Allan Darque: sixteen years of age and hardly a day, he sat alone upon the porch of the ranch home where he lived with his parents and two younger brothers. It was night, the AC mounted in his room window hummed. Junebugs, moths, and mosquitoes flitted about, tossing themselves at the outdoor lamps with soft plinks. Their efforts cast faint shadows, and reminded Allan about how small and insignificant any one human was in the world.
“All us people… we work so hard, but really, we’re just casting these shadows nobody sees,” he said aloud.
He stared, melancholy, at the Konia cellphone his mother owned, which he used to talk to Alexa, a hundred miles away. She was his girlfriend then; somehow they’d maintained this tumultuous long distance relationship in their youth, with regular email and phone correspondences. But he missed her touch, the warmth of her breath, and the smell of her perfume. He wanted to hear her laugh at his stupid jokes, and hold her hand with fingers intertwined.
He’d read her last email hardly an hour ago, and it was that email which crushed his youthful heart, not for the first time. It hurt so much, he had trouble breathing at times, and clutched at his breast, wondering if his heart might burst from the pain. Was it normal to feel this way?
He thought, “I’m a man, I shouldn’t be hurt by things like this.” But thinking that didn’t change the sense that a knife had been plunged through his chest. No, actually, if that were the case, it might have been less painful. He might have fainted from blood loss and died peacefully. This was worse: he had to remain awake and soberly experience the full-force of the blunt trauma.
He looked at the phone, unable to get himself to dial the digits he knew too well. 814… that was the area code. What was the phone number… his mind refused to tell him. It was too painful to remember.
It was far easier to remember the contents of the letter.
What to say. This is too difficult to write. You have been a terrific first boyfriend. But I realize now it is time to close this chapter of my life.
I want to remember our time together fondly, as I grow old. I want to look back and cherish our memories. I will never forget our first kiss.
You will always be my first love.
Allan whimpered, feeling pathetic. He squeezed the phone as tears flowed uncontrollably down his face. He’d tried drafting a reply, but he couldn’t get himself to send it.
I understand. I will always care about you.
The thing that made him most angry was his inability to do anything to change this fate. He hadn’t chosen to move here. If he had been there with her, he was confident this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe they would have broken up some day, but not in this way that made him feel so utterly helpless.
His reply was so sterile, so forgettable. He cared about her enough to understand the kindest thing he could do was to let her go without a fuss, because he could not convey any actions beyond words to communicate his true feelings. And even if he could do something about it, even if he could drive down to go see her, he remembered the excited manner by which she had spoken of other boys in her classes at high school. Chances were, she already liked someone else, and Allan’s imposition of love would be undesirable. Maybe the honest truth was, she was bored of him, and he was simply a comfortable stepping stone, a good first boyfriend. This was her way of letting him go gently, a convenience she had because he was so far away.
This thought slashed through him like a saw through paper. He tried to convince himself that it was mature to understand this implicit truth and let her go, but that was easier said than done.
He clenched his teeth. He had no friends to tell, and his parents didn’t care about this sort of thing. He wiped away the tears furiously from his face. It was just youthful love, he’d get over it. The thing that mattered more were his studies, his grades. That’s how his parents would reassure him.
He sobbed, because that wasn’t how he felt. School was a trivial contrivance, grades were meaningless. What did any of those things matter? He clenched his fists and tightened his stomach. He wanted to scream, to smash his fists into the concrete, but reason stopped him from such outlashes.
Finally exhausted from withholding his emotions, he heaved heavy breaths, the tears on his face drying. He felt nothing. Just broken.
From the distance, the loud turbocharger of a car drew near. Headlights splashed over the neighborhood street, then a black sports sedan pulled up into the driveway, its powerful engine humming audibly. Curious and surprised because they were not expecting anyone, Allan scrutinized the vehicle, but could not make out anything familiar about it.
The headlights turned off, along with the engine, and the two front doors swung open. Two men got out, their faces difficult for Allan to make out in the dark. They were both about the same height, with long, black hair. As they walked up the sidewalk and towards the front door, Allan stood up. One of them said something quietly, and the other chuckled in a deep, hearty way. As they drew near, Allan was able to make out their grinning faces, and felt strangely comforted by their presence.
“Good evening,” one of them said in a deep and pleasant growl. “Allan Darque, I presume?”
Allan nodded, not quite sure what to say.
The man reached out his hand. “Severyn Solitus. And this here,” he gestured to the other man, “my protege, Sirius Solitus.”
Sirius shoved Severyn roughly, causing him to take a step and retract his hand to maintain his balance. At this, Severyn laughed, while Sirius shook his head with a mischievous grin. “Protege? Don’t make me beat you,” he said, forming a fist and shaking it threateningly.
Allan couldn’t help but chuckle at their antics. It was so warmly familiar. He felt like the two of them were brothers, they both looked and spoke so similar to the other.
Severyn straightened himself out, brushing off his polo and fixing his collar, even though he didn’t have to do either. “Please excuse his behavior, he’s been this violent since birth…”
“Violent? I’ll show you violent,” Sirius retorted.
Smiling, Severyn extended his hand towards Allan once more. “Pleasure to meet you, Allan.”
Allan took his hand and nodded, still unsure of what to say. There was something familiar about their eyes and demeanor… but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
“Mind if we take a seat next to you?” Severyn asked.
“Oh… okay,” Allan nodded, feeling slightly apprehensive. The two men sat down next to him, Sirius to Allan’s left and Severyn to his right.
“I do apologize for our rather… disruptive appearance,” Severyn said in a serious tone while Allan watched him speak. Meanwhile, Allan felt Sirius shuffling in his seat, and turned to watch him produce something from his pant pocket.
“Smoke,” Sirius said deftly, a cigarette suddenly appearing between his lips. He flicked open a windproof lighter and after two clicks, a flame erupted to light his smoke.
“Excuse him,” Severyn continued. “He’s always been somewhat lacking in manners.”
Allan felt Sirius reach around behind him and punch Severyn’s shoulder, to which Severyn stifled a chuckle.
“Ahem…” Severyn cleared his throat. “Where to begin… ah! Foremost, happy birthday, young Darque.”
Severyn slapped Allan’s back a little too enthusiastically, causing Allan to knock his head forward and cough, choking on his spit, to which Sirius continued slapping the poor boy’s back, trying to stop him from dying.
“Thanks,” Allan managed weakly, wiping away the saliva dribbling from his lips.
“He’s sixteen now, en’t he?” Sirius asked Severyn first, then, before getting a response, he redirected to Allan, “You’re sixteen now boy, aren’t ya?”
Allan nodded. “Yeah. Sixteen and a day.”
“Well, good for you m’boy,” Severyn commented. “Jolly good age.”
“Great age,” Sirius agreed.
Allan wasn’t sure he agreed with either of them.
“Although I imagine young Allan here was just traumatized by… what’s-her-name…” Severyn began.
“Lexus?” Sirius volunteered.
“No, no,” Severyn countered. “Alexandria? No, that’s the city in Egypt… Boy, my memory sure has dissipated over the eons… I remember a time when details like a woman’s name was the most important thing to me. Especially my first flame!”
“You were hung up on her for a solid decade,” Sirius commented as he exhaled a cloud of smoke.
Severyn shook his head. “Tch. What a fool I was in my youth… No matter. Enough lament about my forgettable past. Allan! Elucidate for us, what’s her name?” Severyn asked.
Allan looked at this stranger with incredulous abashedness. “Uh… who now?” He hoped to God this random person wasn’t referring to his love life.
“Your girlfriend,” Severyn replied coolly without missing a beat, even as Allan’s heart seemed to miss a few.
“Ex,” Sirius corrected unhelpfully between drags.
“Right, right. Ex-girlfriend. Heart slashed and all that jazz,” Severyn corrected himself, drawing an ex across his heart to emphasize the point.
Looking down and feeling his stomach sink with shame, Allan nodded silently. “Alexa,” he said quietly, hoping they wouldn’t hear.
“Ah, that’s right! It was just on the tips of our tongues,” Severyn nodded somewhat triumphantly. “Well, as I was saying… I’m sure your heart is leaden with thoughts of this Lexus or Alexandra or whatever, but rest assured, my dear boy, she knows not what great man she is letting go.”
“Indeed,” Sirius agreed, “Allan the Great, who is but a weakling and coward now, and even after many a year, develops into little more than an overgrown man-child.”
Allan felt a fist pound into his left shoulder hard, and yelped with unexpected pain. “Ow!”
“Oh, whoops, sorry, meant to hit Sirius there,” Severyn coughed as Sirius clapped his knees with raucous laughter.
“Are you talking about me?” Allan asked angrily as he rubbed his shoulder.
Severyn looked very seriously at Allan. “Who else would we be talking about?”
“You act as if you know my future,” Allan fumed, still upset over the punch and emotional hurt from being called a weakling, coward, and man-child in one sentence.
“Why, in a manner of speaking, yes we do, m’lad,” Sirius replied.
“You see, we are Worldwatchers,” Severyn continued. “Kind of like the Skystalkers in Star Cars or whatever that Jorge Cukas film everyone was lady gaga about…”
“I think you’re mixing up your film references and colloquialisms, you dyslexic wombat,” Sirius scoffed. “And no Allan, we are nothing at all like the Skygawkers.”
“Oh, whatever,” Severyn shook his head, “the whole lot of Star Bars was trash after Dalt Wisney bought the film rights.”
Allan shook his head, unsure if these guys were crazy, stupid, or moronic… no, they were definitely all three. “Whatever, what’s your point? Are you saying you two are from the future or something?”
“Well… again, in a manner of speaking, m’lad. I daresay, we don’t come from your particular future, no,” Severyn began. “So we don’t know your future, per se. But we have the gist of it.
“Anyways, I digress,” Severyn continued. “We are here in an attempt to accelerate your future in a particular direction.”
“Think of it like this,” Sirius took over. “You have countlessly many selves and futures. We are aware of some of them. Our objective is to push you towards one of these eventualities, though it is ultimately up to you to determine your own future.”
“To that end,” Severyn finished, “we wish to provide your young, tender heart some solace, to allay of it some of the heartaches you would otherwise face and help you more readily draw out the insurmountable courage you possess. Before we leave, we have a small birthday present we’d like to present.”
Allan’s heart both sank at the thought that they’d leave, and then leapt to think they’d brought a present for him.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Severyn produced a glowing orb. “This is an Antiomere. Sirius, care to explain?”
“Think of it like a chemical enantiomer,” Sirius clarified. “It is the encapsulation of your life’s memories from a chiral dimension, one of your innumerable alternate futures and selves. Again, not your future.”
Allan nodded to Sirius, then turned to Severyn, extending his palms to receive the Antiomere. Severyn pulled his hand away, raising a finger to indicate that Allan should wait.
“Now Allan. This is the important part,” Severyn said quietly, in a tone of such intensity it chilled Allan. “The singlemost important thing we have come to say. You have a tremendously important role to play, though we must leave that to you to discover. We can only say this: you jeopardize your ability to fulfill your role if you allow yourself to become attached to the wrong people and enable them to wound your heart the way you are wounded now. This includes friends, lovers, and enemies alike.
“Love is a tremendously powerful agent. It is also a delusion of our own making. Hatred is the complement to love, but it is venomous to the peace of your soul. Take care to have mastery over your love and hate, to not let them control you, but to have control over them.
“You will find in the Antiomere experience and understanding to help you upon this most difficult of endeavors. But we would not present it if we did not have absolute faith in your abilities. Sirius?” Severyn finally finished.
Sirius simply nodded. “I think you’ve summed it up perfectly,” he replied with marked gravity.
Finally, Severyn extended the Antiomere and Allan took it with both palms, expecting to feel a glass orb. It felt nothing like glass, more like he was holding air. As he held it, he felt both his palms grow warm.
Then there was a sudden blinding flash. Allan sat perfectly still, his eyes perceiving only blinding white as an unexpected warm breeze washed over him, carrying with it a myriad scents that smelled familiar yet alien.
Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the blinding white dissipated unnaturally, leaving Allan sitting alone upon the porch with an unmarred view of his front yard. For a brief moment after, he could swear the blood vessels in his palms glowed brilliant white through his skin, but then everything was normal and he wondered if he had imagined everything. He turned to his left and then his right, but there was no one there. His heart sank to his stomach as he got up and walked to the driveway, but there was no car.
It was just Allan, all alone in the darkness.