“No. No! You can’t leave me!” I shout, uselessy. I always hated the characters in movies and books that say no when something bad is happening. As if that makes a difference.
I pet my pet’s wet cooling body, as it barks for the last time.
“You have to let go,” My mom coaxes me away from the lifeless dog that rests in our backyard. A tear slips down my face, and I wipe it away.
Dad must be cutting onions again, he just loves eating them. I open the door and step inside my house only to be greeted by Vivya.
“It died, didn’t it?” My sister raises her eyebrows. Mom nods solemnly, and Vivya starts her rant. “Nyx, I told you! Just because the dog is water-resistant, doesn’t mean you should put it in water! And did K-”
Dad chuckles from the kitchen, “You went swimming with the android? Really?” I frown trying to seem angry. What was Vivya going to say, though?
“I did not! Or well, maybe I did… But it was on a dare. And it has a name, you know!” I pout, slumping onto the couch. Mom looks at me, trying to look sympathetic, but her eyes glint with laughter.
“We’re not getting you another dog until…” Dad glances at Mom for help. Mom sighs and takes over.
“We’re not getting you another android until two months have passed,” Mom says sternly, looking me in the eye. I shrug, I never liked android pets anyway. Their eyes aren't real. Eyes are supposed to have more meaning, that’s the one thing that humans can’t replicate.
“Nyx, you know our great-grandparents lived on the Blue Planet. And they survived with no devices. At all,” Vivya says, “Wonder what they would do if they saw you.”
“Vivya! Say sorry to your sister!” Mom purses her lips.
“But, she didn’t do anything. Actually, I wonder what they would do if they saw you,” I sneer at Vivya. At least I’m not as spoiled as her.
I stomp my way upstairs, and lie on my bed, still expecting my android dog to lie next to me. Technology has really spoiled me, I think. I take out my phone and open Messenger. I tap on my best friend’s name, almost as a reflex.
I pinch myself, he’s not your best friend anymore. I swipe left, and a pop-up asks me if I’m sure that I want to delete his contact.
My finger hovers over the delete button for a moment, before clicking no. Why can’t I forget about Kush? It’s been two months since he’s texted me. It’s been two months since I’ve texted him. A tear escapes my eye, and I wipe it away, wondering why I still care.
He knows the risks of messing with science. I knew too, which is probably why I stopped. But my heart tugs at me, telling me to go back to Kush, and resume our work.
I sigh, and go back downstairs.
“I’m going outside,” I say.
“Be back by dinner!” Mom calls out to me right before I slam the door.
“Nyxlon.” My watch beeps in recognition of its name. “Nyxlon, set a reminder at 8:00 to come home for dinner. Oh, also, activate ElectraBike!”
“Yes, ma’am. Activated,” Nyxlon buzzes, and resumes to stay silent. In a few seconds, my bike rolls up to me and I get on.
“Where would you like to go today, Nyx?” A voice similar to my watch’s comes out from the speakers embedded in the bike.
“Uh… Surprise me!” I grab the handles of the bike as it steers me through the streets of New London. I set it on pedal mode for the last mile of the trip, I didn’t exercise in a while anyway.
The bike screeches to a stop in a very familiar street. I groan, not knowing why I wanted a surprise. But, I deleted his house from existing contacts. I deleted his whole street. How?
“Nyx?” Someone’s behind me. Is that Kush? I turn around, narrowing my eyes, trying to hide the sneer that resurfaces on my face as I see my childhood friend. One that I had too many awkward moments with while growing up. And growing apart.
“Kush. What a pleasure to see you here,” I say bluntly, and get ready to leave. Fighting the urge to ask him if he’s still working on the machine, I put my helmet on.
“No!” Kush’s black hair falls into his eyes. He swipes it away, the way I’ve seen him do thousands of times. “I mean, leaving so early? You look tired, I was going to make some lemonade. Care to join me?” Kush flashes me a dazzling smile, one that I’ve gotten tricked with before. He shut you out. Don’t say yes.
“No, I should be going. Thanks, though,” I force a smile back. I wait for Kush to look disappointed, but instead he raises his eyebrows.
“Are you sure?”
“Very. Now, really. I should get going. Nyxafina,-” I get interrupted before I complete the command to the bike.
“Nyxafinia, do you mind parking yourself by the balcony? Autolock, please,” Kush commands my bike. It's weird that I named my bike after myself. I can't change it, but it sounds like I'm a bit stuck up. Am I?
“Of course, Captain Kush!” Nyxafinia replies perkily, pushing me off of it. She still remembers Kush? And not Vivya?!
“Rude,” I mutter as Kush leads me into his home. “Is your mom here?”
“You’ll see,” Kush smirks infuriatingly, and I sigh. Guess I deserve that after deserting my science partner.
“Nyx! How are you? I haven’t seen you in months! The stress from the LCAS is finally catching up to you, huh?” Kush’s mother hugs me and practically showers me with kisses. Didn’t she realize that Kush and I aren’t friends anymore?
“She was just stopping by! And, anyway-” Kush saves me from all of those questions and takes my wrist, leading me to the kitchen. I flinch at the touch, but he doesn't notice.
“Okay, I’ll be in the backyard if you need anything!” His mom shouts as we leave. Kush rolls his eyes at his mother, and I can’t stop my smile.
The kitchen looks so different. Last time I was here, the color theme was pink, not yellow and bright blue. And not as many useless devices! I touched the sticker on the wall, it was one I put up when I was six. My name got smudged a bit, but I can still see the letters.
Kush and I were practically siblings back then. The project ruined all of it. I wish it’d go away.
“I like the renovation, it's very bright!” I say, touching the walls, “When did you change it?”
“Oh! This isn’t my mom’s kitchen, it’s mine!” Kush laughs, while taking things out of the fridge.
“Your’s?” I tilt my head, confused. Since when did he have his own kitchen? When did he get interested in cooking? Why is he acting so normal? Like he didn’t do anything wrong? Like I didn’t do anything wrong?
“Yeah, mine. One too many explosions and mess-ups in the family kitchen. Do you mind passing me the lemon squeezer? To your right.” I hand him the lemon squeezer and Kush steps back. Explosions?
“It’ll take a minute or two. I want to show you something,” Kush puts down the pitcher as it works on squeezing the juice out.
He leads me upstairs and down the hallway. There are two rooms in that direction, bathroom and Kush’s room, I know that by heart.
I stay silent, wanting to know what will happen. Kush opens the door to his room, and nothing has really changed.
“Make yourself at home! And I heard that your dog died,” Kush grins, his virescent eyes asking how it happened.
“It drowned. Dare,” I diverted my gaze, looking around his room. Kush still had the billboard, the one I got him for his birthday three years ago.
Getting up, I lean closer to it. A lot of practice exams were plastered on it. Well, obviously. He’s going to be the topper in our class again. The LCAS, also known as the London Comprehensive Assessment System, is a competitive test. And I’m always second in the school.
“Huh. You’re still staying in touch with your friends?” Kush asks. I can tell what he really means, Why didn’t you keep in touch with me? I ignore the question, and look underneath the papers on his billboard, looking for the exact middle.
I gasp softly. It’s still there. He kept it.
“Y-you still have this?” I point to the little note in the middle, with pop-out stars. It says, Happy Birthday! I hope this keeps you organized, when I won’t! You better keep this neat! Or I’ll make sure you die a horrible death.
Your forever friend,
“Yeah…” Kush quickly tidies up the billboard, probably scared that I’ll stick to my promise. I frown, he must be really oblivious. Kush thinks I’ll act as if nothing ever happened? That we can be buddies again? He knows me well enough to know I won’t do that.
“Look, cut to the chase. You stop talking to me for two months, and suddenly, you invite me into your home, no warning whatsoever. I know you’re the one who messed my bike up. What’s wrong?” I pulled him away from the billboard, hating that I had to struggle to do it. Kush has gotten so tall, tall for a high-schooler at least.
He sighs, the smile falling from his face. “Nothing. I just… I don’t know.” Kush sits on the bed, with me next to him. I know Kush better than anybody, and I know when something’s bothering him.
A horrifying thought struck me, What if he figured it out? My heart starts thumping against my chest. I push the thought away, and relax. It’s impossible. He couldn’t have figured out the secret to time. No one can. I told him to stop anyway.
I stare at him, and shrug, “Look, you don’t have to tell me. I’m here, though.” Kush looks at me, his eyes pleading to tell me something.
“Nyx, I- I don’t know,” Kush shakes his head. I frown, debating on what I should do, when his lips quirk up again.
“What?” I say, clearly confused.
“Look,” Kush grins, and pushes me so I land on the bed.
“Excuse me?!” I start getting up again, when he lies down beside me and grabs my wrist. My frown deepens, but I stay still.
“Just look,” He repeats, and that was obviously some kind of code word. The ceiling lights up with a painting so vivid that for a second I thought I was looking at the night sky.
“Woah.” I reach up to touch it, even though I know the ceiling is too far away. I glance at Kush, who was staring at a specific spot in the giant mural.
Huh. I try to find what’s so special about that spot, when I see it. It has his name on it, and another on right underneath. Squinting, I see the three letters. Nyx.
“Why? Why did you shut me out, Nyx?” Kush asks with his lips pursed.
“I-I didn’t mean to. The things you were fiddling around with were too dangerous Kush! If you had been hurt, I don’t know what I would’ve done to myself!” Months of guilt, regret and anger resurface. I feel tears running down my cheeks, and this time, I don’t stop them.
“It’s not your responsibility to take care of me.” Kush softens his voice. He gets up, standing, and I do the same.
“But it is! If you die due to it, then who will take responsibility? You? Your parents that didn’t know about it in the first place? Or your best friend who helped you do it?!” I shout, hating how he’s so calm. “If you got hurt! You realize the guilt would crush me, right?!”
“Maybe I did get hurt! Just, please.” Kush pulls up his sleeve, and I see a scar stretching from his wrist to the crook of his elbow.
I stand there with my eyes wide open, and a thousand thoughts rush through my head.
When? How?! I told him to stop when I left him! I would’ve known when I was working with him. I fight the urge to touch it.
“When did this happen?” My voice softens, sounding like I ran out of breath.
“Two days before the LCAS break. You know, everyone asked about it. I would watch you, wondering if you had even noticed or not.” Kush pulls down his sleeve, and meets my eyes.
“What did you say to them?” The crying stopped, but my voice still cracked. I was so ignorant then, so selfish.
“I told them that I cut myself while cooking. They believed it,” Kush chuckles half-heartedly.
“Wait, what? You continued building it when I told you to stop? You shouldn’t fiddle with time! Not without a partner!” My hand curls up into a fist and I tell myself to calm down. Kush smiles again.
“But the thing is, I did it. I figured it out.”
- - -
“I’m sorry. What did you just say to me?” I pace, hyperventilating. “You figured it out?”
“Yes, Nyx. Get it together. I have always been better than you, don’t worry!” Kush says jokingly. I glare at him, and his grin gets wider.
“Not the time to joke, Kush!” I spin a throwing star in my fingers. I have a weird obsession with daggers and throwing stars, maybe even an addiction. Or actually, a weird obsession with pointy things.
“High levels of adrenaline and stress. Activating dart board.” My watch says, and shoots out something that looks like an SD card. It sticks to the wall, and expands into a dartboard, like I was informed.
“Thanks, Nyxolon. Nyx, throw it at the board, not me!” Kush backs away, as I throw my daggers.
“Now, let me show you. After all, you are my forever friend.”
Kush opens the secret door to our lab, and I push him away, too curious to be embarrassed. In the middle of the fairly cramped room, a beautiful contraption lies. It’s outer metal casing doesn’t look like much, but I open the door, and gasp. Kush did do it.
He made the time machine.
Prequel coming soon!