He finally reached the bridge. His knees felt weak as he ran to the edge of the bridge, where he placed both hands onto the cold, wet stone for support. As he looked up over the small creek (he didn’t remember ever seeing a creek in this park before…) his eyes rested on a strange scene. The first thing he noticed were the pillars of smoke rising into the air, as though in a campsite. Several makeshift tents were scattered beneath the trees, and campfires were being hastily put out by… soldiers?
Breathing heavily, Theo squinted, trying to shake himself from the fear that was beginning to curdle in his stomach. It couldn’t be… not the same sensation from before…
This time when Theo turned to the voice coming from his left, he saw a man with terror etched into his wrinkled face — wearing a full suit of old medieval armor, the kind you see in museums. He was holding what seemed to be horse’s reigns.
“Commander, we’ve been looking for you. We must hurry. They have far more men than us and our only option is to retreat.”
Theo stood frozen with his mouth open, then looked around again to make sure the strange soldier was indeed talking to him. No one else was there, and the soldier was gazing directly into Theo’s face, as though trying to decipher what he was thinking.
“Sir! What –” the soldier said.
Theo stared at him again, unable to speak. Suddenly he noticed he felt… much heavier than before. He looked down to see heavy fur riding boots had replaced his Converse, and a thick cape was draped over his shoulders. He was also weighed down in armour similar to the soldier’s. Not only that, but where autumn leaves had graced the park trail, were now patches of snow… Theo looked back up at the soldier. A few lazy snowflakes were floating down in front of the soldier’s alarmed face, illuminated only by blue moonlight. Suddenly the soldier dropped to his knees in a bow, taking his helmet off. “Of course, sir. I spoke too soon. You make the orders. If you don’t wish to retreat…”
“Shh,” Theo said suddenly, unconsciously making a motion with his hand as though to still the soldier. “What is that?”
It was a low rumble, almost like a thunderous waterfall, except it surrounded him on all sides.
“The Tojita,” the soldier looked back up, almost pained to have to explain to his commander what he should already know… had he gone mad? “It’s the Tojita, commander. Our only option is to run.”
“Your horse!” Suddenly another soldier came running up to them onto the bridge, with an enormous grey horse trailing behind him. He pulled the horse up to Theo and handed him the reigns before darting back off the bridge.
“Forget the fires!” the man screamed. The clash of iron as men gathered their armor and swords frantically, shouts were heard across the quickly abandoned campsite.Theo looked down at his hands… Could this be real? In a split second amid the chaos, he wondered whether the girl and her dog had anything to do with it. But that had only lasted for a few moments; this didn’t seem to be ending any time soon…
Before he even realized it, he had found himself climbing up onto the horse despite the weight of his outfit and the sword clanging at his side. Theo had never ridden a horse before, but as though on its own accord, the horse began trotting after the other pack of soldiers horses that were tearing through the woods. The thunderous noise around them seemed to get louder, as they rushed through the forest…
“Maybe this is the start of something new,” the girl whispered in his ear.
Dekko felt her body against his, her silk kimono slipping across his skin. Clumsily, he brought his arm around her waist, pulling her closer. Their lips met, though it was far from the fireworks he’d imagined. The long-awaited Sakura, the girl who was just a step in his process of becoming a man. Literally, a tool in a long chain of events. It was the night he’d been waiting for for six months. As her lips pressed against his almost frantically, in his head, he heard an ancient ballad played by hundreds. Or was the music coming from right outside his door, a few steps away in the great hall? Having drank more sake than he normally would, his motions were slower, less exact than he’d like. Now that he had her in this sprawling purple bed, her eagerness was overwhelming.
He’d spent the entire night meeting counts and advisors, his father red-faced with drink. They bowed to him and praised him, congratulations for the night of your life, they’d say with a wink quietly afterwards. Dekko would nod politely, but in the firm, cold way he handled himself. Every few minutes he’d steal a glance at the door that led to the stairwell, and down the hall, the room where Sakura awaited him. He’d imagine her in a bright red kimono, sitting on her knees in the middle of the bed, waiting for him motionlessly. A slight flush in his neck, but he couldn’t decipher whether it was desire or shame. Now, the young girl’s tongue pushed into his mouth. It went on for several minutes. When Dekko didn’t pull her robes off, she began to slip out of them herself. But he couldn’t bring himself to move forward.
“Sakura.” Her name came out colder than he’d wished. He didn’t like being so intoxicated; it made him yearn for control again. If anything, it made him more paranoid, colder than he normally was.
“Take me as you wish,” she whispered breathlessly. This time her hand went down to his waist — and slightly lower. By now the overdue event had left him slightly flustered and excited. But he gently pushed her hand away.
“Sakura,” he said again. This time she looked up at him slowly, the paint on her lips glistening in the soft candle light.
“Shall we have another cup of sake before we finish this?”
Sakura’s eyes widened with confusion, but she nodded. “Yes, of course,” she whispered.
Dekko crawled out of the purple and red bed, his head spinning. He felt Sakura’s silent eyes on his back as he turned to the table where the servants had prepared drinks and refreshments for him. He paused for a moment at the table, one hand on the table and the other on his waist, and looked up at the mirror directly above him. He stared at his face, two lines coming out stubbornly from his eyebrows, and genuinely asked himself: Have I gone mad?
He returned to the sprawling bed with two cups of sake, both of them filled nearly to the rim. Sakura, flushed and confused, took the cup from his hand. Her eyes looked young, puffy with desperation. If she failed at this, she wouldn’t have a job — or worse, she’d be killed.
“How old are you?” he asked, still holding the full cup in his hand. He felt Sakura’s eyes fearfully travel over him, from his elegant legs crossed under him to the robe that remained open under his neck.
“Fifteen,” Sakura answered, lowering her eyes.
“Ah,” Dekko said with a smirk. “That’s how it goes. They’ve trained you to do something, and you do it well.” He raised his cup, and an eyebrow, to her. “But let me tell you that from a technical standpoint. You haven’t done anything wrong… I’m the prince of the Wei province. It’s royal tradition to have me do this as part of my initiation, and tradition is especially important now that we’re threatened by invaders by all sides. But traditions bore me.”
Sakura was drunk too, he could tell. But his words had nearly no meaning for her. Now she looked pale, and only young, tired.
“Sakura, take the drink fully,” he ordered. She obediently looked down at her cup and put it to her lips.
“But come on, we have to look at each other when we drink,” he said, this time more softly. When she didn’t move, he grabbed her wrist, and clinked their cups together.
They looked in each other’s eyes as they drank.
Shortly after, Sakura left the room in her red kimono, stealing away underneath the high wall’s shadows. Dekko lay in his bed, fast asleep, still a virgin.
Ana paced the small 2 bedroom apartment nervously. “Where is he?” She bit her lip and anxiously passed her iphone between each hand as she paced from the living room to the kitchen. Ana had moved 3 years ago to live with her half-brother, Theo, after their parents died in a car accident. Though Theo was 10 years older, he had embraced her bitter 17 year old self and helped her out through highschool and into college. Even though Ana and Theo had their issues, they still stayed in touch with eachother…
“And if he was going out… he would have told me…”
Ana glanced down at her phone. 2:15 am. “I’ll call him again,” she said to herself.
The trot steadily became a full gallop as Theo caught up with the soldiers. As he went past them, he glanced at their faces. Each face covered in sweat, dirt and fear… Their eyes were wide, mouths gaping as they each gasped for breath. Not all the soldiers were on horses, many below ranking officers had to run as fast as they could beside the horses. He was amazed at how many could keep up the pace. Galloping ahead, Theo reached closer to the front.
The soldier from before, pulled up next to him.
“Commander Takeshi, how far are we going to retreat?”
Theo looked at him lost, he didn’t know what to say. He didnt even know how he got here, how he was even able to ride a horse!
“Commander, you have to…”
Suddenly there was the sound of a thousand warrior cries, and through the trees Theo and the soldiers were showered down with arrows. One arrow was shot into Theo’s shoulder, the force and pain knocked Theo off his horse.
Theo’s eyes shot open as his body hit the ground. It was completely dark, and wet… wherever he was. Sitting up, he immediately reached up to his left shoulder and felt around. He could feel the pain of the arrow, but there was nothing there. Pushing himself up, he felt wet leaves underneath him. As his eyes adjusted to the night, he realized he was still in the park.
“I can move mountains, I can work a miracle, work a miracle, oh oh!” Theo reached for his phone, as his ringtone ‘UMA THURMAN’ by Fall Out Boy went off.
“Hello?” His voice was raspy.
He could hear someone sigh heavily on the other line. “Are you okay?” Ana asked, relieved.
“Ana… I need you to pick me up.”
Ana looked down at the phone, bewildered. “Okay, tell me where you are.”
It started to rain, as Ana pulled into the parks visitors lot. Theo was standing under a nearby picnic pavillion. She flashed her lights at him, so he would know it was her. Shivering, Theo ran under the heavy rain toward the blue chevy.
“Thanks, ” he said, teeth chattering as he slid into the passenger seat.
Ana nodded, as she pulled out of the park and headed home.
“I have so many questions, I dont know where to start…”
“Ana, you think we could pass by Rallys? I’m starving, and need some grease in my system.”
“Yeah, yeah,” They came to a stop light and Ana looked over at him perplexed.
“Theo, what happened?”
Theo looked out the window, at the heavy rain and reached up to his shoulder where he could still slightly feel the pain of that arrow.
“A bad trip? I guess?” Theo pondered.
“From what? You haven’t had a dealer in years,” Ana argued.
The car honked behind them, as the light when green.
“Theo, I know we have our moments… but seriuosly, I’m family. When you do stupid weird stuff like this, you got to let me in.”
Theo looked over to Ana and his eyes lit up, “ooo oooo oooo! KFC, lets do KFC. Over there, right over there.”
Sighing Ana turned left into the drive thru.
“You better fess up soon buster,” Ana stated, pulling her purse from the backseat to get her wallet.
“What do you want to order,” the KFC speaker crackled.
Theo tore open into the box of fried chicken and his side of mashed potatoes without even taking a breath. Ana drove forward silently, planning to prod him further when they got back to their apartment. Theo couldn’t remember the last time he was so hungry. Had he forgotten to eat lunch? He looked over at the time. “Holy shit, it’s 1 a.m.? I had no idea.”
Ana couldn’t help herself. “What the hell happened?” She glanced over briefly at her half-brother ravenously attacking his food. Theo took a few more bites, swallowed, then offered her a drum stick which she waved away.
“I have no idea. It was a bad trip. That’s all I can really say,” Theo replied hastily.
Ana drove back to their apartment, trying to hold in her anger. She parked on the street in front of the building then followed Theo up three flights of stairs. When they finally got back into their small common room (which contained the kitchen as well), Ana tossed her keys onto the counter with a jangle and Theo flopped onto their lumpy grey couch, sinking into the cushions that seemed to consume his skinny body.
Ana slammed the door to their apartment shut.“If you’re doing drugs again, I swear to God I’m going to slap you,” Ana yelled. “You promised me. You promised mom and dad. You were going to get your life back together.” She felt the tears rushing to her eyes, and she couldn’t help but feel she was somehow being dramatic. But she resolutely held them back, her face flushed.
“I’m not doing drugs,” Theo said calmly. He looked exhausted. He stared straight ahead, almost looking lost. “It was a trip, though. Not a typical drug trip.”
Ana sat down on the table across from him, peering into his face. Even though she was 17, she sometimes felt like she was the older sibling. Theo finally looked up and locked eyes with her.
“I’m a little scared, Ans. I think I should check myself in.”
“Check yourself in where? To rehab?”
“No… like to a crazy ward. A psychiatric hospital.”
“Did you have another one of those weird visions?”
“It wasn’t even a vision this time — it was so real,” Theo said. “It was like… I seemed to go back in time or something, to some era that was pretty barbaric. People kept referring to me as ‘commander,’ and we were being attacked, and I was riding a horse.”
Ana’s eyes grew wide. Her half-bro was really starting to sound crazy. But a part of her knew he wasn’t.
He described it more. The park had turned into a wintery forest. There was a campsite, and fires, and scores of soldiers. And the most terrifying rumble sound Theo had ever heard.
“And then I got hit by an arrow, right here,” he rubbed his shoulder. Strangely enough, it still felt a little sore.
Ana remained quiet as he finished his story, then thought for a moment. “Well look, whether it’s a dream or your imagination or some weird time travel portal, or maybe you just going crazy, we’re not going to figure it all out tonight,” she said. “It’s 2 in the morning, we should get some rest. I have to work in the morning. Try not to worry about it.” She patted him on the back gently, then went into her room.
Closing the door, she still in front of her mirror; at this time of night, if the sky was clear, the moonlight was particularly strong in her room. It had to do with where her window was facing. She stared at her face in the mirror, at her round cheeks and the straight black hair that fell around her shoulders. Even though she and Theo were related, they couldn’t look more different: Theo was your typical Anglo-Saxon, with red hair and pale skin and an upturned-nose; Ana was half-Korean, with almond-shaped eyes and dark hair. The one thing they shared with their white father was their blue eyes. Theo’s eyes were pale blue (some people even called him an indigo child when he was younger); hers were more metallic, a darker hue of blue that even bordered on purple at times. But it was unique for an Asian, even for a half-Asian like her.
Indigo child. Ana hadn’t thought of that notion in years. Perhaps his visions had something to do with that? She didn’t know much about the legend of indigo children, but she remembered learning once that a child with a specific blue eye color had a special inherent power, the ability to sense future events and even have visions.