appeared behind me. My hairs stood on end. My magic senses went ‘warning! Warning!’ and I whirled, swords out.

Sparks skittered as I struck a magical shield. It shimmered with pastel colors in a bubble around a very un-pastel person. Lucifer.

Lucifer was all decked out in horns and black robes and the usual tall-as-hell-was-deep high heels that levitated above the mud. There was even the semi-permanent smug look to his face.

“Oh, it’s you,” I said, lowering my swords. I picked up the black box that I had dropped to defend myself. I wiped the mud off of it, then looked back up. Those crystal-like blue eyes were shimmering with amusement.

“Chaos, Chaos,” Lucifer tutted, bending over as if dealing with a child. “What are you doing here, hmm?”

I held up the box. “It was a mistake. I uh- just – wrong place. Don’t worry, I’m leaving.” Like I wanted to stay around here!

Lucifer held out his hand amiably. “Need help? I’m pretty good at fixing things.”

“Really?” I held out the box without thinking twice. Or rather, I thought too late. It was when the box left my fingers that I thought -hey, wait a minute.

“Thanks!” said Lucifer so cheerfully as he straightened, taking the box with him. “And thank you so much for coming back.”

“I need to go,” I said in a blurt “my friend-” but Lucifer was giving me that pitying look he reserved for… unfortunate people. I gulped, feeling screwed.

Lucifer snapped his fingers. Behind him in a semi-circle appeared a whole host of angels. “Take him,” he ordered, a nasty grin sparkling across his face.

I cursed under my breath. There was no way I was fighting my way out of this.

//////

Kuryo’s POV

“Hey,” I was dangling in nothingness, still. Time had passed, and yet it hadn’t. I’d dozed off – or had I?

I wondered if the other bodies that were dangling around were conscious. “Hey!”

But my voice didn’t seem to go far, nor to even echo. It was just absorbed by this lifeless darkness. No answers. Except- a twinge of amusement that came down the umbilical chord.

“You’re alive,” I mumbled, looking up at the thing that was above me. At the dark mass of the Academy’s depths.

A sliver of laughter came down the chord to ripple out through my mind.

Hi, I thought dryly.

Welcome to my world, the voice cooed in my head.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think of everything and anything. I needed to find a way out of here!

Laughter echoed in my mind. There is no way out, you sad little thing. We will digest you. You will end.

And, like the proverbial villain who never shuts up, the rant began.

It was a mistake, incorporating you so quickly last time. This time, we will do it slower. Yes, yes,.

That was followed by a whole chorus of sighs and laughs. Like every single piece that was shattered up there had its own voice for an instant. It gave me the creeps- yet I somehow understood it. I’d felt that shattered before.

“You do?” asked a tangible voice. I startled so bad, looking up.

A silvery head looked down at me. The skin was silvery translucent, the hair was white and thin, and its torso was child-like, the waist hidden in the darkness that was above me. Thin arms jutted from shrunken sockets to grip at the chord.

“Do you know what this feels like?” and that word, ‘this’ had been said by a million voices.

A strange eagerness was rippling from the being, from this infantile version of the Academy. It was like a heat oppressing over me. But I nodded, feeling a strange sort of sympathy within myself for it.

A sympathy that was noticed the minute I felt it.

“You like me!” the figure squealed, clasping its tiny hands together. It tapped and toyed its fingers together in excitement. “I like you too!” it blurted.

I laughed at this -creepy- but almost charming innocence.

The figure ducked back up into the darkness. Then, weilding a knife, it ducked back down. Knife held in its teeth, it swung down, gripping the umbilical chord with ease. I gasped, suppressing a wave of horror as the region beneath the hips swung down. It was a mess of octopus tentacles, all white and silvery and translucent like the rest of this body.

The being swung down straight before me, the tentacles wrapping around my stomach so the head was just a little above me. The knife was drawn out from the teeth and pointed at my throat. “I’ve got a knife!” the child giggled.

O-kay? I forced myself to stay calm, neutral, pushing all other feelings aside. “I don’t have one,” I said lamely.

The being giggled. The knife was waved in my face. “Just remember.” Then the knife was swung around and planted straight into their octopus hip. It jutted out, the skin torn but not bleeding.

“Now,” the being looked at me, tilting its head to the side. A sigh came from its lips, but I felt a rush of voices in my head. Questions, probing eyes, as if all my thoughts were being sifted through. A question was pulled out of me.

“Who am I?” squealed the being, as if so excited to have someone to talk to. “Well I- I never thought of that!”

“Ah?” I half-laughed, feeling giddy from my senses screaming danger.

It leaned in so close our noses brushed. Its fingers toyed with my ear, the one with the split lobe that had been so long ago. The being grinned. “I remember this. Your escape. I remember you. I remember everything, except -” it took in an angry breath, then hissed in my face. “I am nothing. I have no voice, I have no time, I have no feelings, no agency! I get no friends.” It leaned back, hands locked behind my neck as it arched back, back, back, until all I saw was the tip of its chin and its chest.

“I am alone in my multitude,” it crowed, half sobbing. “I have no friends.”

A feeling radiated from it, raw emotion that invaded me. It was wounded, miserable, shattered, and weak. Frightened, lonely.

I found myself pitying it. Hadn’t I felt that way after surviving the Academy? I’d had no one, not even Charr with me for the first little while. Even then, Charr could only understand so much. I collected partners, but they never filled that strange void within-

“Exactly,” cooed the spirit, drawing me out of my thoughts by rising up again to look down at me. “I’m so alone.

I gulped, not liking how I was seeing myself echoed in this being, this part of the Academy.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 3, Part 2

Chaos’s POV

“Kuryo can NOT be transgender,” I blurted. “I’ve seen him naked!” Among other things! Hey, I was even in that body and I didn’t realize it wasn’t 900% male by birth.

“Yeah, so have we,” said Aaliyah flatly. “He’s had surgery. That’s all. Don’t make such a big deal of it.”

“Yeah,” muttered Jade as if I was a kid throwing a tantrum. And maybe I was. I mean, in the scale of things this was pretty small, but –

“Why didn’t he tell me?” I fairly yelled. “I mean-” my hands waved around. I caught myself guppy-fishing with my mouth. “He never told me!” My hands dropped down into my lap. I felt miserable. Hurt. Abandoned!

“Just,” muttered V2. “Maybe he didn’t want you to know.”

Ow. Ouch. That hurt. I pressed a palm over my heart, where it was bleeding on the inside. I took a deep breath – and realized everyone was staring at me grumpily.

“This is really not the biggest problem we have,” said Aaliyah flatly.

“Yeah but,” hello? Need time to process?

“Lookit,” V2 held up the black box. “I have the black box. I’m going to go back and try and save Charr, my Charr. If you want, I can keep an eye out for your Kuryo too.” He said that with all the enthusiasm of someone who wanted to go deep sea diving with starving sharks.

“And we’re supposed to do what?” Aaliyah jiggled the bottle of whiskey. “Just sit around and drink? We’re coming with you.”

V2 pressed his lips together tightly and gave her a leveled, mature, look of disapproval. “The rebellion doesn’t take well to strangers. At best you’ll be seen as spies. You should stay here -”

I snatched the black box from him. “Who’s coming with me?” I asked, jumping up.

“Hey!” V2 jumped up, but I flicked a sword out between us. Nuh-uh, buddy.

V2 gave me another look that was, I don’t know, supposed to remind me to be mature? I put the black box around my neck all while keeping him at bay with the tip of my sword. “I’m going to find Kuryo,” I said loudly. “And I’m going to see what can be done about the Academy, whatever that problem is.” Because guess what?! No one ever explained what that was to me either! No one told me anything!

Like hell I was going to let myself be ‘temporary’. Or disposable. I was going to figure everything out and wring an apology from Kuryo for not having told me, ME!, that he was trans.

“You haven’t the slightest idea what you’re doing!” said V2, just a teensy bit furious, as I tugged the black box down around my neck. “Do you even know how that thing works?”

“Uh, yeah?” I fibbed as I looked around at the very nonplussed Aaliyah and Jade. They hadn’t even gotten up. They just looked on, expecting me to sit down and be proven wrong. I’d show them! Hadn’t I been in Kuryo’s body when something something, travel something? I was quite sure we’d traveled together once.

Let me see. I looked down at the box, remembering what it had felt like to travel within Kuryo, to feel the –

The room disappeared as the smooth feeling of travel overcame me. Of feeling the world pass you by, slip away, and the stars whirling around you.

Oh, shit, I thought dimly. I don’t even have shoes on.

//////

Kuryo’s POV

I didn’t so much wake up as I gradually grew more and more conscious. I felt a low throbbing hum around me, a pulse if you will. Light glowed, not quite blinding but not quite comfortable either. It was a strange light. Synthetic. I couldn’t feel it like I usually felt the aether. This was lifeless light.

That thought jogged me from my stupor. Lifeless light? Light, energy, was supposed to be alive. It was life – but here it wasn’t.

I was suspended in what felt like a straight jacket, arms wrapped around myself and feet dangling straight down, suspended by a chord that seemed to be reaching up out of my spine at the base of my neck. All around me, at first glance, was a mist full of firefly-like lights. They sparkled, glimmered, and shifted slowly from here to there. But at second glance, there was more of us. To my left and right and all around, there were other shapes dangling in the mist, still and inert. I could not see the chords that they hung suspended from, but I had to look up.

My chord, if I arched my head back far enough, looked eerily like an umbilical chord. It was thick and fleshy, pulsating with life – life? I squinted, trying to see farther, but there were no lights above me, only ones beside and beneath. Okay. But there was a life and that I could work with. I closed my eyes, letting my feelings shift, letting my soul reach out. I ran my senses through myself, where I sensed the umbilical chord having attached itself to my spine, into me. It was like a soul that was piggy-backed onto me, if piggy backing merged you together like veins twisting into you.

Okay, that was gross. But I kept looking, sensing this frail soul, this fraction of a being that was just a thin tendril reaching up and up, connected to something beyond. Something that felt – broken. Shattered. In a million fragile pieces. Familiar. Far too familiar, like looking in a mirror when you’re not expecting it.

It took me a moment to recognize the academy’s soulprint. Once I did, it sensed me, in a sort of strange reflection of my sensing it.

For a moment, we looked at each other. Not with our eyes, but with our senses, probing at each other. For me, it was like looking at a tumor you had cast off. It was gross, disheveled, and broken and bleeding. Yet it was connected to me and I sensed it sensing me – like looking into a mirror reflecting a mirror. It was dizzying.

“You’re awake,” said another voice. Familiar too – but not bad.

Charr? I looked down, finding myself incapable of speech. My voice just wouldn’t work.

But there, beneath me, a ray of light beamed in as if from a door, except I knew there was no door. There was just a sliver of self-importance that shone down upon this being.

It was Charr, but there was blue gleams to her hair. Her eyes too, gleamed blue. The academy had chosen her, then, to carry it.

“Hello,” it said in Charr’s coldest voice. “How are you?”

It felt like my jaw was unhinged on command. I was ordered to speak. Irritated, I didn’t want to. But really, I wanted to. So I did.

“What the fuck?” I asked. “Seriously?”

Charr chuckled. “Seriously?” she echoed. She put fingers to her chin as if meditating deeply on my words. “Seriously,” she repeated. “I think we are very serious. Wouldn’t you say so?”

I rolled my eyes and kicked at the air. Nothing really moved. I felt bonds going down my legs, even on my ankles so my feet couldn’t flex. It was ridiculous. Okay, think. I had the Academy here (in Charr!), I had to get into its head.

“Ah- ah-ah,” Charr lifted a finger. “I heard that thought.”

I cursed under my breath. Charr chuckled eerily, crossing her arms across her chest with a satisfied grin. “I like this,” she announced, and I could feel the satisfied smugness through the presence above me. It was all connected, all throbbing with the same fragile life. But somewhere, if I focused really hard – there had to be a piece of Charr.

“Oh no, no, no, don’t think she’s going to rescue you,” the Academy sneered, lifting its chin arrogantly. “She’s been taken care of.”

“What?” I yelped. “What do you mean?”

Charr’s head tilted with that grin. “She was too much trouble. You know, you I like to gloat to. Her, well, she’s just a failed shield. I don’t want her sticking around. She helped you escape last time, you know. You’re pretty useless without her.”

“What did you do to her?” I yelled, jerking against my bonds. “You-” but I stopped, the laughter suddenly coming from so many different angles that it hurt my ears. It felt like the whole world was laughing at me.

The laughter dimmed into cackles from above. Charr wiped a tear from her eye and giggled. “Ah, this is fun. I’m glad I’ve kept you alive. Just for this.”

“To gloat? That’s all I’m here for? To stroke your ego?”

Charr shrugged. “Gotta get our strokes somehow.” and then she giggled at her own joke. I was nonplussed. My heart was hammering in my chest and my ears were ringing. Charr. I couldn’t sense her within the body. Had she been put safely aside for later use? Or was she… recycled?

Okay, time to think – but she was in my head so- no time to think?

“I want you here for your power,” sighed Charr. “You should know that already. You remember how souls can be like batteries? Well you’re a powerful one and I’m also taking you apart to use you to rebuild myself. So take that!”

Uh, kay. That made sense but … my mind drew a blank. I didn’t know what to ask, or how to weasel my way out of this.

“Because you can’t!” sang Charr, twirling on herself and doing a little dance step. “You’re stuck! Welcome to limbo, asshole!”

I would ask ‘what did I ever do to you’, but I knew all too well. Time to try another avenue. “Isn’t there some way we can work together?” I asked hopefully. “I’m in a bind here, you see?”

The dumb joke landed, and it made the Academy laugh. Wow.

“Nice try!” said Charr. “But I’m not an idiot! You stay here and rot!”

The light around her blinked out. Her presence vanished. I was alone again. Well. Alone.

I looked up again, at the throbbing presence above me. I should have been worrying about Charr, life, and hunger, but all I could wonder was ‘where are we?’.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 3, Part 1

Chaos’s POV

“Okay, but we’ve got to do something,” was the most constructive I could get.

Aaliyah and Jade had tried summoning the principals. I’d even tried praying to the great beyond. No such luck. No magic was manifesting. We were just – here. Stuck.

But we were running out of steam. It was now early afternoon. I should be finishing my work shift. Kuryo should be coming home from school. Charr- should be telling us all that we were lazy.

I wanted to bawl. My little family was in tatters around me. If there was something, anything, that I could do, I’d do it without a blink. But there was nothing to do.

“For fuck’s sake,” groaned Jade, who never swore. We were all around the coffee table, heads in our hands. Aaliyah had just given up on pacing. I was still holding off on the whole crying thing, but why I don’t know. There was nothing else to do!

“We should pick up the blood,” said Jade. “It’s not like the cops are going to come looking.”

Aaliyah frowned. “If they do, we really do need to pick up the blood.”

None of us moved.

Then, behold! Ask and ye shall receive!

Wham! There was a crackle in the universe! Pow! A ripple just moved through the air and I nearly barfed, it just felt so weird inside of my skin.

Someone appeared, landing on the edge of the coffee table between it and the wall. Someone with blue hair and a blue jacket and –

“Kuryo?!” we all yelled, jumping up to our feet collectively.

The figure straightened woozily. My heart pounded. Same haircut, different clothes but – the face was older by a few years. And plus, you know, he had a giant pair of crow wings he was stabilizing himself with as he staggered.

Jade and Aaliyah slumped. “Oh,” Jade said as we all realized at about the same time that this wasn’t our Kuryo.

“Uh?” he asked as he looked around at us. There was an anger, a tightness to his face. He was frowning like it had been cut into him to be that way.

“Who the fuck are you?” I practically, well, okay, did, yell at the top of my lungs. Everyone startled and got my point.

“Isn’t he-” Aaliyah asked.

“No he’s not! It was another one!” I hissed. This one didn’t look like he’d hit a gym for six years straight. This guy had shorter hair like our Kuryo and his clothes were… looking like a mix of high fashion meets space station. Yeah, and he had gloves on. Not that that meant anything but – “So who the fuck are you?” I demanded, furious. I’d had it! Someone was giving me answers!

This new kuryo – let’s call him V2 for the sake of simplicity – lifted a hand at me with the assurance of someone who was used to being listened to. “Calm down,” he ordered.

“Oh yeah?” I yelled, flicking my wrists so my swords flicked out.

V2 yelled wordlessly, jumping back. His giant wings flashed out and he was now in a crouch, ready to vanish.

“Chaos!” Aaliyah yelled. Then, in a blurr of gold there was this giant dragon before me, between me and V2. Or more like, there was this dragon with one foot in the coffee table, a wing nearly bashing out the lightbulb, and V2 was crushed up against the wall, emitting a small “Fuck!”

Jade’s voice floated over “Alrihgt, everyone just calm down.”

Aaliyah swung her giant head from me to V2, snorting. I nodded and sheathed my swords.”Okay, okay,” I muttered, holding up my hands now.

V2 muttered curses under his breath as Aaliyah returned to her normal harmless looking self. He stepped off the wall and shook his wings out.

“Okay, now you.” Aaliyah pointed to V2, then to the sofa. “Sit down.”

V2 did just that. Aaliyah looked at me and pointed to the other side of the smashed coffee table. “You sit too.”

I dropped down so hard it hurt. Crossed my arms and legs in a huff. There! Now what?

Like a coach scolding us, Aaliyah looked me and V2 over. Jade was like an aggravated parent, there for backup but not sure either what was going on.

“Alright,” Aaliyah said sharply. “you,” to V2. “Who are you and why are you here?”

V2 looked her up and down. With a sharp exhale he said “I’m Kay. Senior member of the Rebellion, shooter squad, and husband to Charr, the senate leader. I was just killed.”

“You’re obviously alive!” I yelled out.

“Chaos!” Aaliyah hissed. “Let him finish!”

V2’s eyes were growing wide. “Charr! They’re after her!” V2 was jumping back up to his feet. “I’ve got to get back! I’ve got to- there’s got to be a way to save her,” and he turned to us. “Send me back!”

We all looked at each other. You could have heard a penny drop.

“We didn’t summon you,” said Aaliyah.

V2 flapped his arms. “I don’t have the power to dimension travel! Someone sent me here! Whoever it is- send me back!”

“Hey,” Aaliyah said. “Our Kuryo just went missing yesterday, along with Charr. Maybe you were brought here for a reason.”

V2 glared at her, his voice rising a notch. “I don’t give a shit! I’ve got to get back to my wife and baby!”

I frowned and tightened my arms across my chest, hugging myself. Both Charrs were pregnant. There was another Kuryo who wasn’t Kuryo. Where the fuck was this going?

“Hey,” Aaliyah held up a hand. “You’re Kay? The version who tried to kill our Kuryo a few years ago? Through the rebellion?”

“Yeah, that’s me?” snapped V2.

“Then who was here yesterday? Who’s the third Kuryo?” Aaliyah asked. “I thought Kuryo had only met one version of himself before.”

“Don’t know, don’t care, send me back!” V2 nearly yelled, flapping his arms again.

Aaliyah gave him a dead serious look. “Check yourself for a black box.”

“Why would I have the black box on me?” snapped V2, but he began patting himself down. His face dropped as he patted one of his jacket pockets. Out he drew a black box on a black leather strap that looked suspiciously like the ones Charr and Kuryo used to have.

“Oh, shit,” moaned Jade as V2 paled.

“What?” I wailed. “What does that mean?” Because, obviously, I was the only one who didn’t understand.

////

“When the principals send out people to do their bidding, to fix screw-ups in this dimension, they give them black boxes to time and dimension travel,” said Aaliyah.

We were now all sitting around the shattered coffee table, passing around a bottle of whiskey. Jade took two strong gulps before passing it around. V2 sniffed it then handed it over to me with a repulsed look. I gulped it, swallowed the burn, then handed it to Aaliyah.

“So?” I croaked.

“So,” she took a swig of whiskey. “Our Charr and Kuryo were the ‘fixers’. Now they’re not, which tells us that they’re in trouble or dead for good. Also – there’s a new fixer, which means something is wrong. He was sent here, which means we’ve got something to do with it.”

I blinked and tried not to absorb the bad while still getting the point. That meant I pretty much ignored the whole thing. “So?” I repeated like an unhappy parrot.

“Kuryo and Charr are in serious trouble and someone actually needs to go rescue them,” Jade snapped. “That’s what.”

I smacked a palm onto the table. “Then let’s do this!”

V2 looked at me like I was a dumb, dumb, plum. “The Academy is coming back to life,” he said deadpan. “It’s probably got them by now.”

Jade snorted whiskey up her nose. “What?” said Aaliyah.

“It sent something to attack us.” V2 paused. “I’m not sure what they are. But,” and he fiddled with a chipped piece of the table. “They bargained for Charr. They offered a peace treaty in exchange for her.”

“Charr?” I barked.

V2 nodded miserably. “Just her.”

“And what did you do?” I asked.

V2 glared at me. “We declared war. And I’m quite sure we’re losing. I was just hoping Charr would be able to give birth before we were captured.”

There was a heavy pause in the air. Aaliyah looked down into the whiskey bottle as if it was a source of wisdom. “So – you think the Kuryo who was here yesterday, brought our Kuryo to the academy?”

“Pretty sure, yeah,” V2 nodded.

“What’s up with the pregnancy though?” I asked. “The other Charr was pregnant too. What’s that got to do with anything?”

V2 looked around. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “The baby was kind of a surprise for us. We’d stopped taking sperm sponsors a while ago-”

“Sperm sponsors?” I asked loudly. Maybe the whiskey was hitting a bit.

V2 made a face at me. “Well yeah!” he snapped, bristling. “I can’t really father the child, now can I?”

I just sat there, deadpan confused. “Why not?” Testicles blown off?

“Because I’m, transgender?” said V2 testily. “Like your Kuryo?”

My jaw hit the floor. “Kuryo is what?” I shrieked.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 2, Part 2

Chaos’s POV

“Do you ever feel left out?” I moaned, the grand life question slipping from me.

I was draped across AJ’s way too comfortable couch, an arm resting across my eyes and the other hanging down to the floor. My feet (boot-less) were propped up on the arm rest. AJ (the two of them) were sitting on the floor around a coffee table, sharing homework woes.

“No, not really,” Jade had the kindness to answer. Aaliyah just kept her resting bitch face on.

I heaved a sigh and looked over at them. “I feel so left out.”

“Do you?” Jade asked rhetorically as she highlighted passages in a book.

A lump formed in my throat. “I feel temporary,” I said, skirting around the real issue.

Both heads looked up. Then they looked back down. “Maybe that’s a reflection of how you’re approaching the relationship,” said Jade.

I made a face and returned to moping at the ceiling. “That’s not it,” I said with certainty. They just didn’t understand. “I mean,” I rolled over onto my side so I was facing them. They didn’t bother looking up. “How would you feel if they kicked you out of your home to have someone over? Huh?”

Aaliyah snorted. Jade looked at me, pitying. “Chaos,” she said gently. “We know all about that.”

“You do remember that we got left behind by Kuryo twice?” said Aaliyah curtly. “And he just comes back with Charr and they’ve got all this backstory together?”

“Y-yeah?” I whined, feeling like my misery should still outweigh theirs

“Well, we understand that, but what you’re feeling is jealousy,” said Jade primly. “And you need to get over it.”

“I got thrown out of my house!” I wailed, flinging an arm up to the ceiling.

“Chaos, you moved in uninvited,” said Aaliyah. “You should probably get your own place.”

“No,” said Jade. “They said you could live there so it’s your home too but -” and she paused after that heavy ‘but’. I wilted.

“You know,” Jade said slowly. “Charr and Kuryo went through stuff together. They have this whole dimension stuff going on with them. We,” she swung a pencil between us three. “We’re not a part of that. It’s none of our business, really. So that’s the only reason they asked you to leave. I’m sure if you talked it over with Kuryo he will have a great explanation for you.”

“He could be trying to keep you safe,” said Aaliyah flatly.

I heaved a sigh, knowing that they were right. Kuryo loved me. He loved Charr too. He did not love those two look-alikes who had been in the apartment. Something was definitely going down now, I was sure of it but – I checked my phone again. No messages and it had been an hour. I dropped my arm and phone down with a clunk.

“Anyone else want coffee?” I moaned loudly.

“Sure,” they said in unison.

/////

Kuryo POV

“So which god is it?” Kay was asking. He was sitting beside the pregnant Charr (I’m going to call her Cat for simplicity’s sake) and holding her hand. Charr (mine!) was standing beside me.

“It’s called ‘god’,” I said happily, thinking of how overjoyed Chaos would be once I told them. “And it’s not just any. It’s the biggest. The strongest, the one who ruled this other dimension almost completely. They’re a big deal!” I stood and pulled my phone from my pocket. “I’m going to call Chaos, they’re going to be able to tell you all about it-”

“No!” Cat and Kay cried out. I froze, then lowered my phone.

“Why?” I asked softly. The two exchanged a panicked look.

“We can’t have anyone know we’re here,” Kay blurted.

I glanced to Charr. “But,” I said. “Chaos already saw you two. They know you’re here.”

“Just – no!” said Cat heavily.

“Okay,” I pocketed my phone. Held up my hands to show that I’d surrendered that idea. “But why? What’s- what else is going on?”

Kay and Cat exchanged another silent glance. They squeezed each other’s hands. “I need you to come with me,” said Kay.

“What? No?” Traveling was over! No more! Him and I- last time hadn’t gone so well.

“Please,” Kay said in a most un-Kay way. “I need to show you something. Come on,” and he rose, offering a hand.

Now it was my turn to look at Charr in a silent way. What should I do?

Well, part of me was all ‘this isn’t my mess’! But the rest of me took one look at the pregnant Cat and, yeah, this was partly my mess.

“Okay,” I sighed, stepping forward. “I don’t have my necklace anymore though. I can’t travel.”

“That’s okay,” and Kay drew a silver device from his pocket. “Here,” and he seized my wrist. “We’ll be right back,” and he nodded to Cat. Cat nodded back, an understanding in her eyes, her hands rubbing her stomach.

Kay flicked a switch on the device, and the world jolted. We slid through a dimension, stars shining around us – and we landed in a dark space. Well. Space as in, we were in a dark circle for a flooring and stars jotting around us. Where the hell were we?

I looked to Kay, who was fidgeting with the machine. “What is that?” I asked. Was it from the Rebellion?

It was odd because in the last times we’d met, Kay had been so obsessed about gaining my powers – and now he’d found a machine to do that? Glad he’d found a way without killing me but… Where was it from?

Kay looked up at me sharply. “Just shut your mouth,” he said.

And that was the last thing I remembered. The world turned black.

Chaos’s POV

It was late at night, practically the middle of the fucking night, when my phone rang. I floundered, drawing the phone from my pocket and sticking it to my ear as fast as I could.

“Hey?” I groaned.

“Hello,” said an automated voice. “This is Cheezy McCheese bank calling you. We’ve noticed you’re late on your credit card payments-”

“Jesus!” I swore, hanging up. I’d forgotten again! No fuckin’ problem, I could pay them tomorrow, just… I swung up to a seated position. The apartment was dark. AJ had gone to their beds. A blanket had been draped over me. What fucking time was it?

I looked around. What time indeed? I checked my phone. Midnight? And still no call? No text? No message on any social media platform whatsoever?

I wanted to throw my phone against the wall. Cursing as hard as I could, I lay back down on the couch.

It was in the morning that I woke up again. Light was streaming in from the living room window. AJ were both up, drinking coffees.

“There’s no messages,” Aaliyah said flatly from the table as I sat up. “Did you get anything?”

I checked my phone again. “No,” I groaned.

Jade frowned from the other side of the table. “Pretty sure they should have said something by now.”

I double checked my phone. There was a group chat we had called “The ‘Cule’” and sure enough, neither Kuryo nor Charr had posted since yesterday afternoon.

“I have a bad feeling,” I said out loud.

The two looked at me. Both were frowning. Both were having the same feeling.

“I’ll go check on them,” I said, rising to my feet.

“We’ll go with you,” said Aaliyah.

And so we did. After a very fast walk through flurrying snow, we practically ran up the flights of stairs to the apartment. There I unlocked the door – and we all tumbled in at the same time, rushing each other.

I smelt it first. “There’s blood.” I announced.

“Right there,” said Aaliyah, pointing to a large patch of it that was half dried in the living room. It was exactly where the pregnant Charr from the other dimension had been sitting. There was dried coffee next to it, and a shattered mug.

“Oh no, no, no,” Jade was muttering, holding her head in her hands.

“This is not good,” said Aaliyah.

“Uh,” I said, so verbose. In my head, there was a storm going on. I shouldn’t have left them alone with those creeps. I should have stuck around. I should – go searching for them immediately!

“We’ve got to find them,” I blurted out.

“Yeah? How?” Aaliyah snapped, turning on me.

I bit my lip. Ran my hands through my hair. Picked up a necklace and chewed the metal crucifix.

I hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter One, Part Two

“We’re all going to die,” said Aaliyah firmly. She was sitting on the couch, dripping snow. She hadn’t taken her hat or boots off, and didn’t seem to realize what was going on around her.

We all sat crowded around her, listening intently. Chaos was on the floor stirring a pot of hot cocoa they’d made, serving it into mugs. Right now, there was fat chance of anyone drinking it.

“I dreamt it,” Aaliyah said softly, hugging herself. Her gaze drifted off at the TV, not really seeing it. “We all drowned.”

Chaos offered her a mug of cocoa. I shook my head at them, but Aaliyah took it.

“We all died,” she repeated softly. “But I can’t remember how it happened. There was just all this water and you,” she nodded at me “Couldn’t keep your head above it. There was a shark and -,” she shook her head. “We all drowned.” She looked at Chaos. “You had a wooden crucifix that floated. That was all that was left behind.”

Chaos looked down. We all lowered our gazes. No one knew what to say.

Maybe now’s a good time to say that Aaliyah, being a golden dragon, had rare predictive dreams. She dreamed of the future. Needless to say, dreaming of all of us dying had never happened before, and wasn’t a good sign.

Chaos cleared their throat. All eyes turned to them and I cringed inside, expecting something, well, cringe-worthy.

“You know,” Chaos said, swirling the coca in the pot. “In my realm when one god made a prediction, it was basically taken as a challenge by other gods. A sort of ‘hold my beer’ kind of moment.”

“This was a dream,” Jade said sternly. “It,”

“Was sent by someone,” said Chaos flatly. “And someone else somewhere is probably taking it as a challenge to make it not happen. So-”

“Our world is not populated by zillions of gods like your world was,” I interrupted.

“It’s not written in stone!” Chaos interrupted me back fiercely. “Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true. It’s a warning, not a death sentence. And how many people have avoided the death sentence?”

“Not a whole lot,” I bit back.

“They’ve got a point,” said Charr quietly. “We can maybe do something.”

Chaos pointed the chocolatey spoon towards her. “Avoid water.”

“I’m thinking something else,” said Charr.

“Like what?”

“Well,” Charr gave me a meaningful look. “Maybe we should contact, you know, the principals.”

There was an unhappy silence. My stomach did an unhappy flip. I looked grudgingly at Charr. I knew she was right. Of all the times, this was as good as any to travel to meet the principals. But – I didn’t want to. “Can it not be tomorrow? I have an exam.” I said grumpily.

“You always have exams,” Chaos said.

I glared at them. “I should be studying right now, thank you. This is important for me.”

“So is this!” said Aaliyah sharply, near tears. “We might all die!”

I cringed. “Okay, let me do my exam first. I have to go study. But I promise, tomorrow when I get home, we,” I looked pointedly at Charr. “Will go visit the principals.”

///////

Chaos’s POV

Well, I was late for work by about ten minutes, spilled a latte on some jerk’s lap, and that was just the start. It was a long shift, I was bored, and every minute felt like drudgery. Really, I couldn’t wait to get home. Kuryo and Charr were going to visit the principals! Kuryo’s exam was in the early afternoon so when I finished my shift, he and Charr should be ready to go on their little dimension trip.

Well! I rushed home through the snow and buses, climbed up the stairs in a rush, and let myself into the dinky apartment that smelled like home.

The moment I stepped inside, I felt an energy. It wasn’t magic per se, but it was… a presence.

Well I didn’t have to look far, it was right in front of me in the living room and staring me in the face.

“Hi?” I said, my brain doing that dumb thing where it refuses to acknowledge what it’s seeing.

It was Kuryo, but not. In fact, take Kuryo and imagine he hit the gym, fronted a heavy metal band, and put on a medieval tunic and that’s what was staring me in the face, long angry hair included. Charr was sitting on the couch beside him, wearing a black dress that I had never seen her wear before.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“Temporary roommate,” said another Charr, this one wearing clothes I knew, from the kitchen.

Mind. Blown.

I shut the door behind me, just in case the world needed to not know about this. Yeah, something juicy was happening. I could feel it.

So, being me, I started talking. “Uhm, hi, I’m-”

“Why don’t you go get Kuryo?” Charr said, stirring a mug of something and handing it to the other Charr. “Tell him Kuryo has arrived.”

My mouth may have hung open for a minute while my brain just finished exploding in my head. Say whaaat?

Then the metalhead Kuryo gave me an angry look. I nodded and let myself back out.

I met Kuryo, the real one, at the bus stop.

“I need to tell you something!” I blurted as we met. Heads turned and I cleared my throat. Kuryo looked tired. He’d been up all night studying for this exam. For a moment, I felt bad for him. But then I remembered what was at the apartment.

“Okay, so, don’t freak, but,” I looped an arm around his shoulders and ducked our heads together.

“Is this a love declaration?” he asked hopefully, trying to make light of the situation. He really did look tired.

“Charr told me to tell you that ‘Kuryo is here’. Has arrived. Something like that.”

Kuryo looked at me, so tired. Then he sighed heavily. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah!” I nodded, eyes wide. “And there was this guy in the apartment, and he looked just like you! Except, I mean, he works out, and there was another Charr-”

Kuryo cursed and began walking towards the apartment building. Little flurries of snow were falling through the sky, floating delicately down. They peppered his hair.

“Do you – you know, you don’t have work or somewhere to go? Feel like doing groceries or something?” he asked me as we neared the curve in the street where our block was.

I took it like a traitorous punch to the gut. “What? You don’t want to include me?”

“No, that’s not it,” groaned Kuryo. I took his shoulders, and he drew to a stop, exasperated. “It’s just – this doesn’t concern you.”

“Doesn’t – but I’m, I’m a part of your life! I was in the dream too, wasn’t I? I’m involved!” a whole well of hurt began swelling inside of me. Charr had called me a ‘temporary roommate’ … were they thinking of getting rid of me?

“Yes but,” Kuryo said. A lot of meaning was in his eyes. “You’re,” and he searched for words.

My heart broke. “Are you dumping me?”

Alright it came out a bit louder but, mercifully, there wasn’t anyone around but the snow to hear. My eyes got all misty and stupid. “Are you?”

“No, but-”

“But?” I nearly shrieked.

Kuryo lifted his hands, trying to placate me. I was having none of it, scrubbing angrily at my tears. “I just don’t think it is wise for you to meet him.”

“Who is he?” I barked, knowing already the answer. A twin. A relative of sorts. Okay, alright, I get it. I’m not the type that you can bring home all proud and Charr was probably already invited home-

“He’s me,” Kuryo said flatly. “But from another dimension.”

“What?” My mind skipped a beat.

“See? This is too complicated,” he said. “Just – go to the grocery store or something.” and he began walking away. I rushed after him.

“He’s you? From another dimension?” I asked as I kept stride with him. He walked fast, trying to shake me off, but who was the one who did all the cardio huh? Me, that’s who. Little old student here didn’t do a whole lot of exercise.

“Yes, and we didn’t necessarily get along either,” Kuryo said as we crossed the street to our block. “Now if you’re going to stick around, you’re going to want not to cross him. Okay? Just – silent observer, okay? Just that. Don’t say anything.”

“And the – she’s another copy of Charr?”

“Charr is here as well?” he asked, whipping around to me. “You didn’t say that!”

“Uh,”

Kuryo hissed some curses and rolled his eyes. “Okay, well, don’t cross any of them, okay? Just – zip it. Okay?”

“I can do that,” I said confidently. Since when was I the chatterbox around here?

Kuryo gave me a nasty look, then drew the block’s door open for us both.

“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Nine Part One

I reappeared laying on my stomach with someone screaming over me. Remember that massive chest wound? Well I was laying straight on it. Gasp indeed. Ugh.

“Kuryo! Kuryo! Get over here – it’s him! He’s here!” some frantic female voice was shrieking. Hands grappled at my shoulders and I was flipped onto my back. A head was peering down at me, a halo of blonde hair falling around us. I was seeing stars from the pain and the vertigo of it all.

Footsteps thudded through the floor and another head appeared. This one was dark with dark hair. “Kuryo? What’s wrong? Where are you hurt?”

I shook my head, gasping. One palm pressed to the floor to try and stop the whirling mess, I managed to prop myself up on an elbow. A bad idea. I barfed.

I mean, not much came up besides blood and bile, which, yeah that made them freak. Amid squeaky curses, tissues were wrenched from a box and pressed against my face. I practically inhaled them (accidentally) before wiping my face with them. Then I took a look around.

I was smack in the middle of Kuryo and Charr’s apartment. Still dressed (always a good thing). But now there was a blonde woman about Charr’s age with stunning blue eyes and an amazing decollete peering at me. She was dressed in what looked like expensive sporty clothes and running shoes. The other woman (same age, differnet upbringing apparently) was wearing loose jeans and a baggy sweater that looked like something a poor person would wear. Both looked desperately at me, the blonde frantic, the dark woman more composed.

“I’m not kuryo,” I croaked out. There, I said it.

They just looked at me. Well, that was a brick in their system. I managed to sit up. Then, and only then, I wondered who the hell they were. Should I have told them that I wasn’t Kuryo?

The dark woman pressed a palm to my forehead. Then she sniffed the air and leaned over me. “You’re wounded,” she said sharply.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

Another awkward moment. “What do you mean, you’re not Kuryo?” asked the blonde awkardly. “You’re – do you not remember who you are?”

I looked them both in the eyes. First the blonde, then the dark one. Then back. “I accidentally took this body,” I said slowly. “My name is Chaos. I come from another dimension, where Kuryo – was summoned I guess? And he was eating me after I died when he got killed. So I kept his body and he – he died.”

Both women blanched.

I hurried along. “Charr was trying to get him back, but I can’t use his powers, I don’t know how, so she got the gods to summon him back and exchange me for him.”

They looked at each other, then at me. “Okay,” the dark haired one said firmly. The blonde nodded hesitantly.

I paused. “Okay?” I repeated. “Just okay?” Come to a second thought, why did they believe me? “Who are you two?” Was I right in telling them about this? Or was I falling into another Bella-esque trap?

They looked at me, nnon-plussed. Then they looked at each other. Then back at me. “You’re joking, right?” asked the blonde.

The brunette interrupted. “We’re friends. Of Kuryo. Good friends. We practically live here. Now -” she paused. “You’re not him.”

“Exactly!” I said, flustered and, might I say, in a certain amount of pain.

They looked at each other again. The brunette rose to her feet, gesturing for the other to follow her. “We need to talk. Excuse us,” and she fairly hauled the blonde away. Out the front door, and down the hallway of the apartment building kind of away.

I just sat on the floor and moped. Felt bad for myself. Felt terrible. Considered puking again out of pain.

I hoped that Charr was happy, that she had got her boyfriend back and that everything was savvy-happy. Everything was fine, I told myself, but I hardly believed it. Bella was going to find out that Charr had lied, and the cat would be caught, so to speak. Lucifer wouldn’t take happily to this and, probably, I’d be shipped back. It was just a matter of time.

Speaking of time → those two were taking their dear sweet time, wherever they had gone off to. It felt like they were gone for hours. Literally, it may have been half an hour I was sitting there, moping and wondering what I could do, or even should do. But I kept thinking that there was nothing that I could do, and had no idea what a heroic version of myself should do. I’d screwed up, and I’d screwed up badly. In a short span I’d helped Bella overthrow the status quo of the sky realm and unleash hellish minions on earth. Way to go, Chaos. Now what? Screw with this realm as well?

I lay on the floor and just felt bad for myself. I closed my eyes, and may have dozed off.

“Get up!” It was the brunette. She was offering me a hand. The pool of sick beside me was gone and there was a scent of cleaner in the air. I refused the hand and just didn’t move.

“What for?” I asked lamely. Self-pity had engulfed all my desires, including the one to move. I was just going to lay here and live out of the fridge, how about that?

The hand was offered again. “My name is Aaliyah. This is Jade. We’re going to help you get home. How does that sound?”

“You want to rescue Kuryo,” I said flatly, knowing that this was hardly about me. I flipped a hand at them. “Go do that. I’ll stay here.”

The hand was offered a third time. “We need you. You’re our contact to the other realm. You’ve got to help us. How else are we supposed to get there?”

I scoffed. “Me? I’m wounded. Get your own lapdog, I’m sick of helping people.” Look where it had gotten me.

“You’re wounded?” Aaliyah reached behind the nearby cupboard and drew out a baseball bat. “Want to try that again?”

I took one look at the bat, then another at the blonde. She was serious. So was Aaliyah, apparently, because she was starting to aim for my ribs with a very calculated look on her face.

“Wait!” I scrambled up and Owww! Fell back down. “You don’t want to hurt his body, do you?”

“You’re in it,” she said nastily. “I just won’t hit your face.”

Up on my knees now, I was gasping for air. I held up both hands. “I don’t know how to help you. Look I – my dimension is in a mess and it’s all my fault. I don’t know how to get you back there or him back here – look they’ll probably figure out he’s not me and that Charr was lying and send him back here soon enough, okay?”

“Charr is there?” Jade asked sharply. “They’re together?”

I nodded. Aaliyah frowned. Another meaningful look was passed between these two. What, were they telepathic?

I sighed. “We should just wait.”

“No,” said Aaliyah. “We’re not letting him do this alone. Not again. Come on,” and she nodded to Jade. “Help me.” and she reached down to haul me up. Jade instantly pitched in, and I was on my feet (in a lot of pain!).

The two of them set me on the couch and began clearing off the coffee table. “Now what?” I scoffed. “What are you doing?”

Aaliyah ignored me, but Jade threw a look my way. “Fixing things,” she said as she threw a pile of papers into a wastepaper basket.

“Magic,” said Aaliyah as she wiped the table down with a sleeve. “Just stay out of it.”

Magic! As if that would fix anything.