Dimension 13 – The Reyen family
April 3077. 22:43.
That afternoon, Kiri almost forgot about home even if it was for only a few hours. There wasn’t much zei could say about it—no crazy robot fights, aliens emerging from people’s stomachs, or things that zei had seen in uncle Jim’s old science fiction movies. Anything zei encountered was similar to being at a friend’s house back in huir town. The smell of spices wafting out from a home-cooked meal—spices zei never smelled before, but could easily believe existed on huir own planet. The sounds of a television—albeit the sounds were high-quality surround sound and the screen was a hologram. It didn’t take much for Kiri to sink into the mundanity of it.
Zei prepared dinner with huir new acquaintance for an hour as they talked about their worlds. Well, at least the parts of them that felt right for the moment—mostly about food and what kinds of media they liked. When they were done, Sage convinced Kiri to play a new multiplayer adventure video game zei’d gotten. The sounds of the game eventually drew out huir sibling, Ileris. Soon, all three of them played. Kiri found that zei was a surprisingly quick learner when it came to games, despite how few zei’d played growing up.
At some point, Sage and Ileris’ father, Danoko arrived home with some delicious-smelling takeout. Sage looked perplexed that huir father didn’t remember zei was cooking tonight. They had a laugh about it, and Kiri couldn’t help but laugh, too.
They finished off the night with a TV dinner as suggested by Sage. They ate the baked potatoes and cheese that Kiri and Sage had prepared together. Watched a current hit comedy movie. Kiri didn’t understand most of the jokes, but Sage and Danoko’s laughter was contagious at the very least. It was like the dinners Kiri had with uncle very often—cozy and distracting but with three more people and a little more awkward. Zei got the impression Sage suggested it on purpose, perhaps to make en feel like zei wasn’t some outcast at someone else’s family dinner. If that was the case, zei felt warm appreciation rise in en.
As the night fell, Kiri lay on the extra mattress that Sage had rolled out for en next to sier own bed. Zei stared at the ceiling. No one was in the room with en; Sage was supposed to be with sier mother at this time—an occasion that occurred every few months or so. Kiri hadn’t ever had a parent, but still, what kind of parent did that? Even huir own uncle didn’t leave for that long.
Homesick thoughts began to creep back into huir mind.
Zei kept wondering, how soon would zei be able to get home? Sage had told Kiri that huir genius friend would help. But was that really possible?
“Home, huh,” Kiri whispered. Zei turned onto huir side and curled up like a little discarded seed that had been thrown in someplace zei knew zei could grow into, yet didn’t feel was huir home.
19 years and zei still had nothing to go back to. Huir town was a place full of strangers who knew en and whom zei knew. Uncle Jim was the most consistent person in huir life and yet had been growing more and more distant the older zei grew. And now, everything was simply unfamiliar, not to mention in an entirely new universe.
When would it end? Zei’d been told to never take things for granted, and yet all zei could think was: when will home be something I can take for granted?
“Isn’t this what you wanted?” zei mumbled and buried huir face into huir pillow.
Muffled voices began to emerge from another room in the apartment. Zei thought nothing about them at first, but there seemed to be a new person besides Sage, Ileris, and their father. Distracted from huir thoughts, zei took huir head off the pillow and concentrated on the voices. The words were difficult to hear, but still distinct enough if zei made huir breathing shallow.
One voice was Sage’s. The other was also high-pitched and a bit husky like Sage’s. Perhaps the mother’s? The third deep voice belonged to Danoko. However, it was softer and kinder than the former.
“Well isn’t that great? What else shall your servants do for you today?” Sage asked in an unmistakably sarcastic tone.
Danoko sounded distressed and worn out. “Sage, please. Why must you argue tonight? Don’t you have a guest?”
“No. You tell me why zei decided to come home tonight of all nights just to say that zei is moving us to a new house suddenly! And not—”
“I provide for you, ungrateful little girl,” the husky, high-pitched voice seethed. “All of you.”
Sage laughed maniacally. “Oh? You provide? Then why are you moving us to a place even dumpier than this? Where’s the house with the shop downtown you promised da here would have? Don’t think I don’t hear you and da fighting about it.”
“You think I have ample achsain credits? What an assumption. And your new house is far safer than this one in the case of a Risenen attack.”
“Oh, sure. Bet. I know you are rich, working for our great government. I’m sure it will be totally not our fault in any way if Risenen attacks.” Zei sounded incredibly mocking. “I saw your other house. Not to mention, you have a new girlfriend since you finally decided to grow a heart but not for us. Don’t think you can hide shit like this from us.”
“Sage, please,” Danoko said exhaustedly. “Sorion, please, just stop.”
Ileris’ soft weeping emerged from the muffle of voices.
“Shut up!” Sorion’s voice boomed. “Ungrateful prick! You think my money would go towards something as stupid and petty as a nicer house with a shop when it is going towards protecting your ability to even live in this city in the first place?” Zei scoffed. “You can thank me when Rokon subdues Risenen and we are fully protected. I have done more than you will EVER do to work for better causes.”
“You, working for better causes?” Sage laughed sharply. “You’ll start a war. A FUCKING WAR. I’m not so stupid as to not see the harm is literally worse in the long term. You want me to get into the history? I’ll get into the history—”
“Oh, you think your little bit of history 101 amounts to real-life experience and uncovering the real atrocities going on? Those senergians would turn us exergians back to slavery if given even a sliver of a chance. Don’t you even know they still have monarchies based on their senergie levels? For fuck’s sake. You know absolutely NOTHING about their nature. I should’ve never let you study abroad in Risenen if I’d known you’d be like this.”
Sage sighed loudly. “Excuse you, there’ve been entire countries that were democracies with senergians and exergians, yet Rokon sure loves fucking them over the moment they see some success. So no, you don’t work for SHIT,” Sage hissed.
There was a sudden crash of dishes. A tumbling chair. Ileris’ crying became more intense.
“Sage, Ileris, just go. Get out of the house,” Danoko said sternly but remained at a volume wavering just above audible. “Why do arguments always have to happen between you two?”
There were sounds of footsteps.
“Sorion, let’s take a walk. You need to cool off,” the deep voice continued.
Sorion mumbled something.
Sage yelled back. It was closer to the room where Kiri lay. “Tell en to at least get us that house if we have to move!”
The deep voice let out an exasperated breath and yelled back, “that’s not how it works! Just go. You know where. Take your guest. And Illy, you should go now, too, unless you want me to drop you off there extra early.”
Kiri quickly lay back down and closed huir eyes. Attempted to keep still. Didn’t even breathe. But when the light flooded into the room and Sage stood there silhouetted, Kiri knew that sie already knew.
“Sorry,” came neir hoarse whisper. “We have to go.”
Zei propped enself onto huir elbows and watched nem as nei went to some drawers and began to pull out various clothes. Zei said nothing as zei watched nem. Carefully got out of bed and began to fold the sheets.
“You can leave it,” nei said, looking nowhere but down at the clothes. Nei sloppily filled up a backpack with clothes, a couple of books, and a small plastic bag of toiletries that seemed conveniently placed, like it was used often. “I am bringing some clothes for you to borrow, by the way.”
“Ah, I thankful am to y—I mean, I thank you,” zei barely managed to say.
Sage paused for a moment, huir hand lingering over huir bag. “I—I’m sorry if you heard all that. I just get so worked up, but when zei mentioned moving, I just—” Zei curled into enself like a turtle retreating into its shell. Kiri could’ve sworn zei heard Sage attempting to breathe back tears. After a while, nei said, “I know moving is probably no big deal. It’s just—I don’t even know anymore.”
~ ~ ~
Sage and Kiri with Ileris trailing behind them headed to the roof where the car was parked. It was drizzling and a bit cold. The air smelled salty and it was hard for Kiri to believe zei was in the same grassy plains as Goldtown.
The drive itself was nothing more than rain pattering on the car and the bass-like sound of the windshield wipers. Sage was not driving this time, but rather sitting in the driver’s seat with huir arms crossed over huir chest while letting the automatic functions do their thing. The train traffic was few and the cars fewer, and Kiri could easily see the glowing, holographic neon lines of the road pass by. The buildings had a space-like quality to them at night. The windows were like little worlds. The bridges crossing everywhere were like starry trails. Like universes connected.
Kiri’s universe was connected to this one somehow. But for what reason?
Zei looked at Sage next to en. Then zei looked through the wing mirror briefly at Ileris who looked intent on staring as opposite from Sage as nei could.
Something about the situation made Kiri’s chest tighten. Was it because of the awkwardness? No…
For some reason, zei felt more—at home here? Like the people here in this car with en right now were more human, and not just some vague concept in a vast universe zei didn’t know or understand.
Zei looked back out the passenger’s window, merely enjoying the sound of the rain and the windshield wipers. Began to space out from the sleepiness.