Cathartic Nightmare: [Tale of Souls] Intro – Prologue – Chapter One
I thought I was going to know everything about my future. That understanding it all by living through it was going to make shit easier. Looking back on that I obviously was entirely wrong on that one. So much for taking a gamble on the future and losing it all.
The fact that I was ripped from existence and made into a monster doesn’t help with story progression either. I guess you could say I tripled the government’s bounty on that one. They got more than they bargained for when they screwed with me.
Don’t let anyone tell you that 2.5 kids in Upper Minneapolis and having a White Collar Job by the time you’re 30 is the dream. I’m no “YUPPIE” from Dinkytown, I’m just a Gen Y/Millenial who got roped into being the new toy for a government weapon program. There’s no reset button on this console man, you’re just stuck in the hamster wheel of life.
Why was I a weapon? Why did they take a “sweet innocent girl” and turn her into several different facets that were no longer the same gender – maybe even a monster or two? We’ll never know (lies) – We’ll JUST NEVER KNOW! Ok, we do know, and there’s only so many spoilers I can give you before things turn to dust.
Spoiler Alert: If we don’t fix everything by the time you get that “Dream” – everything falls apart. No shoving a primal beast inside a magical sphere is going to save your ass this time. It will just be pitch black, empty and everything dead.
I’m Justin David Terrance, aka Justin Terrance Hotchstettler – and yea, I used to be Lillian Merideth Hotchstettler – and this is our story.
For all the good in the world, you couldn’t pay me enough to get through math class. That’s when all of this started. Algebra class, sometime in my teenage years – I was a bit behind in my numbers so I was in the lower end class. I’d sit with my packet of instant noodles, the flavor packet opened and dusted on the raw noodles – munching and staring at the damn page.
“Lily, can you give us the answer to 2a?” The teacher obviously gets that I don’t know my shit. The teacher REALLY knows I have ADHD so I can’t even focus on the numbers in front of me – but it’s high school so who cares?
“Yes. 2a, on your exercise sheet.”
Class of 2 million years from now at this point, I’m meant to graduate by 2001 at this stage..
“You can’t be serious.” She, the teacher, seemed just about ready to stab me with a pencil through my right eye now. We were rowdy class, but at age fifteen who gives a flying cow shit on how you’re engaging in a boring math class?
Don’t answer that one. Two of my best friends were in the normal math classes getting passing grades, and were always coming home with reasonable report cards. I just wanted to put my headphones on, listen to Blink 182, TLC and scarily – Hanson and Backstreet Boys just to get through the day.
“I honestly, I don’t recall the answer ma’am. I’m sorry.” I was being honest, and the amount of anxiety building up in my facial expressions made you wonder if i’d maybe just shit my pants trying to figure out the answer.
The kid next to me was trying to figure the answer out to help me, and the kid across from me was mocking me for the pained expression on my face. Worse off, something wasn’t right – something was stirring in my brain I couldn’t control. It wasn’t a panic attack. It wasn’t an asthma attack.
“Arthur, can you help Lily understand the problem in front of her?” The teacher sighed and moved onto the next answer and picked another student. I faced the kid next to me, Arthur to the right of me and tried to understand the paper in front of me. The logic of it was giving me a headache. Yet the headache wasn’t the only thing brewing.
Things went black, things started swirling. Thunk, and I can’t feel a thing. My face hit splat on the desk in front of me, without any warning. Well, I guess I had some warning when I couldn’t form two words to explain the letter disguising the answer to the problem in front of me. I suffer from some weird “condition” that causes visions of just about everything – the doc tried to call it narcolepsy with dreams.
I also don’t even have to scuff my feet and I get shocked, not even static shock – like I’ve burned skin off just walking to a door to open it. No, the telepathic professor hasn’t even considered sending my parents an email to tell them that I could get copyrighted by Disney just for existing and get tons of royalties for it. No, nobody’s even talked to us as far as I know. We’re dirt poor, my mom’s divorced – and she’s working three jobs to pay off the damn debt my dad left us.
What’s the vision you ask? Is it a trip to see the rabbit hole, and meet Alice? Am I visiting long never visited exo-planets that let you breathe without oxygen? Not so fast Issac Asimov and Lewis Caroll, nothing ever that intelligent or brilliant. Usually it’s some oddball vision of things to come, and it’s never pretty. Future visions don’t mean I can tell YOUR future to you, just that I see general things in vague detail. Then I usually shock myself electrically half to death somehow with nothing around me and wake up in my bedroom, at mom’s place.
This time, maybe it wasn’t forward, maybe it was backward. I heard of someone in my ‘dreams’ doing some sort of timeline bunny hop – but this isn’t the same thing.
“Hey Sparky, what’d you eat for dinner, cause you passed out again.”
Voices, something you think comes from inside your head – voices that you swear you’ve never heard before. Only you’ve been here before, you realize that you’re losing the plot and this was that vision thing again. They’ve been going backwards because we’ve been losing the fight to save the world from everything. I can’t keep up with this, it’s like having epilepsy but you’re moving forwards and backwards in time. There was once where I’d have no trouble, but in light of everything around me – something changed.
“Hey, you wake up – you passed out again.”
“He’s not listening, what do I do?”
“He can see us right?”
“WAKE UP OR I’M WRITING THE DIVORCE PAPERS IN COTTAGE CHEESE AND PINEAPPLE THIS TIME”
I feel like I died and just got shocked back into breathing. The aspect of my life force, my soul and everything else returns to the same moment I’m existing in. I sat up, I rubbed my eyes and looked around. I pawed at my face, I pawed at my legs, I PAWED AT MY CROTCH – Because these visions lie to me sometimes. I pawed at the asshole threatening me with food to paper divorce settlement. I pawed at him again for good measure, stuck a finger up his left nostril and sat waiting for the room to stop spinning. I’m obviously not getting any younger and these things are starting to do weird things to my head.
“By the way the answer was, a2 – b2 = (a – b)(a + b).”
Blonde hair, golden eyes. Pointy ears and some sort of scarred star tattoo over his right eye. Asian features, as if maybe he hailed from Japan. Not one for assuming gender, but this one I actually know for sure. We’ve had rings on our respective fingers for five years. Gay marriage legal for just about that long maybe longer.
“You’re an asshole for leaving us like that again.”
That voice, that one sounds like mine. That isn’t the pointy eared cottage cheese wielding asshole. I’ve heard variations of the same voice apart from the pineapple obsessor in front of me.
“Rana, stop calling your brother an asshole. That’s my job.”
My eyes weren’t open all the way but I was accustomed to blind reading faces in front of me by now due to all these crazy vision problems. I figured if I pawed at what and who else was in front of me this time just to get a “feel” for what’s around me.
I didn’t get my hand two inches from the next face before the individual responding tried to break my hand in two. The other one screaming at me and calling me an asshole grabbed my hand and made me feel all over his face. So by the end of the day I’m going to have NO left hand, and a severely germ ridden right hand.
The one that shares a ring? He said brother. The ones that share a voice with me, they’re like brothers. We’re all from the same source, and while you could say that’s our mother’s room- you’d be mostly right. We’re not “triplets” in the born from the womb sense, we were all one person once. We all had to share that vision of the algebra equation – we were all the one individual in that classroom.
“GET YOUR HAND OUT OF MY FACE JERKWAD.”
“WELL MAYBE IF YOU WOULDN’T TRY AND BREAK IT BEFORE I OPEN MY EYES AND GIVE MYSELF A MIGRAINE RYAN I WOULDN’T HAVE TO PAW AT IT.” I yelled, it was the only thing I usually did in this situation. All three of us are male, and the female source has been MIA in the fight for a few years. You could call it a god send, and that we all wished to be male from day one – but we weren’t given a choice in any of it.
“Stop yelling, it’s not helping anyone.”
The one with the ring? My husband? Saitou Fujiwara. Not of this world, surprisingly, and no I’m not talking about how Gay he is. Nothing’s cut and dry, SETI seems to think that we’re the dumbest race around here – but the fight for humanity still rages on.
“Sai, how long was I out?” I quietly started to open my eyes with my hand over them to shade the overbearing lava lamp infested room I woke up in. I’m not even sure who’s room I’m in, or if there are actual lava lamps. All I know is my sight returning makes everything look like lumps of lava lamp goo.
“You’re not even sure this time how long you were out, show some damn respect to your own family.” Another voice, similar to mine – grittier. Taking a whiff of your own family is never an answer, this one smells of cigarettes and stale oreos. Sai smells like sandalwood and Old Spice. The one I called Ryan, smells like a Wolf and Dippin dots. The one they called Rana smells like doritos and stale mountain dew. Sai sometimes smells good, today he smells like my dad – and that’s starting to creep me out!
“Kristoff, you haven’t a need to be that rude come on.” Sai walked away from me, I could sense him moving away – my sight wasn’t so good for minutes after waking up, things were blurry but not so blobby. “We’ll put things right and find a way through this. Let your brother wake up, we’ll dissect this and get it all sorted.”
“You wanna run that shit past me again? You said that to him the last six times, and three of those I wasn’t around in this form. The next six you’re gonna wait until he splits into ten more and finds even more excuses.” Kristoff, isn’t… that Rana’s middle name? I’m so confused.
“How long have I been gone?” I Asked again. I rubbed my eyes, scratched my head and looked up at everyone in front of me. I feel like I’ve had a hangover for a decade. “How long have I Been stuck in this current loop?”
“Well the first answer to that question is another question – what was the last thing you saw?” Ryan sat in front of me, assuming I wasn’t going to poke a finger up his nose like I did to Sai. Lucky for him, I value the use of my fingers now – and don’t want a broken hand. Rather, two broken hands.
“Besides the utter darkness at the end of every single one of them, watching everyone die and coming back after that and watching you guys scream at me? Algebra class. I’m going backwards not forwards this time. Did someone else rub off on me? Am i now the bunny hopping trixter walking the lines of time?” I probably didn’t quite understand what I was referencing, but half the time when I wake up from this shit I don’t.
“Oh fuck.” Sai walked back over and pushed Ryan out of the way. “I was only joking about the answers. I didn’t actually think you’d gone back that far.”
“At the time I felt like I was going forward, maybe next time meet myself in the middle and ask myself where the nearest turnpike is.” I rubbed my temples, and put a hand on his shoulder and sighed. “ I don’t have an answer to details anymore and you know that – All i see is what’s in front of me and I don’t have a chance to tell myself not to sync and engage.”
“We’ll get you sorted, I swear.”
“You, honestly keep fixing it and saying it’s me -but it’s not just me.” I stood up and looked around at my surroundings. Something wasn’t right with the scenario. Something was missing.
” What’s up ?!?” Sai looked at me in confusion. Indeed something was missing. Everytime I came back to this time there was more. More information, more people and more direction. What the hell have I walked into this time around?!
There is a window just a few feet from me. Normally when I come back, it isn’t there. Ah, maybe I’ve died, maybe we lost entirely. Lost what, you ask? A war. Not just on my sanity, but humankind as well as a selection of otherworldly entities.
Those that look and sound like me are due to an alchemical experiment. Candidates tied into a military program. A program that lied to parents, individuals and the government itself. No, I’m not a programmed jewish space lazer trying to overthrow the orange party.
” We hit a snag in the process of time. We lost the haven before a pandemic hit. ” Kristoff stood by the window, punching the wooden frame as he stared outside in frustration. ” We had to gather in small parties of five and find places to go before shit hit the fan. Literally.”
Pandemic? Flu ? Measles? Every Time I got here it was the haven right before the big fight. Typical that it was always about domination and resources control. So this new war must be more dangerous, not just physical but mental.
” I’m lost. Full details please. ” I walked to the window and tried not to barf at the stench of cigarettes. ” When did you start smoking again?”
” I’m not from this time, I never quit. ” Kristoff started coughing and wheezing. I panicked. It’s a pandemic? “Asthma, not the viral pandemic.”
” What do you mean by not this time? I mean you’re me right ? ” I put my hand on his shoulder and tried to reason with him to get information.
” The version of me from this time is 6’5 and has reddish hair. Green eyes and doesn’t understand the war any better than Lily herself. In my time he exists but in a sense I’m you in that time. It’s confusing.” He wasn’t going to tell me anything about the current situation, let alone the one he endured to get here.
“So i’m just supposed to take you at face value and let you go.”
“Why the hell not, I mean you took your sweet time getting back here. Everyone’s not just at risk from this fucking war – but being stuck in alternate realities and timelines where a pandemic is crippling everyone.” Kristoff snarled, “AND GOD DAMMIT I CAN’T EVEN GET THE CIGARETTES I WANTED AT THE STORE LAST TIME!”
“Nobody’s explaining everything, did we lose the war? What is this pandemic – where the fuck am I? “ I was starting to get another headache, which either meant I was straining my head too much in this situation, or something else was starting to come back. If it’s another vision, they can fuck off and suck my nuts.
“The Pandemic, we’re losing because of an orange rind sack of utter shit that got in power in the last four years, The War? If we don’t get ahead in the game everything will be gone. Kaput, merged into one timeline and where one race dominates.” Ryan sighed and stood next to Kristoff for a moment, “We’re losing because we were trying to get you out of trouble and instead we grabbed this dipshit out of a portal.”
“Yea if we lose, you lose the sane version of me. You gain the weaponized me that will murder you in your sleep” Kristoff sighed and punched the frame of the window again.
“Ahem, aren’t all four of us an assemblance of weaponry?” I peered out the window noticing a large protest happening down the block. We must be somewhere familiar, I should’ve asked where we were -but half of my mind still thinks this is a forwards not backwards vision. If this is even a vision anymore.
To listen into music that inspired this please use this spotify playlist: