The car pulled up into the driveway with a screech.
“Damn Cap, stop abusing the car,” said Alyssa.
“It’s too slow, it deserves it,” said Cap.
Just on time, Elowen came running down the street towards them. “We scouted the entire area, Hosea couldn’t find anything. What about your end?”
“Nope. Nothing in the Afterdark either,” said Cap.
They quickly approached the house, hoping against hope that everything would have worked itself out. As soon as they opened the door, however, they were greeted not by a solution, but by a gun pointed at them.
“Welcome back,” said the manager. “You can all go out in one fell swoop.”
“Uhm,” said Alyssa.
“What have you done with Rowan?” demanded Elowen.
“You can ask him yourself, when you see him,” said the manager. “Tell him I said hello.”
“Cutting it a bit fine there,” said Cap.
“Oh for goodness’ sake,” Elowen exploded. “Is it too much to ask you boys to not knock people out?”
Rowan folded his arms defensively. “Oh wow, everyone’s a critic. He had a gun, ok? Anyway, there’s no time to waste. I think I know where Lexi Lilly might have gone.”
Rowan pointed to the manager. “He mentioned having a daughter. What if she decided that the best way to get to him was through…”
“Oh crap,” said Elowen.
“And where might she be?” asked Cap.
“We could try around her school. I found a photo and I recognise the uniform. Prestigious private school. Isn’t too far from here,” said Alyssa.
Cap tossed his keys to Rowan. “You drive,” he said. “Alyssa, please hand me the serum.”
Alyssa frowned, but did as he asked. “You sure?”
“Yeah. We’re out of options now.
The clouds came out of nowhere. They closed in on the sun, shutting out the light before shedding their rain.
Through the downpour, Veronica Harris could make out a bus shelter. As she sprinted towards it, she realised someone was already in it. She stopped and squinted. Something was wrong.
At that moment, lightning lit up the world, and she could see all too clearly who it was.
“Lexi?” asked Veronica, her voice trembling faintly. “Lexi, is that you?”
The figure in the bus shelter made no reply. Nor did it move.
“I thought you were in hospital.”
“Please say something, you’re scaring me!”
Still no reply. Veronica began to shake. She turned. And ran.
“It was you,” said Lexi Lilly. It was all coming back to her. She remembered his face. She remembered the knife.
“Lexi,” said Cap.
“It was you,” she repeated. “You killed me.”
“Lexi, listen to me,” said Cap. “You’re not dead. You need to stop talking to him directly…”
“Whatever it is you’re trying to do, it won’t work,” yelled the manager. “You can’t use my testimony, I didn’t have a lawyer…”
“YOU KILLED ME,” Lexi Lilly screamed as she became something else, something dark and full of hate, “AND I AM GOING TO DESTROY YOU.”
“NO!” shouted Cap, but with a brief flicker of lights, Lexi Lilly was gone.
“Where did she go?” asked Rowan, his eyes wide.
“Let’s hope nowhere important,” said Cap. “She might calm down after a while. Elowen, can you send your familiar to scout?”
Elowen nodded, and ran outside.
“This is not funny,” said the manager. “I demand an explanation, NOW.”
“No time,” said Cap. “Believe it or not, you’re in danger. Rowan, stay here and if Lexi Lilly comes back, try talking her down. I’m going to get Alyssa and the serum.”
“The serum?” repeated Rowan, incredulously. “You said you weren’t ready yet.”
“Unfortunately we might not have time to wait.”
Cap burst into the Afterdark as Zeke and Alyssa were talking.
“Cap?” said Alyssa. “Did something happen?”
“We’ve got a problem. The manager was the stabber. Lexi Lilly went berserk, then she disappeared.”
“I’ll fill you in on the way. Let me just get the serum.”
“Wait,” said Zeke, “what’s going on?”
“Can’t explain, don’t have time,” said Cap. “You can stay or go, do whatever you want.” He disappeared up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” repeated Zeke, this time to Alyssa.
“Remember what I said about your coma self getting stronger? That’s what’s happened. This hasn’t happened since-”
“Come on, let’s go,” said Cap, practically flying down the stairs.
Alyssa turned and left with him, leaving Zeke alone in the empty bar. Well, not completely empty. A cat rubbed up against his leg, the same one from the day before. It looked at him in a strangely knowing way, then began to scratch itself. He heard the muffled sound of a car driving off.
The manager was the stabber? Had Lexi Lilly gone to take revenge on him? Why disappear then?
Something on the bar caught his eye. The photo from before had fallen out of the letter. On the back were the words: ‘29 May 2084 – My girls, my world’.
A creeping sense of horror settled over him. It occurred to him that perhaps the manager himself was not the target.
But the experts had already driven off, and there was no way to contact them. Either way, it was a long shot.
Zeke’s grip tightened on the photo. There was nothing he could do. He barely knew about this world. But even if there was the slightest chance of the kid being in danger… And even Lexi Lilly herself….
Beside him, the cat mrrowed.
Zeke gritted his teeth, and ran out of the bar. In his head played his earlier conversation with Alyssa.
Extremely rarely, a sleepwalker goes berserk; a fun name for a dangerous state. They get very, very strong, fuelled by extreme emotion, and in this state, they’re capable of influencing the outside world, and more often than not, causing a lot of harm. Of course, their corporeal self gets very, very weak.
So what happens when your corporeal self gets too weak?
Duh, dummy. You die.
Rowan looked away for a whole two seconds and when he looked back, he was staring down the barrel of a gun. “Woah,” he said, “let’s not do anything too hasty now.”
From the other side of the gun, the manager smiled, but it looked more like a grimace. “Now you see,” he said, “if I’d really meant to kill her, I would have taken the gun. Unfortunately, I can’t say I mean the same for you.”
“We can talk about this,” said Rowan.
“No need,” said the manager. “When my house arrest is over, they’ll find your bodies far away from here. They’ll never suspect me. My tracker will show that I never left my house…”
“How do you plan to do that?” questioned Rowan, reasonably.
“There’s nothing money won’t buy.” The manager’s finger tightened on the trigger. “It’s me or you. You understand, right? I have a daughter to think about…”
“Why must it be a competition?” said Rowan, earnestly, and he would have said more, but the manager pulled the trigger.
Trigger warnings: Violence, domestic violence, blood. More blood than usual. You know what, just assume blood as a given from now on
The house was furnished with long leather couches, a minimalist fireplace and even a fountain, yet it was a jarring imitation of luxury in a neighbourhood such as this. Though it was noon, all the blinds were fully down. An effort to keep the media at bay, perhaps.
“Why are you at my home, if you’re not the press?” asked the manager. “If it’s money you want…”
“We’re not interested in money,” said Cap. “We just wanna know one thing, Caden. The truth of why you were there, in your own words.”
“You can tell us,” said Rowan. “Don’t worry, we won’t tell a soul.”
“Start from the top,” said Cap.
“Why aren’t you there with them?” asked Zeke.
“I would be, but someone had to make sure you didn’t starve to death. Cap and Rowan didn’t want to miss the chance to play good cop bad cop, and Elowen, uh, wants to put off seeing you as long as possible. In fact, she would prefer not to see you ever again.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
“How much do you know?” asked the manager.
“Where to begin,” said Cap. “I know you dated Lexi Lilly.”
“My cat was our shared cat,” said Lexi Lilly.
“I know you shared the cat.”
“We were happy for almost a year.”
“But the bliss didn’t last past the anniversary, did it?”
“He started being jealous. Asking me where I’d been, who I was talking to…”
“You became controlling.”
“He yelled at me.”
“Then you started verbally abusing her.”
The manager’s face was white as a sheet and his hands trembled. “H-how…”
“He hit me once,” said Lexi Lilly quietly.
“And in the end, you resorted to violence,” said Cap. “And that wasn’t all, was it? Not even close. Look, Caden, I could keep going but we all know where this will end. We know everything, alright? How would it look if the world knew about this? So start talking, and don’t leave anything out.”
“So there are four of us,” said Alyssa. “The twins are spellcasters.”
“They’re twins, huh.”
“Yup. And Cap, eh, who knows what Cap is. He’s definitely a Sensitive like you, but is also a bit insane.”
“Wait, what do you mean by Sensitive?”
“You can see me, right? I’m sure you’ve guessed, but most people can’t.”
“What even are you exactly?”
“I don’t think there’s an official term,” said Alyssa, “but people call us ‘sleepwalkers’. I’ve also heard ‘comawalkers’ and ‘bloody abominations of nature’. Basically, we’re people in a coma whose consciousness wanders around.”
“Why can I see you though?”
“Who knows? The one thing I’ve learnt while in this state is, there are rules, but most of them are made to be broken.”
Zeke put another letter into Alyssa’s outstretched hand. “Why are you telling me this stuff, by the way?” he asked. “What if I decide to jump out the window and tell the police?”
“Why, because they’re gonna believe you?”
That shut him up.
“They already came by,” said Alyssa. “Some snitches recognised us from the news. But we made sure we had alibis, and the police are now looking for people who look like us. A wild goose chase. I could ask the same to you though, why are you asking me this stuff?”
“I think it’s a pretty logical response,” said Zeke.
“I dunno, honestly we thought you’d try to ram the door down. I was even prepared to knock you out again.”
“It was the letters, those damn letters,” said the manager.
“It killed you to know she didn’t destroy them?” said Rowan.
The manager snorted. “Like she would. They were letters from her precious band leader.”
Lexi Lilly gasped. “Wait, are you talking about-”
“Lexi,” murmured Elowen.
“Oh, right. Sorry. He’s talking about the letters I wrote to Dilan, the leader of my old band. I never told anyone about those, how does he…”
“So the letters to Dilan,” said Rowan. “They sparked your jealousy.”
“You would have thought the same! She complained to him about me!”
“So, like I said, there are some general rules,” said Alyssa. “Unfortunately, most of the rules we’ve found have been broken at some point. So we gotta take them as guidelines rather than law.”
“Ok, what are some of the rules that haven’t been broken so far?”
“Well, bear in mind that we don’t have the biggest sample size. But one of them is, no one who wakes up from their coma remembers what they were up to when they were sleepwalking.”
“Another good one is, the stronger your coma self gets, the weaker your corporeal self gets, and vice versa. That’s why, unless you’re a long term stable sleepwalker like me, you should try not to do things that push you closer to the other side.”
“Like, trying to interact with people you know, that’s one of them. Most of the time, that’s no big deal. But like I said, there have been exceptions.”
“You’ve been opening my letters?” cried Lexi Lilly, her fingers curling up in indignation.
“Lexi,” murmured Elowen again.
Lexi Lilly bit her lip in anger.
“You said you have them, right?” continued the manager. “You saw what they were like. Back and forth they went, like two bloody lovebirds in a tree. It was that last letter she wrote. That damn letter, it just… I had suspected for some time, but to see the evidence that she had been cheating on me…”
“What?” shrieked Lexi Lilly.
“‘I wrote this song thinking of you,’ she said. She wrote that song while we were still together! I couldn’t let her send that letter, that song should have been mine.”
“So you planned it,” said Cap. “Waited until night, covered your face, drove to her house.”
“No!” said the manager. “It wasn’t planned, I didn’t mean to do it! I was very drunk, and I just wanted to scare her. But she started screaming, and running, I don’t even remember having the knife-”
The manager looked up. “What do you mean, what?”
“You stabbed her? But that fan confessed,” said Rowan, bewildered.
“I… what… you said you knew…”
Three of the four heads in the room turned to Lexi Lilly.
“What are you looking at?” cried the manager.
Lexi Lilly couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t hear anything over the sound of her heartbeat. Her heartbeat as it pushed out the blood.
At first Zeke thought he had merely woken up on the wrong side of bed. Then he wondered if he was hung over, before remembering that he didn’t drink. He staggered out of the room and the hallway spun before his eyes. Almost blindly, he descended the stairs, feeling ridiculously hungry.
Downstairs was a bar. “There’s our sleeping beauty,” said a girl from behind it. What was her name? Alyssa.
“What on earth?” muttered Zeke. This scene was familiar to him, and not in a good way.
“Sorry for knocking you out.”
“What time is it?”
“Oh, right. It’s Friday, almost noon. Wakey wakey.”
“Uh huh, you were out for a whole day. Should be fine though, since you don’t work anymore, right?”
“But I have classes!”
Zeke groaned. Everything was slowly coming back to him, and that included the fact that he was, after one-and-a-half days of missing classes, still in a den of sins and crime and vice. He ran to the door only to find it firmly locked, and worse, there was no way to open the old door except with a key.
“Sorry dude,” said Alyssa, shrugging. “I can’t let you out, I don’t have a key either.”
Zeke glanced at her warily, not sure whether to believe him or not. Her relaxed demeanor suggested she was telling the truth, but the fact that she was locked inside with him didn’t add up. It occurred to him that perhaps she wasn’t as closely affiliated with the criminals as he thought.
“You weren’t on the news,” he said. “You weren’t a part of the break in?”
“Oh, I was there too. I was the lookout.”
Zeke stared at her in despair.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Alyssa. “Ooh, they’re a bunch of criminals. But you saw her too, didn’t you? Lexi Lilly. She asked us to. Here, come sit down, have a cup of coffee.”
Zeke obliged, reluctantly. “I’m sorry, do you expect me to believe that?”
“I thought seeing is believing. You recognised her immediately, yeah?”
“I don’t know what elaborate scheme this all is, but it’s messed up. Lexi Lilly is in a coma. And you’re breaking into her house and hiring, what, an actress that looks just like her? To do what?”
“Maybe this will help,” said Alyssa, and phased straight through the bar.
The very real, solid bar Zeke was resting his hands on.
With a yell, Zeke jumped up. He vaguely registered the sound of his chair hitting the ground.
“If you believe me now,” said Alyssa, “Our motto is ‘legality does not dictate morality’. We did not steal, as we had the permission of the homeowner. We merely provide a service for the many of us whose lives are put on hold. Do you have any idea how many of us emerge, when the lights go out?”
Zeke was speechless.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m actually working too. You can help me, if you’d like.” Alyssa pulled out a bunch of letters and dumped them on the bar.
“What is this?” said Zeke.
“Letters to Lexi Lilly from her manager,” said Alyssa. “Love letters.”
“Whaaaaat?” yelled Zeke. “Why are you reading them?”
“She said we could,” said Alyssa with a shrug. “Also, this is backup in case it doesn’t go well with the others. I gotta get as much info out of these as I can. Lastly, aren’t you the slight bit curious?”
“This is wrong,” said Zeke.
“Like I said, we have permission.” She picked up a letter. “You can read too.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Suit yourself. By the way, are you a fan of hers in any way?”
The casual question caught Zeke off guard, given the bizarre situation. “No. I liked some of her early music, but it went downhill after she got super popular.”
“Hmm.” Something dropped from the folds of the letter she lifted. A photo. She held it out to him. “Wow. What do you reckon? Sister? Niece? Secret love child?”
Zeke took the photo, before realising that he had decided, only a minute ago, not to look. So much for not snooping. He sighed. “Doesn’t look much like her. Probably his relative.”
“Wait.” Zeke’s thoughts were returning to him and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t asked this before. “Where are the others?”
“They’ve gone to ask Lexi Lilly’s manager a question, namely, why did he break into her house? Because unlike us, he didn’t have her permission. And before you ask, yes Lexi Lilly has requested we do that.”
Another break-in, and the manager this time, thought Zeke. I’m out for not even two days and I missed so much. “Why would he tell you, unless-” he looked at the letters. “Are you planning to blackmail him?”
“That’s not how we see it. We see two old friends, now turned sour, hashing it out over a bunch of letters attesting to their previous relationship. We’re merely there as translators. As for the law, it should be fine. We have a lawyer- well, law student- to advise us. You might remember her. Elowen.”
Zeke groaned. There could only be one ‘her’. And whatever ‘she’ had said, the whole operation didn’t sound pretty.
‘She’ bounced in the backseat of the horrible car Cap drove terribly.
Next to her, Lexi Lilly looked out the window. Truth be told, Lexi Lilly was still quite bitter over her breakup with Caden. Knowing she would see him soon made her stomach twist.
“Why that clown though?” Rowan asked from the passenger seat.
“He was nice,” said Lexi Lilly. “At first anyway. He understood me as a person. Then he changed.”
“Yeah,” said Rowan. “People change.”
“‘Cept you, you’re always a dumbass,” said Cap.
“True,” said Rowan.
“Anyway, when we’re talking to him,” said Cap, “Remember to try not to interact with him.”
“Just a precaution. Is that the house over there?”
They got out of the car and knocked on the front door. A moment later, they heard yelling. “Go away!”
“We’re not the press,” said Cap. “But we do have the letters, so it might be in your best interests to talk to us.”
There was a second of silence, then the door opened. “Then come in quickly,” said the manager.
I tapped my fingers on the desk, stalling for time- a habit I fell into so often that my own tapping began to irritate me. Pretending to be unfazed by Alistair’s scowl, I tilted my head and smiled. “Which one?”
“You know which one,” he snapped, and of course, he was right.
I sighed. “He’s just a child. I’m sure he’ll outgrow it.”
“That’s what we’ve been hoping for several years. It is getting out of hand. Just last night-”
“I’m tired, Alistair, can’t this wait until later?”
Alistair took a deep breath to continue, then decided against it. “Fine.” He left, his steps making hollow echoes across the floor. The door thudded behind him.
I sank into my chair, letting it swallow me. It had always been far too big for my stature, but I felt especially dwarfed now.
Beside me, Aunt Vega laughed.“I’ve never seen an employee more impudent,” she said. “You should fire him.”
I sighed. “I can’t. He knows far too much.”
“That is why you should not employ those you can’t be strictly professional with.”
“I always thought you had a thing with our butler,” I teased. “Before-”
I stopped myself just in time. My thoughts were wandering into dangerous territory, and I tore them away.
Aunt Vega continued if nothing had happened. “He does have a good point, however. That child of yours IS a menace.”
“He’s a handful, I know. But it’ll get better, I’m sure of it.”
We fell silent. From my window, we could see people below in the gardens. The flowers were in full bloom. They played among the leaves, my children: Spica, Rigel and Antares, each a perfect mix of me and Alistair.
“Aunt Vega,” I said.
I opened my mouth to say something different, but the words flooded into my mind, the three words I never meant to think-
“Wait,” I cried, but it was too late; Aunt Vega was gone, banished from existence by my acknowledgement of her absence, and I was left alone with my regret as I lamented the slow loss of my mind.
I’m back 😀 Here’s to another horrible generation!
P.S. If you recognise the names Spica and Rigel, it is because they are now living out their lives in LegacySims2017’s Plain ol’ Legacy.
Lexi Lilly put the pen down. Her small, neat signature dried on the bottom right corner of the contract under Cap’s gigantic, obnoxious penmanship.
“Great,” said Cap. “Like I said, we may still need your help. We will discuss how we want to do this and get back to you tomorrow.”
Lexi Lilly nodded, then hesitated. “Actually, there’s something you need to know, but you can never tell anyone,” she said.
“Don’t you worry about that,” said Cap. “We just swore ourselves to secrecy.” He twirled his pen in his hand and gestured towards the contract.
“My manager, Caden… we used to date. We only broke up a few months ago. We never told anyone, especially not the media. The package you brought back from my house is all the stuff left from that relationship.”
“Wait,” said Alyssa, “could that be what he was looking for?”
“No, I told him I destroyed everything. He has no reason not to believe me, as I have much more to lose if anyone finds out. But I just couldn’t bring myself to.” She chuckled bitterly. “You can open it once I leave.” Pushing the contract over towards Cap, she got up from her seat.
The raised voice of the anchor drew the attention of the room back to the TV as a breaking news banner scrolled across the screen.
“…a fan of Lexi Lilly has confessed to stabbing her. He is being held as investigations continue.”
“Well, they caught your stabber,” said Cap. “How do you feel?”
“I don’t know,” said Lexi Lilly. “I don’t feel much of anything.”
The door closed with a heavy thump that was muffled by the falling rain.
Elowen immediately turned on Cap. “Dammit Cap why did you knock him out?” she said.
“What was I supposed to do?” retorted Cap.
“Anything but that!”
“Relax, I know the dose. It’s been diluted. Why did you bring him here anyway?”
“I didn’t know we would be on the news, ok.”
“You couldn’t have picked someone else?” asked Alyssa.
“I wasn’t in a state to think, I had to take what I got. Besides, Cap said we should keep an eye on him.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” said Cap.
“He’s sure gonna be on our side, now that we’ve knocked him out and all,” said Alyssa.
Elowen sighed. “I’m going to see if Rowan needs any help,” she said, and ascended the stairs to the second floor.
Rowan was already out in the hallway. “The dude’s fine,” he said, before Elowen could ask. “Seriously though, El, what’s he about?”
“I’m sorry, I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Yes, but this one was… to put it bluntly, a pretty dumb one. It isn’t like you.”
“I teleported too far and got disoriented. That’s all there is to it, really.”
He squinted at her. “You’ve done further without any trouble before.”
She looked back at him worriedly. “Do you reckon I’m getting weaker?”
“Maybe your age has finally caught up to you.”
She slapped his arm.
Laughing, Rowan rubbed where she had slapped him. “I’m joking. Hey, maybe you were just tired. After this job we should take a long break.”
“I can’t, I have exams.”
“Right. Speaking of which, why on earth do you have a test on the first week of the semester?”
“I wish I knew.”
They heard Alyssa shout from below. “Ha! I found the remote!”
“We’re going to have a meeting now, so if the guy’s not in need of immediate medical attention, could you please come down,” Cap called up the stairs.
The twins glanced at each other and grinned ruefully before descending to face the music.
Well damn this gen was hard to write. I mean. The others were hard too, but this one takes the cake.
Writing Winter’s Alchemy feels like I’m squeezing words out of my fingertips like sesame oil out of sesame seeds. It never comes easily. That’s one of the reasons I write one measly short chapter every week, and if I don’t have a schedule I wouldn’t even do that much either.
I wasn’t sure this day would actually come. When I went on that break in 2018 I didn’t realise it’d take two whole years to come back, but that’s inertia for you. I actually finished my legacy challenge gameplay during that time. I have a lot of writing to catch up on!
So this generation… was a bit of a weird one, wasn’t it? 😂 I think it might have something to do with the fact the game threw me WILDLY off track. When the gen started, I thought it would be a story about forgiveness, redemption and healing. But in the end it turned into… this…………
Let me explain. There was a FIRE. A FIRE, y’all. I wasn’t even aware that it started, I had a bunch of actions queued and was zoning out, and when I looked back the house was on FIRE. And what did the fire do? Kill not one, but TWO very important sims.
I was horrified. Grief aside, this was terrible news for me as a writer. Because that plot I had for this generation? Gone. Down the drain. Didn’t work anymore. I guess that’s what I got for thinking of a plot before play finished.
But what could I do, what was done was done. I rethought the entire generation from scratch. Using what happened in game as an outline, I came up with a story that fit it, and I was in such an odd mental state that the end result was this bizarreness. The choppiness doesn’t help either, does it?
I think the reason the writing is so fragmented is because I want to write the big events. I was never good at filling in time between action. I also don’t like writing things like weddings (though I love weddings in real life) because it is something that happens most generations and therefore gets repetitive. Maybe that’s why most things I write are gloomy- like Deneb, I subscribe to the notion that the little things are where the happiness is, and the little things, unfortunately, get the chop.
Hopefully the next generation will be easier for me. Maybe. I’m thinking about what gen 5 was like, and I’m not so sure. But hey, we’ll see. It’s not like the game can throw any more curveballs at me, hahaha.
I won’t say much more. When I came back and reread some of my old posts I found that my ramblings were the cringiest bits of the blog. So I’ll end with my usual: a big thank you to everyone who is reading this weird as SimLit. You are the reason I still write. ❤
Since then, the house was rebuilt. Scars faded. Old secrets buried. Everything slowly settled into a new normal. Far too slowly, in my anxious mind. It took a long, long time for Deneb to show her genuine smile again.
“Give her time,” Altair had said. “It won’t last forever.” He was right, of course.
In the years that followed, I watched her bloom into someone different to who she was before, but with the same light, the same spirit. I had always thought she would shine the brightest when she was in love. Perhaps the person who needed her love most was herself. Now, I see how she flourishes under the new name she has been given.
Gemini, a name meant for two.
Some nights the guilt overcomes me and I sob into my hands until daylight breaks. I visit and revisit those decisions I made over and over, trying to solve a riddle with no answer, wondering if there was ever a chance of unblemished happiness.
But when morning comes I see Deneb and she shines bright, like I have always known she would.
And I am at peace.
And that ends Gen 4!
Afterword to come soon, but while I’m here, an author’s aside:
In Greek mythology, Gemini is named after the twin brothers Castor and Pollux. Pollux was immortal but Castor was not. When Castor died, Pollux asked to share his immortality by turning them into stars, so they can be kept together.
Interestingly enough, Castor is designated as the alpha star (i.e. the brightest star of the constellation) yet it is Pollux, the beta star, that is actually the brightest one. Some people think this may be because the brightness of the stars have changed since they were named, but this is scientifically unlikely. Either way, I like the tragic irony of this fact – even in death, Pollux is destined to outshine Castor.
I think about it a lot.
Anyway. Thank you all so much for reading, see you all again soon!
“Sorry,” muttered the raven girl, trying to move past him, but in the process she almost stumbled and fell.
“Hey wait.” Zeke felt his headache coming back. After the hard day, this girl was the last person he wanted to see. He wondered if she even remembered him. “You are very drunk,” he said.
“I’m not, just a bit dizzy.”
“You’re staggering. You almost fell right over.” He got a sense of déjà vu. The girl obviously didn’t want help, but once again she seemed to need it. He could just be repeating his past mistakes, but, if he were to be true to himself and his conscience, there were mistakes he would repeat over and over again. “Look, let me call you an taxi,” he said.
“I told you, I’m fine.”
“Then can I call someone who can come pick you up?” Surely she had someone that wasn’t the raven.
“No, I only live a few minutes away,” she said, but she swayed on her feet like a branch in the breeze.
Zeke felt the familiar frustration rise but he tried one last time. “Alright then, can I at least walk you home?” Part of him wished she would refuse. He would have done enough to not feel guilty without having to spend more time looking out for a hostile stranger. She shouldn’t let random people on the street walk her home anyway.
But to his surprise she sighed and said, “Fine.”
They began to walk in an awkward silence. She seemed steadier on her feet at least.
She led him into a back alley and stopped in front of a rear entrance to a shop. Zeke felt a twinge of apprehension, but it was eased by the glow of the neon sign and the fact that the main road and its nightly patrons was only a sprint away.
“I live here,” the girl said.
“Yes,” she said, patiently. “Would you like to come inside for a while?”
Before he could answer, she stepped inside, leaving the door ajar. Much to his horror, what he saw through the open doorway was undoubtedly a bar. Was she going straight back to drinking? Zeke pushed his way inside.
“You can sit down anywhere,” the girl said, leaning back into a corner chair and closing her eyes.
“Oh hey, who’s this?” said a second voice. Zeke turned back to face the bar. Someone had appeared behind it, along with a cat.
“Oh hi,” said Zeke. “Your friend was a little unsteady on the street so I walked her home.”
The girl behind the bar smiled pleasantly. “Oh, I see,” she said. “Hi, I’m Alyssa.”
“Zeke. Nice to meet you.”
“So what’s the story with you?”
“Uh, like I said, I-”
The raven girl sat up. “Alyssa, he’s not-”
The sound of the news interrupted the conversation.
“…a break-in at Lexi Lilly’s residence. The faces of the intruders have been caught on surveillance footage.”
Zeke saw the raven girl tense in his periphery.
“Oh hey, this looks a lot like you,” he said to her, chuckling as he pointed to one of the grainy faces on the tiny TV screen.
“No,” she replied quickly. Far too quickly.
At that moment the door opened and in came two other people, laughing and talking.
They stopped as soon as they saw him. They looked awfully familiar.
“It is you,” said Zeke, his mouth falling open as realisation dawned that he was in a house of sins and crime and vice. Also, he was surrounded.
“Well damn,” said one of the newcomers.
With the last, unfortunate timing that night, the door opened once more. In stepped a person far more familiar than the people who had come in before.
“Is that Lexi Lilly?” asked Zeke incredulously, and that was the last thing he remembered.
“Captain,” said Elowen icily, “he was my alibi.”
“Well what would you have had him do? Run to the cops?” retorted Cap. “Let’s deal with that later. We have a deal to finish off.”
“I’m sorry, who is he?” asked Lexi Lilly.
“Someone from another case,” Cap lied smoothly. “No one you need to worry about. Shall we?”
Warily, Lexi Lilly sat down at the bar. The TV, forgotten in the commotion, was still on. The newscaster’s voice could be heard as they all fell silent.
“…the man arrested during the break-in…”
“Where did I put that damn…” muttered Alyssa in a futile search for the ever-elusive remote.
“We have your package,” said Cap. He hurriedly pushed the paper bag they found over the bar.
But Lexi Lilly did not even spare it a glance. “Is that my manager?” she asked. Her hands began to shake and she clasped them together.
Cap blinked. “I don’t know, is it?”
“…was revealed to be Lexi Lilly’s manager.”
“It is,” said Lexi Lilly, and she began to tremble in earnest.
“…he has testified that he was only in her house to look for her cat that has been missing since the stabbing.”
Cap tried to push the package towards Lexi Lilly once more. “Cool, I think we’re done here.”
“Wait!” cried Lexi Lilly, standing up. “I’m not done here. I’d like you to find out why my manager was sneaking around my house.” She looked at all their faces in turn, her eyes beseeching.
“…Didn’t the anchor just say why?”
“No, his testimony is bull. My cat… my cat died two months ago. Was he trying to steal things? Find my secrets?”
“Alright, firstly,” said Cap, “we have already done what you paid us for so anything extra will also cost you extra. Secondly, if the police find the reason after us, you can’t get a refund. Lastly, please note that once you wake up from your coma, you won’t remember anything from this state.”
“That’s okay,” said Lexi Lilly. “There’s no point of me putting this off. Because… we all know I might never wake up.”
They all exchanged glances. Wordless agreement passed between them.
“Great,” said Cap. “Remember we take payment up front.”
“Not so little anymore I suppose,” he mused. “Maybe not even a lady anymore. Things have changed quite a bit since last time we met.”
“Why-” I winced as my voice grated against my throat. “Why are you here?”
“To talk to you of course. Just like old times.” He settled on the bedside chair in a flutter of tattered robes. “Care to catch me up? You don’t need to, of course. I know quite well what has been going on. Which does remind me, do you remember that disagreement we had? I wonder if you still feel the same way. Tell me, little lady, is this a rise or fall for you? You finally got to be your brother.”
Something rose within me, something I hadn’t felt in a while: emotion. It was anger. “Rise? How would this be a rise for me? Gem is dead. I was going to move away from this wretched place. I didn’t choose this. My life was stolen from me.” With my damaged voice, I didn’t even sound like myself anymore.
Crowman gave a short laugh. “Lighten up, would you? You can still live the life you wanted. Move away, just as your brother. It never did go away, did it, the feeling that you were living as the wrong person, playing a role you were not meant to play? Do you think it will disappear if you just start over somewhere else? No. It would have never gone away. This way you can have it all, the best of both worlds.”
“So what, I’m supposed to feel thankful?”
“You could at least start being a little more honest. You say you didn’t choose this, but if you wanted to you could just reveal the truth.”
“I couldn’t do that to…”
“Your aunt? So you still care.” His tone turned mocking.
“Of course I do,” I snapped back. “I can’t just stop caring.”
“Ahh, yes, there’s also that. Those people you care about, how many of them would have supported you if not for the circumstances? A handful? None at all? But now they’ll help you in any way they can. Is that not something to be thankful for? Even your fiancé-”
“He’ll never understand. He’ll never stop seeing me for the girl I was.”
He threw up his pale hands. “This person this, that person that. Forget them. This is what you wanted, remember?”
It was, and the fact made it hurt all the more. “Not like this,” I whispered.
“And that is the Human Tragedy.”
I began to cry.
Ah, there they were, the tears. I had thought they had dried up with my humanity.
Crowman watched me in silence. After a while he said, “Has anyone told you how your father died?”
I shook my head.
He gave a badly told, rambling account of an accident the night I was born, and a conversation that transpired before. “That was another Human Tragedy right there,” he said. “But because of that, you are not dead, so don’t grieve for a life that is not over.”
I nodded slowly. A last tear slid down my cheek. “So you’re saying, there is more to the story. Because I am alive.”
“So you can’t define it as a tragedy. Because stories are defined by their endings.”
Crowman’s eyes widened.
I took a deep, shuddering breath. “You know what? I reckon life only seems like a tragedy because you discount the little things. The little things are where the happiness is.”
“Is that so?”
“I’m going to prove you wrong. I am going to live an amazing life. I am going to do everything I wanted to do, be everything I wanted to be. When I die I will do so smiling. I will go on my next incredible journey which I know death to be, leaving you to wonder if I was right after all. It will be my ultimate rise.”
Crowman’s face twisted into a smile. “Sounds like a plan,” he said.