I look down at Raylen’s left arm, noticing it’s nearly identical to the make and model of my own mechanical arm, just reddish-black. Guarded yet thankful, I outstretch my nub. Meanwhile, the little boy in the purple froggie onesie scoops up the stray mana drops and gently puts them back into the jar with care.
I hear the mechanical whir of my synthetic arm being attached, but I can’t fully process it. The arm clicks into place, its servos emitting a soft hum that seems to echo in the cavernous space of my muddled thoughts.
My body shudders, the mechanical arm lighting up with blue glowing magical markings as I let out a sigh.
Raylen pats me on the shoulder, as if signaling the ordeal was over, before rising to his feet. “Could you be any more helpless, Mr. Bags?”
A wall of boisterous sound clambers in my mind all at once, and I sift through everything happening around me. Understanding dawns on me in mere seconds, the fog in my mind beginning to lift.
I open my eyes back to red on black and let out an irritated groan. “Mr. Bags?” It finally hit me what he said.
The man points to the bottom of his eyes, making creases to signify bags with a devilish grin. “Your grumpy lines age your ass, Kay Kay. So you’re Mr. Bags.”
The frack? What an asshole!
I sneer as I struggle to my feet. “How the frack did you get on my ship?!—Who are you?!”
The man pats me on the shoulder with a smirk. “Lucky for you that I’m here, or else you’d be dead. Your mana fluxing always seems to strike you in the worst timing, making you incredibly vulnerable. You do realize that, right?”
I swat away the familiar stranger’s hand. My eyes squinted with a growl. “Why do you look so fracking familiar?”
I swear I’ve seen this jerk before, but I can’t place it. Frack, that’s frustrating.
The boy hands the jar of mana drops up to me. I pause and gently take them. “Uh, thanks,” I murmur.
The man turns to face me, a grin on his face. “Look in the mirror, smart ass. Just call me Raylen for simplicity, okay?”
I fracking knew it… wait, how did I know his name already? I don’t know this guy, regardless that he looks so familiar—why does he look like me?
I narrow my eyes, my brows furrowing as I stand there. “What the frack? Are you kidding me?”
It is like looking into a mirror, a mirror with horns and stuff—but his features… no… that’s just too freaky.
That can’t be right.
Raylen’s grin slowly turns into a look of concern. “It is terribly dangerous when our mana fluxes, Kayden. I don’t think you truly realize the severity of our current condition. Where you are now, you are extremely vulnerable to any potential threat, let alone if you can’t get the mana in your body in time before the worst happens.”
I suddenly feel a chill down my spine at his words.
‘Us’? Who is this wise guy—wait, what the frack is he even talking about?
“Wait, what’s the worst that can happen?” I narrow my eyes.
Raylen looks directly into my eyes as we lock gazes. “Once you fall asleep, if too much time passes—you will fall into Last Rest.”
Swallowing, my gaze shifts to the boy before back at Raylen. “Is… that death?”
Raylen’s gaze darkens. “No, it’s worse. In Last Rest, there is no afterlife, no light at the end of the tunnel—just tunnel… forever. No dreams either. That’s what you have to look forward to if not for help,” he says.
I scoff. “So, essentially it’s oblivion? At least there aren’t any nightmares.”
Raylen softly chuckles as he crosses his arms. “Oh no, you’re conscious. How does something that is, magically turn into something that’s not? The consciousness does not just…” He wiggles his fingers for emphasis. “That’s a child’s dream.”
I shake my head, not quite understanding—more like not making sense of his partial nonsense. But the dread of his words sinks in like a weighted brick in my gut.
That’s not foreboding at all, frack. I don’t want to sleep forever! Why would that happen?
I look into the mirror, suddenly realizing just how similar we look. I pause. “So my mana is fluxing?”
Raylen nods as he crosses his arms. “Yup. When we travel through our visions, it requires a lot of mana. The version of you right now—you do not have a whole lot of mana to do that so easily. But fret not, you will gain more in time. Pretty soon here, actually.”
I scrub my face, letting out a frustrated groan as my brows knit together. “For a figment of my imagination, you are making just as much sense.”
Raylen chuckles as he reaches forward, flicking me on the tip of my nose as I flinch and stagger back, gripping my face. “I am just as real as you. In fact, I am you. From the future,” Raylen says.
Hahaha! Bull. Frack, this guy is irritating as hell!
I growl, balling my fists. “Like that’s even possible.”
“Let’s just say we’re special, Kay Kay. For a host of reasons. But one thing at a time.” Raylen chuckles softly before turning to leave, stepping around the corner and out of sight, with the boy tailing behind him.
“Hey—I’m talking to you, guy!—And your strange… child thing!” I follow, clutching Lil Manx in my arms.
“Don’t worry. You’ll see us again, Mr. Bags.” Raylen’s voice fades into an echo.
Oh, hell no you don’t!
As soon as I make it past the hallway, I glance around, but he’s nowhere in sight. I run down the bridge, scouring the corners in a hurry to find him. “Hey! Asshole!”
There’s no sign of the man. I stare dead ahead at the Command Console, seeing myself in the mirror of the projection. I quickly scroll through the different cameras on the ship, but there’s no sign of the man or the child.
This isn’t fracking possible….
“You totally saw them too, right?” I lower my brows, unsure of my own recollection. Lil Manx nods, his brow furrowed. “Chiip!”
I let out a sharp sigh. “Yeah, well, if we both saw them, where did they go?”
After a moment, I move to my Command Console and pick up the physical keyboard, sitting back down. Lil Manx perches on the console, watching me intently.
“I’m okay, Lil Manx—a lot better now,” I say, peering over my shoulder. “Somehow.”
“Chiip….” Lil Manx gazes at me with lingering concern.
“I know… it’s been a while since I had an episode. I’d better log in.” I pick up the keyboard and begin typing out my experience. “Ferra Mach, year 2889. It happened again. The eerie dark eyes and the frosty vapor breath. After all, I feel like my body is on fire. This time, it happened after one of those strange dreams. I met a man in a snowstorm. He called me the…”
My voice trails off as I mutter, “𝕍𝕒𝕣𝕣 𝕊𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣…”
“And now I’m seeing some… asshole with horns and a demented child in pajamas….”
I continue typing, my claws tapping away at the keys. “I don’t know what all these strange occurrences mean, or why they are happening. Ever since…” I stop typing abruptly, my eyes drifting to a projection on my Command Console. It displays the beautiful image of my most cherished one—my fated mate.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you, Felicia. You were… you are my everything.
My eyes well up with unshed tears, the memory of holding her as vivid as if it had happened only yesterday.
I clutch my chest, feeling the erratic beating of my hearts.
Frack, the Heartbreak always hurts like it just happened. Damned Cyril genetics.
I sigh through a pained grimace as the episode passes, my hearts slowly easing in their rhythm.
I return my gaze to the keyboard, my voice barely a whisper. “Since I lost her. Nothing makes sense anymore.”
Closing my eyes, I rest my head in my hands, a frown etching itself into my features as I grapple with the weight of everything clouding my mind.
Please tell me what you guys think of the new POV and the present tense! It's the new style of the illustrated novel, and I'm really enjoying how much more it feels immersive. I've got to go back and edit the previous 2 chapters but should be doing that very soon!
Kayden Royal is a returning Guardian after four years off the job after a tragedy.
His life takes a dramatic turn when he starts manifesting volatile abilities linked to elemental spirits—mythical entities that embody the fabric of the cosmos.
The line between science fiction and fantasy blurs, creating a vibrant tapestry of interstellar politics, mythical spirits, and a hero’s undying commitment to safeguard the universe.
Will Kayden master his elemental powers and thwart the dangers of the cosmos and celestial entities? Or will the universe fall into chaos by the interdimensional being known as the harbinger of doom?