Dreams layer on each other, blending into memory, bleeding through the skin when waking is too far away. Kyo Raines felt the blast rush past him, burning his cheek, specks of glittering cinder debris floating in the disturbed air. His boot skidded on the tearing asphalt. Unlike people, bombs just do what they’re going to do. You don’t need to understand them. You don’t need to like them. You can’t always stop them. Unlike people the blast only lasts how long it lasts. People can just make that happen over and over again.
Arm up to protect his face, the blast played again just like earlier in the night. Whatever his thoughts had been in the first experience, he didn’t know, but now he thought about how he didn’t want to be in this moment. He wondered about a blast could take off a person’s legs, bleed out eyes until there were no tears, no sight, no remaining biological flesh, but then the damage was done and gone. It could be repaired or not.
But the memory would play again, and again, and again, each time carrying away a part of a soul as if the invisible part of a person could get termites and soften with each breath, until one day the memory goes through again and there’s nothing left, just dust that blows and there’s no more pain, no more pushing, just dust.
The therapist said to try to control the dream, to try to turn away from the blast and think of something happy. Happy was something other people did.
It was the second time through the dream that night and Kyo was tired. There wasn’t even much dust left to be carried away. He just stopped, let the burning wind blow past him, to carry him up into the fire storm the way it had on the last day he’d been a peace officer. The storm ripped him apart and in the real experience, he’d long since lost consciousness.
In the dream as if he were looking for puzzle pieces, answers to find a way to turn back time or at least some understanding or some way forth, he reconstructed his trajectory as he’d been tossed. That’s what he did. He was a detective. There had been war and then there had been the peace service. Then in that moment, some few days before his thirtieth birthday, he’d lost his legs, his eyes, and his purpose, but not his life and that didn’t seem even half fair.
Other’s with meaning had lived.
It had never mattered before. Live or die - it was all chance that had nothing to do with goodness or luck. Chance is impartial. It doesn’t care. Neither had he. At that point in the destruction where he fell back towards the trembling Earth. Hot metal debris had taken his face, his eyes, he screamed, “When was I happy? What is happy?”
The cry ripped him in half because he didn’t know and there was no more dust to blow away. He was over if he had to live that dream three times a night.
A chill wrapped him then, comforting and welcome and unfamiliar. His feet slipped on the ground, but only for a moment until he got his footing on the icy ground. He was younger by fifteen years, his own legs healthy and whole, and he remembered this night, when he was on Earth illegally, trying to stop a war that more taken a new name than really stopped. This night though had been a night apart.
He reached out to the fir branch, pushing it aside, as he stepped into the clearing.
There was another already there, the moonlight making his pale face almost blue. They were the same age, both boys in over their heads in things they didn’t understand.
In that moment he remembered believing in good and evil, right and wrong, and maybe not the soul, but if there had ever been a moment when he truly did believe in the human soul, it would have been that moment.
The other boy smiled, this bright smile that showed his teeth and stretched his mouth open more than Kyo though a mouth could. A breeze picked up and just a little and the boy’s blue hair, shoulder length and curly lifted and twisted.
This moment had been a different moment that had taken a grain of his soul. Maybe he thought, wondering, if maybe he’d saved a grain of soul here in this memory and it he could touch it, he might be whole again.
This other boy wasn’t anything great to look at, objectively. He was a little on the skinny side. His hair was garish blue. His eyes were gray like rain clouds. He wore jeans, black running shoes, and a blue hoodie. He could have been some kid from any of the towns they passed through, but he wasn’t.
That smile made Kyo’s heart hurt, but not in a bad way. Just like the bomb dream played out if he wanted it to or not, this memory did too, and he walked out of the shadows. His own hair was short trimmed and dark as the void. His eyes were nondescript brown. He was plain and without merit, raised from his earliest memories to follow orders and be an agent of his people. Just in that moment as he’d sat down by the frozen water fountain, his heart had been beating too fast and he wanted strange things.
Oak held out his hand and the temptation, forbidden as it was and full of consequences, was too much for him to deny. He reached out and grabbed that bare hand, holding it as if doing so were the mission goal, the purpose of his soul.
Leaning forward, Oak winked and Kyo forgot how to breathe. He just stopped, eyes wide. Close enough to whisper, Oak said, “I like you, you know? I didn’t realize it at first, cuz yeah, didn’t, but I guess that makes me gay or pan or some shit. Don’t care. I feel real happy when I think about you and I’d like to hold you. Would that be okay?”
In that moment, Kyo had been sure he’d never breathe again. It wasn’t like he was a virgin. Sexuality training had been part of his agent training. His mouth twitched. Tingles went over his scalp and he held on tightly to Oak’s hand. “I uh, I, uh,” Kyo said and then Oak’s lips were on his, warm and soft, his breath sweet and slightly cinnamon, he felt his soul rush into him, felt the pain of waking, of living, of wanting to live, and he willed himself to kiss back, but the dream was gone and he was sitting up in the one room condo he owned in London.
Hands over his face, he sobbed, trying to force the pain he felt back into the growing numbness he’d grown accustomed to. It had been a couple days since he’d eaten, so the blunt force of his emotion had nothing to dislodge, but he tried to get to the bathroom anyway.
The leg his body was rejecting refused to move so he grabbed it, found it entangled in sweat damp sheets. He howled in impotent rage and then tore at the sheet, balling them up and throwing it at the wall. If he could have done the same with his useless leg, he would have done so, but he grabbed it and threw it over the edge of the bed.
Ten paces to the bathroom, but that was a mile if one didn’t like the travel options. He screamed again. He was a soldier! He was a peace officer. He was not a crippled relic!
It might have been the not eating that calmed him though. No energy for tantrums. He sat there in a new cold sweat, his tee-shirt clinging to his skin like mummy wrapping. Refusing to accept that he was crying again, he peeled it off and sent it after the sheet.
He grabbed his wheelchair and transferred to it with a hip bruising enthusiasm. By the time he’d made it to the bathroom, the implants in the leg his body was trying to reject had warmed up and he was able to stand by pulling himself up with the handicapped railing.
Staring at himself in the mirror, he looked a lifetime away from the boy that Oak had kissed in the park. Dark circles lay stark against his pretty blue artificial eyes. He would not have selected blue eyes, especially not this summer blue ocean blue, but he’d been a peace officer on a mid level officer’s salary. Outside of his living expenses, his money had been channeled to charities for years.
The insurance covered bio-grown replacements. They would work exactly like the originals. They worked in 99.9% of people. The illegal and questionable augmentation to his immune system as a child had gotten in the way though. He’d never had a cold. He’d never get cancer and he clearly didn’t do well with replacement organs.
Charity wasn’t for people like him. It had taken deal of bartering for him to accept the blue eyes, completely artificial and highly functional from another friend from the wars. Kasir had been very successful after the wars and had money beyond what Kyo could be bothered to count. He could have had any eyes, but he’d accepted a pair that had been ordered and then rejected by a musician. There was reportedly a function in them that could turn sound to color. Kyo had been happy enough to be able to choose the right package of food before opening it.
Staring at his face now, there was a rebellious and wickedly hopeful malfunctioning thought. Oak loved blue. Maybe he’d like them. One hand holding to the railing, the other rubbing over his unshaven face, he imagined what it might feel like to have Oak press their lips together again.
Still, that’s what it was to feel happy.
He had to find Oak.