Recap: Sona went to buy ramen but was caught up in a robbery. He was held at gunpoint and made a hostage by a group called Animal Party. Once the situation became tense, some of the Animal Party members revealed they had supernatural powers. After Animal Party escaped with Sona, they double-crossed one of their members and shot him through the back. Left without answers, Sona calls the ambulance and covers for his fallen foe in hopes of answers.
A lone figure sat alone in a hospital room, propped up by a generous pillow by his back. Foliage waved in the spring breeze casting a mosaic of shadows on the hospital tiles and walls’ dimly lit canvas. The boy stared at the bedsheets. Other than the rustling of leaves beyond the dappled window, a heavy silence occupied the room. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door frame.
Light from the setting sun entered from between the curtains and onto the cold tile floor. A gradient of warm yellow and orange danced along the floor whenever the wind hit the curtains, but it always fell short of the hospital bed. The boy sat, nestled away from the saturated warmth. His corner contrasted sharply with a cold blue. Although he answered me, his eyes remained downcast.
Yesterday, I was caught up in a bank heist, and this boy was the only clue I had to make sense of that mess. Up until then, I never believed that a person could shoot fire from their hands, so who’s to say that anyone could take the witness testimonies at face value? Even if the police had answers, would they even reveal this information to the public so soon? It could mean years or decades of waiting. I needed closure and was only inches away from the truth. The boy was key, a direct source just sitting right in front of me. Only one problem remained: he had to open up to me.
I brought out a water bottle and held it out to him, but he only gazed at it and slowly shook his head. I sighed, pulling my backpack to the front of my body, and rummaged through it for something with a better appeal. Other than my journal and pens, a box of chocolate milk was all I had. When I offered it to him, his gaze alternated between my face and the milk on my outstretched hand. His eyes then locked on the logo on the side of the box before turning his head away as if to feign disinterest. With a wry smile, I tossed it over to him.
He caught the milk box in his hands, but it slipped into his lap. His fingers, covered in cuts and bruises, fumbled with the box as he tried to open it. It became somewhat awkward watching him like this, so I stepped forward and pointed at the milk in his hands. He knit his eyebrows, pausing a bit before reluctantly pushing the box towards me.
“Chocolate milk won’t change anything,” he mumbled. He turned his eyes away as I placed the milk box beside him on the bed. I leaned forward slightly.
He frowned but accepted the milk nonetheless and brought it up to his lips. The first gulp was slow and shallow; he kept going without a break. Right now, the world meant nothing to him. Only he and the chocolate milk existed. He threw his head back to get the last droplets of milk, and the long sleeves of his gown slid down, revealing small scars that accompanied the bruises that ran along his arm. I grimaced. Whatever life he lived, it wasn’t easy.
Surely, the milk must have gone by now– into that empty stomach of his, I thought. An exhale interrupted me, and I was greeted by the sight of the boy peering into the empty carton.
“So… what’s your name?” I asked, seeing that he was distracted.
Fox glanced at me. “…s Fox,” he mumbled. “…Just Fox.”
The room grew quiet for a moment. I asked, “What happened back th–”
“I can’t tell you.” He placed the carton down by the table stand and turned towards me. “Thanks for the milk, but I really can’t.”
“I’ll throw in another chocolate milk,” I added.
His eyes lit up but soured after a few seconds, lost in thought. Was I wrong? What else could he want? He trained his dead fish eyes on me and unpursed his lips.
“There is nothing I can tell you. You will only hurt yourself if you are too greedy, so let me help you understand: You can’t recreate what they did even if I tell you.”
I was annoyed. He involved me in a shooting last night and endangered many more lives, yet he still calls me greedy. Why would he call me greedy in the first place? “What are you trying to say?”
“You won’t understand.”
“Then help me understand. What makes me so greedy for wanting to know what happened last night? I only wanted to get five dollars but got held hostage instead by you guys. Why can’t I demand some answers?”
Fox’s widened eyes broke his stern expression. He lowered his face and said, “You still won’t be able to understand me. You’re asking for too much.”
“I might not understand but just tell me.” Anger started to bubble up from the depths of my stomach. He was with those terrorists; He is one of the main reasons why I almost died yesterday; People died yesterday because of him. And he has the audacity to tell me I am too greedy? Did he really think I would give up like that? “Are you trying to protect them, the ones who shot you last night? Is that it? Why do you call me greedy when you helped selfishly kill innocent people.”
Fox glared at me. “Whether I am or am not, you have no business sticking your nose into this,” he said.
“I could have died, so it is my business. I have every right to know.” Those deaths that occurred were meaningless, and we were simply collateral in plans gone awry. “Those cuts and bruises along your arms show me exactly how your “friends” treated you, so tell me. Why are you protecting them? What was it? Was it blackmail?” It was then when I saw Fox’s aghast expression. “Then, what? Help me understand. Who are you guys, and why would they need a boy to rob a bank?”
Fox had his lips drawn tight, and his body trembled as though the room’s temperature had fallen. The ticking of the clock measured the silence between us, but I couldn’t bring myself to break it. The boy curled into a ball, and his face was buried into his knees… Had I pressured him too much?
“It was a year ago,” he started in a small voice, “I woke up in a cave with no memory of who I was. The cave was a piece of the old world.”
A cave? Amnesia? The questions piled on and pushed away my earlier distress.
He continued, “For two months, I lived off water and berries…until one day, a staircase appeared, and five people descended. They called themselves “Animal Party,” and they took me in and raised me as one of their own. We later found three others who had woken in the same way. Those three had no memories of who they were, so those in Animal Party gave us a name. Numen, they called us…and eventually, I started to recall bits and pieces of who I was…”
“What did you remember?”
“A demigod.” His head lifted from his knees, and his eyes met with mine as if probing me.
“Numen? Demigod?” I swallowed. What is this boy saying? If all that was true, was it alright for him to talk to me? My fist tightened, and a chill settled upon me. “Are you a demon?”
“Far from it. I was one of the very first humans, the direct offspring of God. When humans were first created, He scattered us throughout the world, hoping that we would populate and survive,” Fox said. His eyes glittered from within the gloom. “Each human was made for a specific purpose, and so, God gave us supernatural abilities. Those who upheld law and order were given manipulative powers through speech. Those who defended our society against monsters had monstrous strength, and although many of us had the same power, no two powers were ever the same. The only condition was for the people to only worship in Him.”
My mind reeled from the information. What I had discovered was Pandora’s box.
“We fornicated,” Fox continued, “and had our own sons and daughters. But unlike us, they did not inherit our power. What they lacked, they made up for through wits alone. The weapons and tools they invented leveled our differences. But, alas, the humans aged while we did not. And through the generations they started to revere us. Until they saw us as ‘gods’…and eventually we realized the first humans can grant powers to other through worship. But this displeased God, for through them, we had broken our covenant.”
“What happened when the covenant was broken?” Although I asked, I already knew the answer deep down.
Fox sighed. “To right a wrong, you apologize, forgive, and start over. But this was God. This sin was too great to forgive.…..he erased everything…..everything that could recall our very existence.”
“…erased,” I whispered.
“That’s right.” He curled in tighter, and his eyes were downcast. “God descended from Heaven and made his appearance known to the world. We were persecuted under his divine might, and eventually, most of our lives were snatched away…though, our followers continued to worship us even after our deaths.”
“But that means God wasn’t successful, right?” I asked. “As long as people believe, you will continue to exist.”
“You…you don’t seem to understand me.” Fox looked up and asked, “How do you kill an idea?”
“What do you mean?” I stared at Fox, flabbergasted. “As time goes by, people eventually forget. Isn’t that what you meant by erasure?”
Fox tilted his head, a sardonic smile upon his lips. “Not exactly, God did not want to wait. The last thing I recall is Him flooding the world.”
“What will you do now?” I asked. My mouth was dry, and I rubbed my arms to chase away my goosebumps. This was blasphemy… is He watching us right now? Meanwhile, with Fox curled into himself, he was looking more and more like a hermit hiding into its shell.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have my powers anymore. The other demigods weren’t able to use theirs either… but we were able to grant humans portions of our lost power through a sacrifice or the blood running through our veins.”
“Why did they try to kill you? They could have used your blood.”
Fox lightly waved his hand as if to disperse a comical thought. “My blood? It granted them no powers. I am only an expendable now, and they are hunting other numen for their cause. All that’s left for me is jail. I am no longer Fox… that was a mask I left behind. The police may not have seen me, but they will know who I am once they delve into their investigations.”
The door was kicked open, revealing a haggard old nurse. Stray, peppery hair hung from her bun and around her forehead in greasy clumps. The bags bordering her lower eyelids looked dark and heavy. She looked from me to Fox who was in the fetal position. A frown crossed her face, and her wrinkles ran deeper.
“Time for visitors is over,” she said.
I gave her a small grin, signaling for her to leave. She crossed her arms, but Fox looked up and shook his head. She stood there in silence for a few moments before nodding and closing the door behind her. Once her footsteps had faded away, I faced Fox again, this time with my hand placed upon his shoulder. He peered at me curiously.
“Fox is dead to the world, but you are not.” I told him, “I still have your mask at home.”
His eyes opened wide, and we sat for a few minutes with neither a word exchanged between us. His face underwent a spectrum of emotions. His mouth opened and quickly closed, as if at loss of what to say, and he shook his head.
“Why?” He finally raised his voice in surprise and confusion. “You were almost killed because of us.”
“You helped me escape from the bank earlier. We’re even now,” I said. “Besides, you don’t like Animal Party either.”
Fox blinked at me and chuckled. A wry smile overtook the former incredulity on his face.
“You’re helping me?”
I shrugged, “You plan on taking them down?”
“Then, I won’t regret anything, right?” I asked.
“Depends on you.”
Looking at Fox again, I noted his thin frame and sickly pallor. His elbows stuck out sorely under paper-thin skin. He looked the image of someone who could be blown away by the breeze. A boy his age should be laughing carefree, but all I could see was an extinguished light in his eyes. Breathing in deep, I gave him my answer:
“Sure. Although I have more questions that need answering.”
His eyes lit up. The corners of his lips kept curling up, but every time, he suppressed them into a straight line. Even his eyebrows came together. He pulled up ramrod, planted his hands onto his lap, and exhaled.
“I have been smuggling items from the old world into the cave where I woke up,” he said. “No one else knows about it but me. I need a ride there.”
The thrill of learning more about the unknown world crept into my mind. A smile appeared on my face to reflect that.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”
Beaming, I waved goodbye as I walked out of the room alone and pulled a notebook out of my backpack.
The cold wind blew against my face exiting the hospital. Emerging out from under the concrete overhanging of the hospital, I stretched and rested my hands on the back of my head. I let the sounds of city life seep in and roved my gaze over the saturated orange lights of the street lamps and past the flickering billboard ads. I grinned, going over the information within that small hospital room. It seems I landed myself deep into a troublesome situation.
For a while, I watched the traffic come and go. Buses and cars blurred by in streaks of red and yellow hues, sharply cutting through the dark tones of night. Strong colors marking a rather monochromatic world… I closed my eyes, capturing that image in my head, and at that moment, the world stood at standstill. Whispers and voices of pedestrians wandering the streets created a disjointed melody, each and everyone with their own destinations in mind. My eyes opened and time once again flowed.
And at the center of everything, the lights turned green.