Part 1 The only thing that Harry could hear around was the sound of rainfall, a rather very heavy rainfall in the skirt of the city. Most of the houses had the rooftops built with iron sheets, and there were tons of rusty trash bins, broken cars, and plenty of other things of iron, so the rainfall was deafening. It was strong enough, in his opinion, to hide the screams of pain and agony.
But he was hiding behind a pillar, holding his breath, because he feared that he would be heard by the assailant.
He hid before actually seeing it, and it was raining quite hard, but his imagination already ran ahead, displaying the stranger that impaled another person to death, using what appeared to be his own solidified shadow. It was in the shape of sharp poles, seemingly popping out of the ground, and piercing through the person, all the way up to about three meters; he even thought that he actually saw blood streams pouring to the ground.
He heard a thud, telling him that the body was dropped down. He still had enough control to not scream out of shock.
But when he turned left, he saw something black, thin, long, and sharp, swinging toward him.
“AAAAAAHHHH…!” he eventually shouted, managing to dodge it. As he thought, the shadow blade, or so he believed it was, was powerful and sharp enough to cut a pillar of an abandoned building. Because he was busted, he thought about running away as far as he could, until he saw a gun’s muzzle from the corner of his eyes.
He turned to the assailant, who was indeed holding a gun. The shadow thing, on the other hand, retracted and somehow returned to the assailant, before eventually turning to the ordinary shadow of this. He was unable to think any further, the only thing he could do was crawl backwards, weeping, and look the assailant in the eyes, hoping that he would give mercy to him.
But he then froze.
The assailant froze as well.
He looked at the face of the assailant. He realized that it had been a long time since he saw that face, but he still remembered it in the bottom of his heart. And now that he actually looked at the face, all the memories he had with “that face” surfaced back to his mind, and along with it, the name of the assailant.
“Is… is it…?” he slowly rose, trying to approach the assailant. Before he knew it, tears were already rolling down through his cheeks, and his voice was shaken. A part of him wanted to make sure if he got the right person, but that question was buried, overcome by his wish. Seeing the shock on the assailant’s face, he couldn’t help but feel that his guess was right. He walked unsteadily, but quickly, to hug him.
But the assailant immediately turned away and said, roughly, “You got the wrong person.”
It didn’t convince him, because his memories brought back “the voice” to his mind as well, and the assailant’s voice was extremely similar, although less gentle and warm. “No, no, no, that must be you, Aaron…! Wait…!”
He then suddenly turned back, tumbled, and fell down. He felt pain on his right cheek. Apparently, the assailant swung his fist backwards to hit and push him away, so fast, he thought that he was the one falling down for no reason.
“Don’t. I’m leaving.” said the assailant. “Don’t disturb me anymore…”
The assailant was clearly no longer interested in killing him, as he turned his back to him and was about to walk away.
His eyes were now watery, but just by seeing his back, something snapped in his heart. His memories brought back to his mind a particular memory in his past, the one that actually looked ordinary and meaningless.
But that was the first time he realized that he actually hated it so much.
He grabbed the assailant, just by the end of his pants, with his fragile, shaken fingers. The assailant stopped, probably about to actually kick him, so he said quickly,
“It’s me… Harry… don’t you remember…?”
He could feel that the assailant froze the moment he heard his name. So he continued, despite that his voice was shaken as well,
“We used to spend afternoons on the meadow, looking at the sunset… you and me, and even Gary… we had ice creams… you liked mint, I liked chocolate, he liked strawberry… we tried to look at the clouds’ shapes, and count all the passing birds in the sky… don’t — don’t you remember that…”
Does that mean nothing to you…? Harry wanted to say that, but then thought that it was best to keep that part in his mind. He didn’t dare looking up, be it because he was crying and didn’t want to show it to him, or because he didn't want to look at the assailant’s face. He could only look down, while holding on his pants with only his fingers, knowing that the assailant could pull away.
From the corner of his eyes, he looked that the feet moved slightly closer to him. That was the one thing that drove him to finally look up, even though it took about a minute of silence, and that was still with irrational fear. He saw that the assailant apparently squatted down, bringing his face closer to Harry’s. With that, he became certain.
Aaron sighed, looking tired and a little frustrated, but nevertheless, saying, “It’s been a while, Harry.”
Looking at his face up close, he noticed a lot of drastic differences. It’s been twelve years, after all… Harry said to himself. Some of them actually scared him, so he thought about actually running away.
But all those were overridden by his single realization: he didn’t make any mistake at all.
He wrapped Aaron around his arms, and hugged him quite tightly, as if he would go away if he didn’t hug him tightly enough. The tears he had been holding burst out of control, he sobbed on Aaron’s shoulder. He felt that he wanted to pull himself away, but didn’t do it anyway and stayed still, although he didn’t hug him back. He simply did nothing and let Harry hug him.
“What about… the body you just… you know…” Harry looked far at the direction they came from.
“Collectors from the streets would handle it. I don’t know if you notice it, but there are more dead bodies every day, they all disappeared by morning, all thanks to the collectors.”
“I see…” said Harry, a bit nervous.
“I think it’s been thirteen years…?” said Aaron.
“Twelve. But, yeah, you could say it’s nearly thirteen years.” replied Harry.
They were sitting on the bench at the sidestreet, sheltering from light rain. Despite that the town had no light at all, the night itself was glowing with weak blue glow all around, just enough to not blind them with pure darkness. They had to satisfy themselves with the panorama of empty streets, of broken and rusty cars and shops from the sidestreet, having nothing to drink or eat. They were a bit far away from where the body was, so Harry didn’t have to see it all the time, but he couldn’t help but feel somewhat anxious just by knowing it.
“But where have you been? You just disappeared, just… just like that!” said Harry, slightly frantic. “Not even a message or something… what — what happened…!?”
Aaron sighed, and it was a long one. It became clear to Harry that he was actually hesitant to tell him. While he didn’t want to press further, he said, “You know that you can tell me everything, don’t you…?”
He turned to Harry, staring at him. At first, he thought that Aaron would snap at him, he already gasped in response ahead, but Aaron simply stared at him, before looking away slowly. “It’s a long story…”
“I have time.”
“I’ll rephrase that. It’s a fucking long and painful story. I think that you’d actually regret that if I told you.”
Seeing that he didn't want to tell him, he then said, “Is… is it that bad…?”
“You have no idea — enough about me. Tell me about you. How’re you doing?”
Aaron inarmed him around his arm, smiling widely. Harry was a bit annoyed that he didn’t want to share what happened to him, but he felt relieved that Aaron could still smile, just the same way he did before leaving. So he hasn’t changed…
“How am I doing…? Well, as best as I could, I guess…” said Harry.
“What do you mean…?” said Aaron.
“Well, a lot of things have happened since… you know… I got kicked out of the house last year…” said Harry. He felt Aaron's arm, still around his shoulder, moving. Nevertheless, he continued, “I’ve been living in a homeless community center, helping people around and doing all kinds of jobs…”
“Holy shit…” cussed Aaron. “For a year…?”
“Like I said, a lot of things have happened. At least you’re free to do what you want in the community center. Before that, it’s… you know how it is… before you left…”
“Don’t tell me she’d still been beating you around and lazing inside the house…!” snapped Aaron.
“She spent more time lazing around the house… but there are times when she’s… getting wild.” said Harry. “You know, she got herself a new boyfriend to fuck with every night, not long before she kicked me out…”
“Oh, that’s what I call a terrific mother.” said Aaron, full of irony and anger in his tone.
“I just can’t bother to care about her, honestly. I don’t know exactly when, but when I stopped caring about her… it just did. Being kicked feels great, actually.” chuckled Harry sarcastically. “Now I can just live for myself, taking care of myself, without having to care for people like her…”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s-that’s good…” nodded Aaron. “Wait, what about her new boyfriend? Although, if he let her kick you out, I imagine that he was quite an asshole…”
“More like ‘I don’t care about whatever you want to do’ type. All he cares is sex, booze, and a place to crash.” said Harry. “I didn’t even know about his name at all, until I looked for it myself. He’s a gambler in Scrooge Casino, and apparently he’s pretty skilled in gambling — I guess that’s part of the reason why she fell for him.”
“That would make sense.” replied Aaron. “Now that she has her own piggy bank, you’re no longer needed. Of course.”
His tone sounded normal, but Harry knew that Aaron actually held his anger in , but something felt different. Come to think of it, he had never been… like this, even when he’d heard me talking about my mother… he must have been through a lot of things, as well…
For the first time, he started to pay attention to Aaron. When he used to have a handsome, smooth and warm face, the man who sat next to him was a man of coldness and stoicism, even though his smile was still warm. His eyes were baggy, telling him that he had been lacking in sleep. Harry even though that he probably hadn’t taken a bath for a few days, even though he didn’t smell bad, as far as Harry could tell.
The most distinctive part he just noticed was his eyes. When it was previously blue, his eyes were now yellow, with red pupils.
When he thought that he finally gathered courage to ask about that, it was canceled, so he could only hide it with a smile and keep it from being said out loud. “So, yeah, that’s the gist of it.”
“And you’re here, because…?”
“We were delivering goods to the city, but it appears that the truck spilled some of them around here. It’s clothes in packages, so we went here to search around for the packages.”
“Don’t you think that the packages would be salvaged already by collectors?”
“We did find some, but, yeah, I know that some bits will probably be gone already. They’re inferior goods, actually, so there’s no harm if some are lost, anyway.” said Harry. “I kept looking for them, nevertheless, and… here we are,” he then chuckled, with a smile on his face, “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again… apparently…”
“Yeah.” said Aaron. His warmth evaporated, replaced by his mean look and cold tone. He leaned closer to Harry; it took him a while to realize that Aaron intended to show him his eyes. “I think you can roughly imagine what happened.”
“H — ” spoke Harry, before pausing, “I mean, I have no words… I’m so sorry…”
“That’s the fucking thing.” said Aaron. “You don’t run away. You sit here with me and talk with me, like we’re normal friends — like I’m normal. Aren’t you scared?”
Aaron rose from the bench, and walked close, while Harry could only slide away while sitting, feeling a bit scared. “I’m literally a curse now. My eyes are literally yellow with red pupils, you know it. People would scream and shout in fear and run away the moment they saw yellow eyes with red pupils.” He started to grab Harry by his arms. “But not you! You still talk to me like we have before?! How? How the fuck?! Answer me…!”
“C-calm down, Aaron…” Harry pulled his grab away from his own arms, “Well, I… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at all, but… why would I be scared of you…?”
“Because I’m a curse now…!”
“But you’re still Aaron…!”
“Aaron’s dead! He’s long gone! This guy is no longer the Aaron you know!”
“Don’t say that. You know yourself that’s not true…”
“Not true?! You think that…”
Shadow, or rather, shadows, grew and expanded behind him into long and thin tentacles, the same way like the ones he saw previously. They were all sharp-pointed, and they were all aimed at Harry. But he noticed that there was also a shadow silhouette of a person behind him, about twice Aaron’s size, possibly Aaron’s own personification of the shadow.
“… the Aaron you know would be this menacing and dangerous? I literally just impaled a man, and you know it — you literally saw it yourself! You think that Aaron you have known is still alive and well?! I never knew that you’d be this naive…”
In the first minute, it was the Aaron he recognized, and in the next minute, it was a temperamental, hostile man he had never met. Seeing that the two of them were one and the same person, he was honestly shocked. It made him realize that he had never really seen him getting angry, much less to this extent, since he himself had never done something extremely naughty either, and even then, he didn’t imagine that he would ever go that far when getting angry.
He could only respond in spontaneity, “Then-then… then why are you sitting along with me…?”
“Because I’d know that you’d tail me wherever I’m going, for crying out loud!” shouted Aaron, stomping his feet, it made Harry think a bit of a little girl that threw tantrums. “You’ve always been naive and gullible since you’re a child, I had to stand up to you so many — ”
He paused abruptly, before calming himself down — the tentacles and the big shadow retracted back to his normal shadow — and continuing, “You’d better off on your own now. You’ve matured now, and it looks like you’re independent. You don’t need me anymore… we can just pretend that we’ve never met…”
His voice was anything but screams of anger; he sounded extremely exhausted, Harry nearly didn’t hear what he said at all. When he was clearly angry, looking from his face, it transformed in less than a second, into tiredom and sorrow. He turned back, about to walk away, as he said, “I hope that you live a happy life… I truly do… but I hope that you’ll understand that we can’t go back like it was before… that Aaron you know was dead…”
So he walked away.