Hello once again, and man are things going fast. Well, maybe they aren’t but yeah, one arc ends, and another begins just like that. It’s all coming together, and I’m sure the end is near, things are ending, new things are appearing, and….. what is he going to choose, right? But yeah, 8 more days, and you know what I need to do? I’ve been planning to make a singular post containing each and every one of my short stories and compile them in like a table of contents format just so it would be easier to navigate, but….. that never happened. After these 8 days, I promise to myself I will create that. Word count: 46,850. Here you go: chapter 22 of “Home For The Unwanted”.
Ryan and Kyle ran, and they ran. They ran with the wind caressing their face, and they ran with their heads held high. Ryan didn’t know why he wanted Kyle’s wish to be granted so fervently. Kyle wanted to see the river, Ryan wanted to see Kyle see the river. It was a norm that he had no relations to. It was a norm that was entirely out of his grasp. But it was a norm that he would want to risk getting to. Perhaps even Ryan had grown an attachment to the river as well.
“Here it is,” Ryan said as they arrived at the river. Despite Ryan’s lack of constitution, and despite the fact that Ryan was left having to almost lie on the grassy hill to catch his breath, he was happy. Kyle walked ahead of Ryan and down the hill to the base of the river. The bridge connecting both parts of town loomed overhead, but it didn’t seem to bother Kyle. Once Ryan could breathe, he walked down to Kyle and noticed that in the midday sun, the river glistened. There was a sense of certainty as Ryan listened to the mechanical flow of the river, and the direction that the water poured in. It was as if this norm had always existed, and was always unchanging. However, the sparkling surface of the river was something that didn’t always exist, but would always come to this norm whenever it could.
“It’s nice, right?” Ryan asked.
“Yeah.” Kyle nodded as he answered. What Kyle wanted from the river had already been answered. Kyle remembered why he was attached to the river. It was an important part of him, it was a place he could go to vent out all his problems, and it was a place he could go to feel better. The river made him feel at ease, and despite the dysfunctional systems within his own norm, Kyle could relax now.
“Someone–” Kyle said to himself.
“Someone?” Ryan asked.
“There was someone here, when I came,” Kyle spoke in a wistful manner. It wasn’t that there was someone there when they had arrived, but there was someone there when Kyle had arrived a long time ago. Perhaps not so long ago, but Ryan would never know that. However, Ryan did figure out that Kyle meant the past, and it was the past that was chasing him now, something Ryan has long left in his own norm.
“Someone from before?” Ryan asked, hoping that Kyle understood what he implied; he did.
“What were they like?”
“I don’t remember,” Kyle said after a long pause. His eyes were locked onto the river below him, and his voice seemed to trail along with the river in front of them.
“Did you know them?”
“I don’t think so.” Kyle’s hands were forming fists, and his hands began reddening. It was hard for Kyle to remember, but he did want to remember, and he tried his best, Ryan concluded.
“Were they older than you?”
“Yes.” Kyle nodded as he answered. Ryan was trying his best to come to his own conclusion, but thought that Lorna would be a better candidate for such a task. However, Ryan also thought that Lorna must have already came to her own conclusions, and had already known who Kyle was, and why Kyle was doing what he was doing. After all, Ryan has come to learn that not much can escape from Lorna. Spear would acclimate this to being a psychic. Lorna was a good psychic; every other psychic was bad, according to Spear.
“Want to head back to Lorna now?” Kyle didn’t answer, but simply looked at the glistening water. That much was enough of an answer for Ryan, and so he sat down at the grassy hill and watched the flowing water shine ever so brightly down. Time seemed to stop for Ryan as he watched the water flow, his eyes began to narrow, and everything around him seemed to lose color. Ryan was slipping into a stupor, and he tried his best to snap out of it. The world around him deformed, the sound of the river became clear. The smell of the grass around him heightened, the blade of the wind that blew past him felt smooth, and Ryan could even taste the glistening water that faced him. Ryan was worried, but once his eyes had adjusted, and once he had realized what was going on, he determined that it wasn’t a stupor that he was falling into. The world around him hadn’t deformed, it had grown, everything had a distinct sheen to it, everything became bright. The world around Ryan had simply came to life. Without realizing it, Ryan’s norm had became simple. Ryan’s norm was everywhere; it wasn’t just a puzzle that needed to be solved. It was the small things he noticed, the big things he wanted to experience, and everything in-between that made it all worthwhile.
“Had enough?” Amanda’s voice resounded behind Ryan. Amanda was the last person Ryan expected to show up here, but knowing Amanda’s status, Ryan could trust Kyle to her.
“You have more business with me?” Ryan decided to ask, wondering if in fact Amanda was here to chase Ryan again. Quite recently, Ryan has seen less and less of Amanda, Ryan thought. It was strange, Amanda had always given him the impression that she was suspecting Ryan, but that had froze, and Ryan couldn’t figure out why. What Ryan couldn’t figure out, nor what even Lorna didn’t know about, was that Amanda and James had been slowly tracing their way into the forest. They were hiding it very well, and didn’t want to get their superiors or even their division involved until they had a concrete answer. Despite the limited time they had to work on their case, and having to juggle with any new cases they may have been assigned, they were still making good progress. Lorna knew of their advancements, but what Lorna didn’t know was whether that advancement would come sooner or later. And what Lorna feared the most was the inevitable former.
“Actually, I don’t. You’re off the hook for today,” Amanda didn’t have much going on for Ryan. He was still a suspicious figure in the case, but right now, what they needed wasn’t vocal information but a map to their prize.
“I’m here for him.” Amanda pointed at Kyle. Ryan didn’t find it too strange if Amanda were to patrol town and so happened to stumble upon them, but there was something off, Ryan thought. It seemed set up, almost too well.
“I’ll be taking him to where he should be.” Amanda walked over to Kyle, who was looking at Amanda with a wide eyed expression. She put out one hand towards Kyle, and with a gentle smile, said, “Let’s go, Kyle. Your mom’s waiting, okay?”
“You–” Kyle paused, looking for words in his mind, and most of all, gathering his thoughts.
“Yes. I was there.” Amanda seemed to understand Kyle’s words, despite the apparent vagueness of his speech to Ryan. There seemed to be some kind of history behind Amanda and Kyle, but it wasn’t one of familial ties, Ryan concluded.
“You brought me here.”
“Yes. I brought you here. Remember?” Kyle looked at Amanda with a nostalgic glow in his eyes. Ryan didn’t understand what was going on, but he knew that Amanda was an important person to Kyle.
“I knew you would be here,” Amanda said.
“This place is warm, right?” Amanda asked.
“Let’s bring you back home, then, okay?”
“Okay.” Kyle nodded as he answered. Amanda took Kyle and walked up the grassy hills.
“Thanks for your hard work,” Amanda said as she began walking Kyle. Ryan understood that the sentiment was targeted towards him. Although, Ryan debated whether what he did should have been considered as hard work or not. What Ryan did felt natural, it was what anyone would have done, he thought. Ryan wasn’t as much heroic as he was normal, and even Ryan gained something out of the venture in the end.
“You alright?” Lorna said as she scuffled her way towards Ryan.
“Yeah. Kyle got taken away, he’s going back home.”
“Right. Right.” Lorna paused, and gave off a short smile before finishing, “He’s going back to where he belongs.”
“You knew, right? About Kyle, and about the river, and about who would come to get him. You knew all along.”
“Perhaps I did. Perhaps I didn’t.” Lorna extended her hand over to Ryan, who accepted. Lorna leaned back to pull Ryan over. In the midday light, Lorna’s hair seemed to glow ever so brightly to Ryan. Her red lips and red cheeks blended in the orange hues of strife, and Ryan truly did believe that the spectacle in front of him was something out of this world.
“But I’m proud of you.” Ryan gave Lorna a questioning look. Lorna’s tone had slowed, and even as they began heading back to the building, Ryan noticed that her stride was weak.
“You’ve come a long way, haven’t you. From when you first came to us, you were so–” Lorna considered her words before continuing.
“Frozen. Stuck in time, and desperately looking for a way out. Whether you realized it or not.”
“I don’t think I did.”
“Even so. You’ve changed. I don’t know if I’ve told you this, and I’m sure I have–” Lorna smiled to herself, it was a weak smile.
“But you’ve changed. For the better, or for the worst, that’s up to you, but you’ve changed.” At that moment, Ryan wasn’t sure whether he had already been told that, but it didn’t matter. Ryan knew that he had changed, and he knew that the new norms he had found himself in was for the better, and Ryan knew that he would never give away the feelings and experiences he’s found. Ryan knew that he would never take anything back.
“Ray. There’s a reason why I trusted you, and there’s a reason why I wanted you to trust us as well.” Lorna paused. She turned around towards Ryan and gave him a sad smile, her eyes were down casted, and her hands seemed to tremble.
“The time we have together, the time we have at the orphanage, is coming to an end.” Lorna turned before looking at Ryan’s surprised expression. There was relief in Lorna’s words, and she had felt like she had given away a certain trudging burden that’s been weighing on her mind.
“What do you mean?” Ryan asked, unsure of the severity of what was truly going on.
“I don’t know what to say, in fact, I don’t think I even have a plan, but I wanted to let you know.”
“Let me know what? That everything is going to end soon? Why?” Ryan’s voice had turned almost into a yell, and before he knew it he had begun getting angry. Lorna simply smiled pitifully at herself.
“I wanted to let everyone know once I had a plan, but I realize now that I may not even get the chance to.”
“What’s going on, Lorna?”
“I’ve kept you all in my world. I’ve kept you all to myself–”
“Lorna!” Ryan yelled this time. He could feel his face heating up.
“I’ve locked myself in a world that I’ve made. In a place that I’ve created for my selfish desires.” Lorna didn’t mind Ryan, and simply continued.
“The strings were cut, and the wood began to rot, and I soon realized that you were all my family, and that I’ve become attached to everyone.” Lorna felt like crying, but she didn’t. She didn’t want to, she didn’t have the right to, she concluded.
“What is going on?” Ryan asked again.
“Ryan?” Without warning, suddenly cutting off Lorna, and bringing both of their attention towards her, a voice called. Ryan turned towards the voice, and once he had realized who the woman was, he froze. Ryan’s expression gleamed with absolute surprise. It was impossible, Ryan thought. The woman now in front of them had long silky black hair that had appeared to be very well kept, almost obsessively, as if wanting to be shown off each day. Her eyes were sharp, and colored a deep hazel. Her stare was cold, but very analytical, and to Ryan, it felt warm. She was clearly much taller than the both of them, and much older. Her black suit showed much about her status, and it was unknowingly true; she was a government worker. Her voice was warm, and it had the impression of professionalism, almost as if she was trained to talk to people.
“I thought you left.”
“I did. I moved far away–” The woman paused, her eyes wistfully attached to Ryan, and her face making a loving smile.
“But I came back. I got assigned here, to work for the region.”
“I know I’ve done things in the past that I can’t amend.” Ryan looked down, he was confused, but most of all, he was angry. He was so angry that he wanted to scream, but he knew that he couldn’t. He wanted to push away the woman in front of him and he wanted to run as fast as he could back to the building. He wanted the whole world to stop and he wanted to run back into his own norm.
“But I’ve changed. I’ve changed after all these years, Ryan.” Ryan knew that accepting his own past and moving forward from the life he once lived has brought him to where he is now. And Ryan also knew that the same could have applied to anyone, and it did. It applied to Lorna, even if Ryan didn’t know too much about Lorna’s past, he could figure out that the past that she once dredged on, has made her who she is now. The past can never be forgotten, but the past can be embraced, and it can be used to lead, Ryan concluded.
“I want to make up for everything I’ve done. For everything I lost…” Ryan knew that if he didn’t give her a chance, he would be denying her the ability to amend her past and drown in the present. That’s not what happened to Ryan, that’s not what happened at all, and Ryan knew that embracing his past and moving forward from it has changed him. It’s changed him so much that he could never come to recognize who he was before. The Ryan of the past was nothing more than dust in a desert, Ryan concluded.
“Please, give me another chance,” the woman pleaded to Ryan. Everything was happening so fast, and it made Ryan uneasy. Things that he never thought would come back, had came to haunt him. Ideas of the present norm being destroyed and his way of life shattered had presented itself. And with both of them intertwining, Ryan felt like he had found himself in the middle of a raging storm. Ryan had no idea what to do, and he just wanted everything to end. He wanted everyone to stop talking and everything to make sense again. It didn’t happen. Ryan had to make a decision, he had to do something. His norm was cracking, his pieces were falling, but Ryan struggled to make it all whole again; he was going to struggle. Ryan lifted his head, and faced his mother. The world was crumbling.