“Really? That long?” Alexus asked dumbfoundedly.
“Yea, we weren’t planning on sleeping for so long. Honestly, the first time we woke up, I was surprised that we had been sleeping for forty-nine years. I didn’t even know that was even possible, but now. I’m not as surprised as I was in the past.” She threw up her head into the sky, closing her eyes as she stood there in silence.
Alexus wondered what she was thinking. There was a time like this when he noticed that she was deep in her thoughts, thinking about many things until she found an answer to her questions. Other times, it was more of a stress-relieving act, and all he could do was stay silent for her. Pushing her to answer would usually result in an angry outburst, and the best way to deal with her was to give her space when she was in this mood.
“Never mind, there’s no point in thinking about something we don’t know the answer to.” Crystal waved her hand in front of her. She then picked up her bag and put it on her back. “This whole time since I woke up, I thought we were out in the real world. How could I forget that it wasn’t so when we woke up last time.” She wasn’t too happy that such thoughts slipped her mind, but that didn’t stop her from trudging forward through the debris.
Alexus grabbed his bag of supplies and wrapped it around his shoulders as if he was going to school. Then, taking quick steps toward her, he walked next to her as they made their way out of the Garden.
“Do you know where we need to go?” Alexus asked, hoping that she knew the answer.
“Not really, but we might have some answers if we go on up and check out what’s going on.”
“Sure.” It was better than staying down here in death and destruction. Alexus knew he would’ve gone a bit insane from staying here for too long. As they walked up the uneven stairs, they went through the catwalk and toward the busted-up metal doors. It was still the same shape from when the mechanical dogs tore their way through.
They continued forward, passing the dirty hallway plastered with dirt, water stains, and even mold. The lights were flickering on and off, making it difficult to see inside the dark hallways, but they eventually made their way to the lobby.
Even the lobby looked like it was ransacked and destroyed to smithereens. The sofas were torn, the tables were in pieces, and debris was littered everywhere. There were even bullet holes in the wall, telling them that there was some kind of fight that had happened here.
The glass door was shattered, and dead bodies were scattered around the floor, wearing Dragon Scales. Some were entangled with hideous skeletal creatures that looked straight out of the fantasy books. It was pretty unnerving to see such beings out in the open, making him wonder what happened.
“This place gives me the creeps.” Crystal spoke in a low voice. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like how this turns out. There is way too much death in one spot, making it too heavily concentrated in dark energy. At this rate, I’m a bit worried at what might be crawling around here.”
The thought of meeting a demon when they just woke up wasn’t in their favor. Both Alexus and Crystal were still weak, unable to move like their old selves. He was sure that he had barely any muscles from sleeping that long.
“Let’s hope we don’t meet anything,” Alexus said back in a whisper. The thought of a demon crawling around made them walk as silently as possible.
It was a silent catwalk that both Crystal and he took; their heads snapped from side to side, listening to any possible movement or sound. They didn’t know what was still inside the building, even if it looked abandoned.
Stepping out the broken glass sliding door that still beeped when they came forward, they exited the building and stopped. What welcomed them was destruction. The city of Chicago was in ruins. It was as if Godzilla had come through and smashed against the buildings, causing them to be shattered. All the buildings near Seventh Sanctum were flattened entirely or destroyed by some force. There were streaks of claw marks on some of them, telling him that it was done by some creature rather than a man-made bomb.
Cars were upturned, poles were bent, windows broken as the stores were ransacked. Thousands of dirty papers were littered everywhere on the floor, while quite a few flew through the air as the wind blew past them. The high pitch whistling sound of the wind was loud as it blew through the cavity of the building holes. What’s left of the city lights buzzed on, telling them that it was quickly becoming night.
Alexus knew that staying out here in the dark wasn’t a good idea, but to see so much destruction around them was mind-boggling. His gaze searched for any signs of life, but there wasn’t a single movement.
“It’s too quiet,” Alexus spoke. “Something is not right.” When he looked over his shoulders, he saw Crystal was white as a sheet, staring out, unable to speak.
“It happened.” Her words were strained, almost a whisper that Alexus barely caught it.
“What happened?” Alexus asked slowly, not sure what she was getting at.
“My dream came true.”
“You’re a dream?”
“I had a vision….” Crystal gazed around quickly, stepping outside in a hurry. She was busily looking around, trying to take it all in, but her expression turned into more worrisome creases. “No….No…” She shook her head and flopped onto the ground, lifeless like a doll.
“Crystal!?” Alexus ran over, worried about her mental health. The thought of seeing her so distraught over a dream worried him.
Crystal’s eyes glossed over as if she was staring into space; he got on his knees, putting his hand around her shoulder. Something was wrong, and he knew that he had to snap her out of her weird depressive trance. Snapping his fingers in front of her face, he tried to get her to react. When she didn’t answer, he placed his hand on her shoulder and started to shake her.
At first, she didn’t respond. It took a couple of tries to get her eyes to have some life in them as she stared back at Alexus. Finally, blinking a couple of times, she shook her head slowly and glanced around. Then, she closed her eyes with a heavy sigh, staring up into the sky.
“Crystal. Are you alright?” Alexus asked again.
“Yes.” She responded, bringing back her attention to him.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, thank you, Alexus. I’m fine.” She raised her hands and used his shoulders to get back up on her feet.
“Can you explain to me what exactly you are talking about? Freaking out like that has me a bit worried.”
“It’s my dream, Alexus. It came true.”
“A dream is just a dream. Are you sure you’re not looking too much into your dreams?”
Crystal sighed, shaking her head. She was finally standing on her own two feet, while Alexus stood next to her like a brooding mother hen, worried she might go into another strange episode.
“My dreams at times come into reality. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true.” She replied. “It’s a gift I had when I was a child; I could foretell the death of my grandparents and the people around me. People called me the grim reaper as a child because I would always end beside the dying person’s bed. Not even a couple hours, and they would pass away.”
Alexus was bewildered by what he was hearing. The thought of being able to sense when someone died was a bit unnerving but at the same time fascinating. To have the strange magical gifts that all Ouroboros had was considered illogical; having one more wasn’t any different.
“That is some scary but interesting ability.” Alexus blurted out without thinking twice.
“Interesting?” Crystal was caught off guard by what he had said, making him feel stupid for blurting it out. “How is that interesting? Don’t you find it repulsive?”
Shifting his weight, he answered what was in his mind. “Not really; it’s just a vision of death, right? You’ll know when a person’s time is up.”
“Well, you can look at it in two ways. The first is the way everybody sees it.”
“That’s a bad omen, and you should be kept far away.”
Crystal flinched when Alexus had said such words, making her lips tighten up into a thin line as her body slightly slumped forward.
“Or, you can see it as a last comfort from the dying person. Well, especially for the old people who need some comfort to pass on to the afterlife. So many people out there are scared of dying, and they don’t always want to be alone. You being there gives them comfort. Even the people who can’t be saved on time is the same thing.”
Crystal thought over what Alexus had said, “but I could’ve saved them. Especially the people who died from an accident.”
“You could.” Alexus nodded, “but sometimes you might not be able to stop it.”
The thought of changing someone’s fate sounded cool, but for that to happen, he had a feeling that something of equal value must replace it for a change. He didn’t know why or how he knew this, but he had a feeling that this was the truth.
“So, you’re saying I shouldn’t save people?”
“Absolutely not,” Alexus replied with some stress that he didn’t expect. “If you feel like saving them or warning them, please go ahead. It’s really up to the person that takes your warning to heart that can stop it from happening. Even still, once you save someone, their future is changed. When the change happens, it affects everyone who meets them from henceforward. Meaning that another death could happen because you saved that person’s life or the other way around.”
“I see.” Crystal was thinking over what he had said.
“Everything has a consequence, even if we don’t see it now.” For some reason, he felt like he was some spiritual guru at this moment, making him feel a bit embarrassed at what he was telling her.
“You have some valuable points, though….” She replied with a heavy heart. “It’s something I can’t just stop on my own, and it got a lot worse when I turned into an Ouroboros. So I’m not sure if it’s a gift or a curse.”
“It depends on how you perceive it,” Alexus replied. “You can make it a curse or a blessing.”
“You know,” She gazed up towards him. “I didn’t think you were much of the positive type.”
Alexus frowned, “I’m not always am. It’s a work in progress, you know.”
Crystal giggled, covering her hands over her lips. The way she giggled looked adorable that he almost reached over and petted her. He had to stop himself from doing something that would ruin the whole mood and just stood there embarrassed.
“I know.” She replied. Alexus saw the corner of her lips raise simultaneously one of her brows.
“Well then, instead of thinking about such depressing thoughts, let’s move on.”
Crystal snapped back to her serious mode, nodding her head in agreement. They once again started walking out into the desolate city streets.
The further they walked away from the destruction of the Seventh Sanctum, the buildings were a little more intact. They were more streaks of claw marks that seemed to go in a horizontal line, like when a child wanted to feel everything around him while walking.
Crystal suddenly stopped, causing Alexus to freeze. She glanced around quickly until she finally moved again.
“The better question is, what the hell caused it?” The only answer that popped into Alexus’s head was demons, but even something this big and possibly powerful was unheard of. Almost too fantastical that it didn’t even register in his mind.
“I don’t know. It could be anything, but my only guess is a demon.” She replied. “There aren’t many supernatural creatures out there but demons. Though, aliens could be a possibility….” Her voice trailed off.
“I’m not so sure about that.” Alexus’s brows raised as he stared at her funny. “I understand Seventh Sanctum had found ancient tech, but aliens invading earth sounds a bit of a stretch. But, on the other hand, a demon wreaking havoc sounds closer to reality than that.”
“Like I said, it’s still a possibility.”
The thought of aliens coming down to earth sounded a bit far-fetched, but the Dragon Scale armor was made from foreign technology that none of them knew much of. Who knows what was out there in the universe, but dealing with demons was already a handful. Anything more was a headache, and he wasn’t sure how humanity would deal with it, especially when they were having troubles with demons themselves.
“It’s getting dark; we need to fight shelter.”
“Agreed, though I might know of a place we could stay the night. It’s not too far away from here.”
“Near John Hancock building, if it’s still there,” Alexus replied, hoping that it was still standing. But, from all this destruction that was apparent all around them, he wouldn’t be surprised if it was knocked down like every building he saw.
“That’s like a twenty-minute drive, Alexus.” Crystal frowned at the thought of going so far. “It would probably take us an hour to get there.”
“I know, but I don’t know anywhere else but there. I don’t know about you, but I want to stay as far away from Seventh Sanctum as possible. Who knows what kind of demon was trying to claw its way into the Garden. It could still be out there, you know.”
“I highly doubt that. The amount of wreckage it had done looks a couple of years old, meaning whatever was left a while ago.” Crystal objected, “Though, the dark energy left behind in the building is bad. The amount of demons it would attract is highly probable.”
“See, even you don’t think it’s safe. The further away from the place, the safer we will be.”
Crystal thought over what Alexus had said; she slowly nodded, rubbing her fingers together.
“You got the point. I didn’t know much about Chicago because I stayed most of the time indoors. So, street names and directions in this city are blank to me. I always had someone with me on that aspect.” She motioned for him to go forward, and he stepped past her. “Lead the way.”
Alexus took point, observing his surroundings. The creepy desolate atmosphere made the whole walk towards our destination mind-boggling and exhausting; in every nook and corner, they whipped around to ensure that nothing was following us. They both had their gun or sword drawn the majority of the way, tensed that something might pop out from the shadows.
Whenever they heard something crack or shuffle, they snapped out their weapons and pointed in that direction, hoping that it wasn’t anything dangerous. But, so far, nothing was there but the bustling sound of the trash lid flapping up and down from the wind.
It was then that Alexus saw a shadow dart across the streets. They both froze; they knew that wasn’t something a wind could do. It was too fast; whatever it was could be dangerous.
The shadow darted past them like lightning, making its way into the alleyway.
I motioned his head towards where the shadow had gone into. Crystal shook her head, telling him it was a bad idea to follow. Slowly, he nodded, completely agreeing with her. There was a time and a place to check things, but this wasn’t one of those times. They didn’t know what it could be or how many other beings were there if they followed the shadow into the dark alleyway.
It was a classic Hollywood scenario that always had something terrible happen to the main or side characters. Especially the side characters. They always somehow end up hurt or, worse, dead.
“Let’s get out of here.” Alexus quickly worded so she could only hear.
“Yea.” She whispered back.
They continued onwards, leaving behind the shadow in its dark alleyway, and started to power-walked away from danger as quickly as possible.
The sunlight was quickly setting, making it that worrisome to stay out late at night. Both Crystal and Alexus knew that demons particularly liked to prowl around nighttime, and staying past sunset was a bad idea.
“How much further?”
Alexus glanced up, searching for a street sign. Instead, he saw faded words on the broken green sign that wrote W North Ave and the other N Clark St.
“We’re about twenty minutes out.”
“Twenty minutes is a long walk.” Crystal bites her lower lips. “We need to get to safety before the sun completely sets. I don’t like how we’re out here like this.”
“I know, but we’re almost there.”
They holstered their weapons and started in a light jog. The Dragon Scale suit helped regulate their speed and motion and even kept our bodies from overstraining through the motion. Whenever they began to pick up too high of a pace, especially in our weakened state, it would beep, warning them to slow down.
The city quickly became dark as street lights flickered on. A small handful of them still working, giving them enough light to see in the darkness. Still, the jarring contrast between light and dark made it difficult for their eyes to adjust and see.
“Yea?” She spoke from behind Alexus, observing everywhere around them.
“Is there a night vision function on this suit?”
Crystal was silent for a moment, then she spoke. “Sorry, no. I didn’t have enough time to finish working with Timothy on that aspect yet.”
“Seriously?” Alexus frowned. What does it take to get a helmet for this suit?
“It’s a bit more complicated. So, we took more time on it.” Crystal replied, “Hopefully, I’ll find him again and finish it.”
“We’ll find them,” Alexus reassured her. Wondering where all this confidence was coming from. He didn’t want to show her my weak side to her, or he finally went insane in this apocalyptic-looking world. He didn’t know what was going on outside of Chicago, but the thought of there still being civilizations gave him hope. The others were out there, he didn’t know where, but the chance of them being alive was high.
“You’re right.” She replied. “They’re all alive out there. We’ll find them.” The confidence in her voice was slowly coming back to the Crystal Alexus had known.
When they turned left, a large shadow darted across at the edge of his eyes. He stopped, whipped his head towards the movement, trying to find whatever it was that ran past. Even Crystal was silently listening for any sound, but so far, there was nothing.
Another shadow ran past from the opposite direction, and he was able to make out an animal-like creature that was the size of a possible jaguar. His heart sped up as adrenaline kicked in. Quickly, his hands slipped downwards, and he reached over toward his gun instead of his sword as he carefully watched for any movement.