False Dawn #23: "Life or Something Like It"
Part Four of Four: Domestic Dispute
Short Story Format
Devin Leigh Michaels
I am sooo out of the loop here. I’m also not in the suffocating headlock that Lance entraps Kaiona’s little brother, Krisk, so I should take that as a good sign.
“Ral, get over here,” Lance demands, even as Krisk struggles.
I blink at the gun trained upon Kainoa. “Dude, what are you doing? These people saved me from those government WHACKOS.”
“You know WHY they saved you?”
“Does it matter?”
“Because they want to EXPERIMENT on you, Ral! Your parents are immortal. You don’t think Defenders of freakin’ TIME wouldn’t want to know what makes Addy and Connor and maybe even you tick?”
I look back at Rena and Artemis. “Josh, honey,” Rena pleads. “I know Lysander—”
“Lysander?” He motions toward Kainoa. “Try your son, Mrs. Ryder. Your own kid tortured me to find out why I’m immortal, so don’t stand there and tell me you don’t want to do the same thing to Ral.”
“Lysander? Torture?” I glance back at Kainoa, who averts his shameful eyes. “What…What is going on here? How do you guys even KNOW each other?”
Casia comes forward, her hand out to me. “Now’s not the time, Ral. Let’s get out of here while we can.”
“Sorry, that’s not possible.” Behind Lance and Krisk now stands Sawyer, blocking our exit. “Hello, Joshua. It’s been a couple of years.”
“Gatekeeper,” Lance clips. “Move or the kid—”
“Y’know, your parents used to ask me what they could do to reach you.” He crosses his arms like an authority figure. I hate when adults do that. “Just how could they get their son back on the straight and narrow? Y’know what I used to tell them?”
“Let him watch Showgirls?”
“I told them to let me train you, let you become a Defender. It would give you an out—”
I see it a second before it happens, like seriously a second. Kainoa reaches for his aura, his eyes burning a malicious blue.
Kainoa disappears. I thought he was going to reappear, but he doesn’t. And Lance smirks.
“Well, looks like the assassin RAN AWAY.” He pivots, keeping his eyes and gun on Sawyer. “I’m only going to this once. Move or I will start shooting, kid first.”
“Nhgh!” Krisk struggles, but it doesn’t do him any good. Lance has a death grip, and trust me, I know there’s no getting out of one.
“Josh, please,” Rena begs. “Stop this. Whatever happened to you, we can help.”
The air’s…different. I can’t explain it, but it shifts and energizes.
“You can’t even help your son. He was gone how many years? How dare you think you can ‘help’ me?”
In a burst of blue, Kainoa appears right behind Lance, snatching Krisk and kicking Lance in the back. To my brother’s credit, he rolls with the hit, lands on his knees, and fires three shots with his blaster. Kainoa ducks two, but the third hits him in the shoulder, knocking him against the bookcase and sending knickknacks and his own blaster to the floor.
He growls and lowers Krisk. “Go by Mom.”
Then, he lunges.
Artemis takes a step forward, but Casia burns a line of flames across the floor, separating Kainoa and Lance from the Defenders. When Sawyer pulls his gun, Donnellie shoots one laser blaser, knocking it from his hands.
“Don’t worry. This will be all over soon,” she says.
“Yeah, before or after your psychotic friend kills my nephew?”
“And to think, at one time, it was the other way around.”
Lance blocks Kainoa’s kick, then falls to the floor to kick out Kainoa’s legs. The blue-haired teen jumps over the attack and lunges elbow-out, which Lance grabs and uses to fling over Kainoa’s shoulder.
“You’re…better than I thought,” Kainoa huffs in between punches.
Lance blocks, snorting. “If there was one thing Darwin got right, it was SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.”
Donnielle shakes her head. “I’m not one to say, ‘I told you so’—”
Casia glares. “Uh, yes, you are.”
“Then I told him so.”
Rena returns with a fire extinguisher to stop Casia’s flames and instead blows it at the two.“Joshua, sweetie. Please. I don’t know why you came back, but fighting Kainoa isn’t going to get you what you want.”
“And you know what I want?” he laughs. “Please. You can’t even comprehend what I am, let alone what I want out of life. If you value your own, I suggest you keep out of this.”
Whirling, Lance strikes.
I don’t remember the hit. I remember the look in Lance’s eyes as he struck—the hatred, the anger, the fear. Then my face and ass hurt. On the ground, I cradle my jaw, hoping all my teeth are still there, and I look up at a blurry Lance through my tears.
He hit me.
Lance leans back on his heel, taking a deep breath. “Ral, I—”
I lift Kainoa’s blaster, firing a single shot. Lance is thrown back, flying past Donnellie, Casia, and Sawyer and into the base of the stairs.
I tasered my brother who can kill me with a flick—not kidding. “What…What are you doing! Kaiona and his family saved me, and you come in here, guns and fire blazing? What’s up with that?”
Lance sits at the bottom of the stairs for a moment, his elbows on his knees, his eyes blazing directly into mine. Behind me, Rena and Artemis clamor to save their living room from the devouring flames, which, admittedly, are starting to burn my eyes.
After what seems like an eternity, Sawyer walks up to Lance and puts out a hand. “We…We didn’t understand back then. We still don’t completely, but we’re TRYING.”
Lance eyes the hand warily before taking it and allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. He comes forward, taking my chin and cheek in his gentle hands. “Hey…let me see.” He hisses at the blood and swelling, then looks up at someone behind me. “Hey, Mr. Ryder? You got some ice?”
Boots click away, but Lance steals my attention with a hand through my hair. I try to hold back the tears, but it just makes cough as my cheek gets bigger and bigger under my hand.
“Hey,” he calls. “No need to be big and bad, okay? Did I ever tell you I lived at the beach?”
I think I shake my head. Right now, I’m not quite sure of anything.
“I used to get up earlier in the morning and boogie board. Once, this hurricane wasn’t far off shore, and my mortal parents told me not to go out. I didn’t listen, and I held my board pretty well until the last possible moment. An effing wave tore it apart. My face broke my fall, and my fall broke my face. I cried for, like, a week.”
I glance up. “You…” Ow. “….you never cry…”
He smiles and shrugs. “When you live fourteen lifetimes, you tend to remember the bad pretty well, so then whatever you come across in the present—paper cuts, gunshot wounds, heck Gigli—it just doesn’t seem worth the tears. At the time, though, I knew nothing other my parents grounding me because they thought I was getting tattoos behind their back.”
I snort, then whine at the subsequent throbbing. God, he hits hard.
I press my good cheek against his chest and wrap my arms around his torso. “I missed you.”
It takes a few seconds, but he returns it. “I missed you, too, kid, though really, just because Casia doesn’t eat anything meat, which means we stop at tofu places. Ew.”
When Casia comes forward, I can’t help but lunge into her arms. She’s warm, like an iPhone when it’s working, and I snuggle under her chin.
“Hey, Ral. Have you grown?”
A hand grabs mine and pries from Casia’s torso, and Donnellie runs her lithe fingers across the crooks of my palm.
“Let’s see what you’re—”
Casia tugs my hand away as she and Lance yell, “NO!”
“So…Josh,” I hear.
When I turn, Lance stares at Rena, Artemis, and Sawyer. He stuffs his hands in his pockets, shifting nervously. “Call me ‘Lance.’ It’s the name I’ve used since my first lifetime.”
Rena’s hands cover her mouth. “Then…Then it’s true? You’re really…”
“A cursed immortal who lives, dies, and lives again—oh, and loses the person he loves most in every lifetime. That’s my life…or something called it.”
“Not really,” Donnellie interjects.
Lance narrows his eyes. “No one asked you.”
“I make it my business to not be asked.”
“Of course you do.”
“Hey, you keep calling.”
Lance glares at her before walking up to Kainoa. I feel the adults tense, but Lance just puts out a hand. “Did you really save my little brother? I owe you.”
Kainoa shrugs and accepts it. “I think it was a mutual saving, so let’s call us even?”
He sighs, then looks directly at Sawyer. “Please…don’t tell my parents. They…They think I’m this heartless thug, and it’s better that way. It doesn’t let them have guilt over….not getting it. I was never theirs, not really, so it’s better I’m gone.”
Sawyer uncrosses his arms. “Why don’t you stay? Maybe we can find why this happens. I’m not saying EXPERIMENT. I just—”
Lance meets gazes with Donnellie for just a second before she looks away. “I know why this happens, and maybe I even deserve it, but there’s no reason why I should endanger you and yours, Mr. Ryder.”
“Where will you go?” Artemis asks.
“Ral’s parents are still trapped in another dimension. We have to find them.”
Rena puts a hand on Lance’s forearm. “We’ll help you.”
He smiles. “You’ve done enough. Thank…”
Donnellie kneels before Krisk, urging his hand from his pocket and opening his palm. Lance and Casia lunge, covering Krisk’s hand. Still bright white light explodes from Donnellie’s eyes, and she hovers about a foot off the ground.
“The world you know will come to end. The paths you took will somehow bend.”
Casia narrows her eyes at Lance. “Does she normally rhyme?”
“Not…that I know of...”
“Five powers must unite; a demon from your past you all must fight.”
“This, from a palm reading?” I ask.
Casia smirks. “You should see what she does with crystal balls.”
“Despite what you think, it comes down to this. All that you love, you will come to miss. The only way to win, is to lose, but with hope by your side, that’s just a ruse.”
She collapsed into Lance’s arms, unconscious.
“That’s…weird,” I mutter.
“Yes, but accurate when she’s like that.” Lance whirls to the Defenders, his eyes hard. “Take heed. Whatever she said, she got from Krisk’s hand. What she says will come to pass.”
Sawyer nods. “We’ll be ready.”
“So Donnellie doesn’t eat meat, either?” I ask, munching down on a cheeseburger in Burger Castle.
Casia shrugs. “Oh, she eats meat. She just refuses to call this ‘meat.’”
Lance steals a French fry off of my plate.
Agh, I’m really going to have to bite the bullet here. He’s going to make me, isn’t he? “I’m…I’m sorry I shot you, Lance.”
He blinks, looking genuinely confused. “What?”
“I…I shot you. With the taser. I’m…I’m sorry.”
Lance shrugs. “Please. It was a taser. That doesn’t count. I’ve been shot a lot worse, and I hit you. It’s fine.”
“Look,” and now he’s all serious. “I get…CRAZY…sometimes, thinking about my parents from this lifetime. Other than your mom and uncle, they were the best parents I’ve had, and I let them down. Not all of it was my fault, but in their eyes, it was. And that HURT. But what happened back there wasn’t your fault, and I can’t really blame much on Kainoa because a lot wasn’t his, either. And what he did to me, I’ve done to more than one person.”
Wow. What’s…Something past Lance and Casia catches my attention, but I quickly look away when Lance glances over his shoulder at the cheerleader in the booth behind him. I can hear the smile in his voice.
“You going to talk to her or just gawk like a nerdy high school stalker?”
“Are you sure about this?” Sawyer asks.
Standing in the middle of the living room in old, tattered, peasant garb, Mary and Brandon Sterling strap on their Anchrons.
“We have no choice, Sawyer. I don’t care what Josh—or—LANCE—says, he’s still OUR son,” Mary replies. “I’m going to find a cure to this curse and bring him home.”
“He’ll be back,” a new voice calls from the kitchen doorway.
The three turn to see Kainoa, leaning heavily on the wall, an icepack to his face.
“I know you believe you can change the past, but it won’t work. And he’ll be back.”
“How do you know?” Brandon demands.
Kainoa shrugs. “He’s an immortal who lives and dies, and he doesn’t want to defeat time? It’s his greatest enemy. Trust me.”
Kainoa looks down at his suddenly glowing blue hands. “He’ll be back…to save or destroy us all.”