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Fantasy Romance

“What??” Aquanetta dropped the gardening spade. She goggled at Lilac. “You’re saying he didn’t know the wormhole was there??”

“No. He didn’t hear you.” Lilac twisted her hands in anguish, cowering against the doorway. “Because I stole his Stone.”

Black light flashed across Aquanetta’s eyes. This was a huge shock. Her hand pawed at her chest and found her Stone. Stones came in pairs, little multi-coloured pebbles that were linked across space and time and allowed you to communicate with the person on the other end. Axel had the Stone that was a pair with hers. But Lilac was telling her she’d stolen it? Lilac, of all people? “Why would you steal his Stone?”

Lilac started to cry. “Because I was jealous of him. Jealous that you love him and not me.”

Aquanetta stepped up to Lilac menacingly, anger bubbling inside her. “I’ve always loved you. But as a friend. Not a lover. You should know that.” She raised her hand in rage and slapped Lilac’s face. Lilac’s bouncy purple-pink curls snapped up as if zapped. “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have ripped Axel from me and caused me this much grief! You would wish for me to be happy!”

Lilac sobbed even harder, cowering against the doorframe, cradling the cheek with the angry red handprint. “That’s why I had to tell you. I never imagined a world without Axel could be this scary. I want us to be a happy family again. You can’t imagine how guilty I feel. I couldn’t live with myself any longer. One person gone, another broken, all because of me.”

“You deserve to feel guilty! You should never have sabotaged him!” Aquanetta slapped Lilac again and again. “Axel being left behind on the other side of the wormhole is all your fault! All your fault! Tell me, where is his Stone now?”

“In – in my room.” Lilac ducked out from Aquanetta’s blows, glad to have an excuse to get away, and hurried out of the room with the garden beds down the short hallway with Aquanetta close behind. She turned into her room and took out the Stone from a bundle of sheets in the corner, where it had been securely wrapped up and stuffed out of sight. She held it up to Aquanetta timidly.

“Aqua, I really am sorry – ”

“Sorry isn’t enough!” Aquanetta snatched the Stone and bolted out of the door back to the room with the garden beds. She collapsed onto the bench and buried her face in her hands.

So Lilac had stolen Axel’s Stone. That was why he didn’t hear her screaming at him that there was a wormhole. That was why he kept flying straight forward. Not because of stubbornness or pride. The scenes of the day they were separated, three weeks back, flashed across her mind…

Jerking awake to Lilac’s screams. “The plants are tying down the ship! We have to fly away before we’re rooted down and killed! Quickly!” Shaking the sleep from her eyes and scrambling up. Lilac had been on watch. Why would she realise so late that the plants had started attacking them again? Did she doze off? No time to think about it. Snatching up her knife and running out one of the doors to hack at the roots and tendrils snaking around the ship. Axel racing to the pilot room and shouting over his shoulder, “That’s enough! Get back inside! You can’t cut them nearly as quick as they grow. We need to leave now!” Hurrying back inside, slamming the door. Rushing to the rearmost room and planting herself in front of the back window, sheathing her knife while taking out her bow and arrow. Lilac scrambling up beside her. Axel starting up the ship with a whir, all the way on the other side of the ship in the pilot’s room. Rising into the air with difficulty, the plants snagging them down and more reaching for them. Shooting wildly alongside Lilac, severing many only to have more replace them. Seeing the wormhole. It looked like the thrashing of an enraged plant, but it was a wormhole. Space warping and stretching and tearing. “Axel! There’s a wormhole! Fly through that! It’s our best chance of escape from the plants!” Not hearing a response; only a queer echo of her own voice. Continuing to fly straight forward at the same 45-degree angle. “Axel!! Turn!!” Flying past the wormhole. More and more plants latching onto the ship, whipping their glossy tendrils around it, squeezing until it creaked dangerously, dragging it down. Frantically shooting them down, only to have more replace them. Wondering why Axel didn’t answer? Why he didn’t turn? The wormhole was their best chance of escape! Didn’t he know that? Or was he being stubborn, yet again? Always doing things his own way? “Axel!!” Her voice cracking. “You’re going to kill us!” Hearing nothing but the same queer echo. Lilac screaming beside her. “Aqua, we’re going to have to separate and jump through the wormhole ourselves! There’s no time to go and tell him to turn around. Either the plants will drag us down by then, or the wormhole will close, or both!” Reluctantly admitting that Lilac was right. Staggering to the emergency keypad and entering the never-before-used four-digit code. Detaching from the other half of the ship. Activating the separate fuel cells and steering wheel. Throwing herself against the steering wheel on the other side of the room and dragging the ship around with difficulty. Revving up and shooting towards the wormhole. Leaping into it just before it shut with a whir. Being sucked into a dizzying whirlpool of colours and warping spaces. Being spewed out into a dark, silent ocean. Where, mercifully, there weren’t any plants. Shocked by the sudden absence of sound. Collapsing against the steering wheel and wearily steering up until they broke the surface. Slowly chugging to a tiny rocky outcrop in the middle of that vast, blue, silent nowhere. Where they were now.

They had designed the ship so it could separate cleanly into two halves if they ever had the desperate need to split up. In the middle, there was a large room with a garden bed which was divided into two by a wall so if they had to separate, both halves of the ship would still have garden beds. There was a pilot room on either end. In between the pilot room and room with the garden beds was a short corridor with a kitchen on one side and two bedrooms on the other. This was the same for both sides of the ship.

Aquanetta, Lilac and Axel lived in a time when plants had taken over the planet and sought and killed all humans and other animals. They were obliged to change the spot they landed in in their ship every couple of days, to lessen the chances that the plants had of sensing them. The safest places to be would be either in the sky or on the sea, where there weren’t plants, but their ship couldn’t fly or stay in water for long periods of time. So, they had to stay on land. But every inch of land was covered by plants. They took turns every night to be on watch, in case the plants mounted a surprise attack.

The night they were separated, it had been Lilac’s turn to be on watch. She must have taken Axel’s Stone while he was fast asleep. And then when she finally alerted them to the attack of the plants, he wouldn’t have had time to give it any thought, all his concentration needed for the panicked escape.

Lilac had stolen his Stone. That was why he didn’t turn around; not because of arrogance or pride, but because he didn’t know the wormhole was there at all. Because he hadn’t been able to hear Aquanetta. To him, concentrated on flying as he was, the wormhole must have just looked like the enraged thrashing of a plant. Aquanetta had thought, for a full three weeks, that he didn’t turn around because he had been too stubborn. Always doing things his own way. As he saw best. Such a proud, haughty person. If only he hadn’t been so stubborn. If only he’d listened to her. She’d tried to dull her excruciating guilt at leaving him by pushing the blame onto him. You shouldn’t have been so arrogant. It’s your own fault we had to leave you behind. It was doomed to happen eventually, what with that uncooperative attitude of yours.

But try as she might, she could not prevent herself from being ravaged by intense guilt. She should’ve somehow taken him with her when she and Lilac jumped through the wormhole. She shouldn’t have left him behind. How could she have been so selfish? Leaving him for a painful death by the plants and saving herself instead? Driven mad by guilt, she’d screamed into her Stone, “Axel! Axel! Axel!” But there was never any reply except for the queer echo. How could Axel not hear her? Had he lost his Stone? Was it malfunctioning somehow? Axel! She missed him so much. Loved him so much. Why had she left him behind?

Underneath it all was a frustration and resentment towards Lilac. Had it really been necessary for them to separate? Why hadn’t Lilac trusted Axel to fly them out of the forest of plants alive? Lilac hadn’t had any belief in him. But then again, why hadn’t she herself been confident in Axel? Why had she entered that code to split the ship in half? Why hadn’t she stuck with him?

Fault, fault, fault! She’d been driven to the verge of madness by this constant cycle of blame. Every day since their separation, she had done nothing but absent-mindedly poke at the garden beds for a few hours then distractedly make a few arrows in the attempt to replace all the ones they’d spent shooting at the plants, while grief and guilt ate away at her insides.

But now Lilac had told her that she had stolen Axel’s Stone. That changed everything. Axel hadn’t been stubborn; he hadn’t even known the wormhole was there. It hadn’t been her own fault; she’d had no way of knowing his Stone hadn’t been with him. It was Lilac’s fault.

Lilac, of all people? (Not that they saw many other people nowadays anyway.) Lilac, with her bouncy purple-pink curls, round purple-pink eyes, purple-pink freckles that looked like she’d drawn on her face with a marker. Shy, timid, clumsy, friendly, though nevertheless often playful and bouncy and loud. So timid and kind-hearted that she couldn’t even kill a fly. The girl who Aquanetta loved like a little sister. And now she’d gone off and betrayed her and Axel like this? A rage built in Aquanetta. She should kick her out of the ship! Let her starve to death on this rocky outcrop in the middle of nowhere! She deserved it!

But then she remembered why Lilac had decided to spill to her, unheeding to the anger that was certain to be unleashed on her. “I never imagined a world without Axel could be this scary… You can’t imagine how guilty I feel. I couldn’t live with myself any longer.” If she hurt Lilac now, wouldn’t she end up the same way with the passing of time? In a couple of weeks, maybe? Especially if she kicked her off the ship or killed her in rage in some other way. She would be driven mad by guilt and loneliness. She wouldn’t be able to live with herself any longer. No. She couldn’t take out her anger on Lilac. She could show Lilac the full extent of her anger at her betrayal later, somehow, when she wasn’t so hot with rage. Right now, her first and foremost goal should be to find Axel again.

Aquanetta took a deep breath. She gazed at Axel’s Stone for a few moments as it lay in her palm. It was no bigger than a pebble. Its colours shifted constantly; now turquoise, now deep blue, now inky black dotted with glittering stars. Wisps of cloud wafted across the surface. Underneath was an immeasurable depth leading to other regions of space and time. She picked up its broken string, threaded it through the tiny hole at the top of the Stone, tied it around her neck and laid the Stone on her chest next to her own. Then she strode out of the room with the garden beds and into Lilac’s room. Lilac lay on the bed, sobbing quietly.

“You’re going to help me find Axel again.”

Lilac looked up in surprise. “You’re – you’re not angry at me?” Then she sensed the stupidity in her words and swallowed. “You’re not going to kill me?”

“No.” Aquanetta stalked into the room and sat down at the desk. She cast a scathing look over her shoulder. “I don’t want to end up like you; all guilt-ridden and unhappy. But don’t think I’ve forgiven you. Because I haven’t. I don’t forgive that easily.” She shuffled a few pieces of paper and picked up a pencil. “You’re going to help me find Axel. Now, I think the best course of action would be to go back to the place underwater where we were ejected by the wormhole. We’ll wait for the wormhole to open up again, and when it does, we’ll go back to the forest of plants. From there, we can look for traces of Alex and track him down.”

Lilac picked herself up from the bed and sat down on the other chair by the desk, next to Aquanetta. “But we have no way of knowing when the wormhole will open,” she said timidly. “The ship can’t stay submerged in water for extended periods of time. And sometimes – ” She swallowed and her voice shrank. “A wormhole opening up in the same place won’t even lead to the same other end as it did before. We could be spewed out into a strange world without any way of getting back until another wormhole opens.”

“For the problem of water…” Aquanetta swallowed. She’d forgotten their ship couldn’t stay in water. “I guess we can wait here. We’ll be able to see the wormhole when it opens anyway because of the disturbances it’ll cause in the otherwise exceptionally calm water. We’ll just have to race over extra quick as soon as we see it. As for the problem of the wormhole, do you have any better ideas?”

“N-no.”

“Ok. That’s the plan we’ll follow, then.” As Aquanetta stood up and prepared to head out of the room, her hand strayed to the Stones lying against her chest. “These Stones will also be able to help us find him.”

“How do you know he’s even still alive?” Lilac whispered.

“If he’d been killed, his Stone would die too, and then so would mine.” Suddenly scared, Aquanetta looked down at the Stones. But they had not dulled and dimmed; still they glowed with ethereal beauty and ever shifting colours. She breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ll start the ship and steer to the edge of this island. You go make sure the garden beds are properly secured down and that we have an abundant and safe food supply. We can make some more arrows while we wait for the wormhole to open again.”

Lilac scrambled up and pulled on Aquanetta’s sleeve beseechingly. “Aqua, I really am sorry!” Words spilled out of her mouth and tears spilled out of her eyes. “I don’t know what I did. Hate and jealousy overcame me. In truth, I love Axel too. Just at that moment, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I regret it so much now. Only when I’d ripped him away did I realise how scary it is to have blood on your hands. How heartbreaking a torn-up family is. I would give anything for us to be a happy family again.”

“Well, now you know not to hurt anyone like that ever again. Because it hurts you just as much, does it not?” Aquanetta strode towards the pilot’s room, the same rearmost room that she and Lilac had shot at the plants out of three weeks ago. “Now go check on the garden beds and the food store while I steer the ship.”

As Aquanetta sat down in front of the steering wheel, she mulled over what situation Axel would be in now. At least she was certain he was still alive. But was he injured? Held captive by the plants? Moreover, how had he felt, how was he feeling, about being left behind? Rage? Despair? Betrayal? Loneliness? And what would his reaction be when he learnt of Lilac’s horrible deed?

Aquanetta shook her head. Thinking too much again. First things first, they had to find him. Her hands leapt over the controls and the ship started up with a whir.

“I’m coming, Axel.”

October 03, 2020 03:27

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