“This is getting ridiculous.”
Why can’t you just be happy? This really is your dream life, isn’t it? You have a family… A wife…
“Somehow you missed the part where I don’t want a wife.”
Jeron entered the bedroom, “Everything okay, Sy?”
Sylus sat up in an instant. “Y-yeah… Wh-where’s… Where’s Izzy?”
Jeron’s entire face contorted into a cringe, “Back in New York, I hope…”
The brilliant sunlight suddenly turned dark. Everything around him became stained in a violet mist. This room… I-it was his room. He looked out the sliding doors to the lone tree in his precipice of a back yard. He felt his face. Clean-shaven. A weight on his shoulder reminded him of his tendril. This… This is…
“But… But I’m…”
He’d gotten so used to being a fat guy in a suit that finding his petit form lying under the covers was incredibly upsetting.
He was on the verge of tears.
“Sy?” Jeron swept into the room and sat beside him on the bed, “Hey,” he wrapped his arm gently over Sylus’ shoulders, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m… OH god… Did I ever even go?”
“Go where, Sy?”
Jeron shook his head, “You chose not to. You didn’t want to risk losing everything for a vague promise.”
“I-I never… went? But I remember…”
“A dream, Sy,” Jeron smiled softly, “Just a dream.”
“A-a dream…” Sylus felt an enormous weight lifted from his shoulders. “So all that Q’taxia crap? That wasn’t real?”
Jeron shook his head again, “You’ve been asleep a while. Something about separating from Qaitax. Took you about a week, actually…”
“S-so… no more…”
Jeron held him tight, “No more Voidlords.”
“Wh-what about Henley?”
“Who?” Jeron paused a moment in confusion before something seemed to visibly click into place, “Ah, right, you slept through that mess,” Jeron stood up, “Well, a whole cavalcade of military vehicles pulled up. There was a strangely brutal fight in which, surprisingly, Henley was defeated. There’s a lot of speculation that he let himself get caught, but suffice it to say, the Riftworks is under a tight lockdown, so he’s out of our hair for now.”
“They gave us a grace period to relocate. Basically, now that you’re awake, we have a few weeks to get that settled. They suggest leaving the Mist,” Jeron chuckled.
“But what about Dan being stained? He can’t leave…”
“Don’t worry, I thought about that. They ran some tests and while he is mildly psychoactive, it’s nothing that won’t go away over time.”
Sylus sat quietly in his bed, staring at his hands lying limply in his lap.
“Of everything in that dream… The only thing I wanted was…” his voice was shaking again, “To be me…”
“Sy,” Jeron sat with him again, “You are you. You don’t have to change…”
“But… But this feeling… I hate it… I hate being like this… I hate it… So much…”
“It’s okay, Sy,” Jeron hugged him tightly, “Once we’re out of here, we’ll work on that. The old fashioned way. No Voidlords or void spawns or void anything.”
“Y-yeah…” he cleared his throat, “A-any luck on finding a place to move?”
“Well, I have a few ideas. Dan’s being fussy about schools, but we’ll figure it out. He might be more conducive to change now that you’re awake.”
“Think he was just stalling?” Sylus chuckled.
“I’m sure of it,” Jeron patted him on the knee with a grin, “Join us in the kitchen for breakfast. You woke up just in time.”
Sylus smiled as his lover left the room. He was awake. Finally. Taking a deep breath, a melancholy breeze wafted in through the high window in his room. It felt like everything did in the Mist. Sighing deeply, he sat up out of bed. As he started getting dressed, something clicked in his head.
“Qaitax is gone…” he looked at his tendril, “But… I still have…”
He burst out of the bedroom and down the hall.
“If Qaitax is gone, why do I still have a tentacle?”
Jeron shrugged, “Not 100% sure what you two talked about, but you did ask if I’d be okay with you keeping it. I agreed, of course.”
Sylus stared at the tendril. If it was still there, then he could still make his way to Qaitax. Maybe figure out what was going on…
“Don’t even think about it, Sy,” Jeron rounded the island, taking him into a hug, “Don’t even think about leaving us, Sy. You belong here. With us. No matter how strange or stressful things get, you belong here. With your family.”
Sylus nodded through his burning eyes. His entire body felt sore and tired. Why though? Hadn’t he just woken up?
Jeron grasped his shoulders and smiled broadly, “Perfect.”
“Perfect?” Sylus repeated with a twitch in his eye.
“Yeah, perfect,” Jeron smiled at him before returning to preparing breakfast.
“Nice underwear, Dad,” his son chuckled from his perch upon a stool at the island that divided the kitchen from the living room.
“V-V-Vinnie?” Daniel’s eyes bulged, “Wh-what?”
Sylus recoiled, “D-Dan-iel?”
“Y-yeah… Dad… I-it’s me… Daniel… Y-your son…”
“Dan…” Sylus breathed. A wave of memories slammed through his brain. Vincent was a bad name. Someone they weren’t supposed to talk about. Vincent was an evil man. Vincent was… “Oh god, Dan… I’m so sorry… Th-the dream… It really messed me up a little…”
“Th-that’s okay, Dad. You’ll get better soon. Right?” Daniel forced a smile.
“Y-yeah. Yeah I’ll be okay soon, Dan. I promise.”
“You should get dressed, Sy,” Jeron spoke as he laid some plates down on the island.
Sylus looked down at himself. His scarred chest bare for all to see. He slinked away in shame to dress himself.
Returning to the kitchen, he sat down between his son and his lover. Things really were perfect as they ate their breakfast and spoke about the future.
“When you’re ready, the guys over at the ‘Works wanted to talk to you about Qaitax,” Jeron spoke up above the sound of water running over dishes.
“Th-they know about him?” Sylus was caught off guard.
Jeron sighed, “I-I accidentally told them… I was… Desperate…”
Jeron sat down beside him at the bar. Daniel had long retired to his room.
“Well, you see, when you blacked out, I mean… We knew it was coming, but when you were gone for days… I started to worry. So… I told them about Qaitax. And about Haurex.”
“Haurex?” For some reason, Sylus never remembered Jeron knowing that name.
“Yeah, uh, Henley’s real name… He was screaming it when the military showed up.” Jeron laughed somberly, “He screamed a lot of things.” He sighed, “Which is funny because as far as we can tell, he lost the fight.”
“Hard to believe a Voidlord would lose to mortals. Unless that was what he wanted…” Sylus mused as he moved his breakfast across his plate.
“Doesn’t matter,” Jeron shoved a piece of toast in his mouth, “We’ll be out of here long before he becomes a problem again.”
“Yeah, but… The Mist… It’s spreading… This’ll all be our problem again eventually…”
“Not ours,” Jeron pointed to him with a fork.
Daniel sighed heavily.
“I’d really rather not leave the world worse off than we found it…”
“Sy.” Jeron took him by the shoulders, “Not. Our. Problem. And to be honest, it’s not even Daniel’s problem. There’s nothing we civilians can really do to help,” he brought his empty plate into the kitchen, “It’s up to our overlords to actually take care of us if they want to keep their mindless drones alive.”
Sylus sighed as he patted Daniel on the back, “Everything’s gonna be alright.”
“Yeah, Dad,” Daniel sighed again, “The sooner we get out of here the better.”
“Amen!” Jeron cheered from the sink, “Amen Amen!”
A strange sense of discomfort crept up Sylus’ spine. He knew this feeling to be linked to an oncoming anxiety attack. Tears began burning in his eyes. Something wasn’t right… That didn’t matter though. If he was falling into one of his disconnected states, he’d do it where Daniel couldn’t see him.
“Well,” he stretched as he stood up, “I-I have to run to the bathroom real quick. Breakfast was delicious, Jeron. Thank you so much.”
“Sugar,” Jeron called to him from the kitchen, “Old family secret ingredient is copious amounts of sugar.”
“I thought it was salt?” Sylus turned to him.
“Salt?” Jeron seemed to completely freeze for a moment, “Nah,” he snapped back to life, “Can’t make perfect pancakes with a lot of salt.”
“Pancakes…” Sylus’ mind raced. He suddenly remembered waking up to gossamer curtains and his… his not-wife… His… He turned to Daniel. His not-son… Pancakes. Church… Church and pancakes…
“Y-yeah, Sy… That’s what I made for breakfast…” Jeron dropped a pan into the sink, “Why don’t you lie down for a bit once you’re done in the bathroom. I’m sure you need some more time to acclimate to being awake. You can see the guys at the ‘Works tomorrow.”
A tired smile crossed his lips, “Thanks, Jer.”
Sylus sat in the bathroom, holding his tendril in his hands, stroking it gently. It wasn’t nearly as sensitive as he remembered it being. It was like touching his own hand.
“Why would Qaitax leave this here…” he sighed, “It’s not mine… I mean,” he chuckled to himself, “I like having it, but it isn’t exactly human…” Another thought crossed his mind, “In fact, it makes me part void spawn… why would the world government let me leave the Mist… Could I even survive outside?” he sighed again.
A huge chapter of his life was closed now. A chance to fully actualize himself dismissed for the safety of his family. He shrugged, they were far more important to him anyway. And like Jeron said, it might be slower and more painful than the Voidlord route, but it was natural. No Void anything… But… Who would see him? What doctor would go near him with his radioactive tentacle? As amusing as he found the euphemism, an old familiar sense of discordant discomfort rippled through his mind.
“Not this again…”
He clasped his hands to his head and wept.
“Damned if you do,” he shuddered, “Damned if you don’t, huh…”
Alone in the bathroom, Sylus Synclaire broke down. As the darkness crept over him, he felt a familiar sense of loss. Somehow he knew he wouldn’t wake up here again. Where would he be this time? He laughed to himself.
“What the fuck is going on…” he sobbed until the nothingness returned in full, “Why me…”