Dark’s eyes were blurry. He wasn’t thinking straight. His legs limped on of their own accord.
“My love, where were you?”
She didn’t respond. But she was moving, and Dark had to keep following her.
He couldn’t see Kai carrying her. Nor could he see Robyn stumbling along beside him, or Archi holding her hand, trying to guide her best, a bunch of broken pencils clutched firmly in her other hand.
All he could see was Laura.
“All these years, I knew you’d come back to me. I looked everywhere. But now I’ve found you.”
Dark felt his lips curl into a slight smile. But then they went back to a frown, when he saw that Laura was not smiling. She seemed to be sleeping.
“That’s right, you can sleep now, rest…you’ve been through too much, dear.” Dark could just about hear himself mumbling. His eyes were still fixed on Laura’s bobbing form.
He had a vague idea that Laura was not quite Laura anymore. But he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Not after all these years spent, waiting, searching.
But a part of him knew the truth, seemed to remember Laura attacking him. Somewhere in his head, something was screaming noiselessly, mourning, dying very slowly, but Dark was unable to tell what it was. But there was one thing he knew. He knew who was responsible for the pain.
There they were in their grey uniforms, hiding in the shadows of the alley, hundreds, maybe millions of them, their black claws outstretched, gleaming eyes, trying to take Laura away from him. Trying to silence his friends. Dark could see them, see the faceless Antagonists crowding around him, perhaps only in his head. All his anger began to surface now, a rage he had never thought himself capable of.
“How many more of us will you hurt? How many of the people we love?” Dark wanted to scream, but it came out a whimper. He was trying to raise his hand in defiance at the unseen shadows, but it was a feeble effort, one that nearly made him collapse and his eyes swim. He couldn’t take any more of this. No more.
No more. Go act.
Dark felt himself agreeing in the haze, nodding as vigorously as he could. He could see the words manifest themselves in front of him, keeping pace with his weak eyes, glowing as they slowly followed Laura’s limp body. Maybe a message from Laura. Dark willed himself to move faster, closer to Laura. He wanted to ask her, “How?”
No More. Go Act.
They spelled out in front of him again. Laura was going to tell him what to do. Dark wondered why no one else could see the words, glowing bright in the dark, dispelling the shadows of the Antagonists.
And then, incongruously enough, a small word from somewhere out of Dark’s mangled memory, attached itself to the words.
No More. Go Act. Zip
Dark felt confused. He should know what that was, a book, no, a movie, a filename. Maybe a website. He just couldn’t place it, the information dangling just on the outside of his senses. Just for a second his eyes took in Archi’s frightened form, as he realized the Chief Squid must know how to fix this. She had brought his love back to him, after all. He would be ever grateful.
Sure enough, a small grey squid appeared floating amidst the letters. Now Dark knew he had to be insane. Little grey squids don’t appear out of nowhere and float around amid alphabets. But there it was swimming around in thin air in front of Dark’s blurry eyes, right near Laura. Deftly, it moved in and out of them, rearranging the letters, twisting and turning till something else was in its place now, slightly wavering in front of his eyes.
And suddenly, Dark knew, as if he had always known, where salvation lay.