Chapter 1.2Mature

Defeated, Austin walked back to his place, preferring to take the time to think and brood instead of going right back to the empty room by the time he arrived, his migraine had even died out. The boardroom where he's elected to stay was an old, almost crumbling building, standing in the shadow of newer skyscrapers of the area. The narrow road that had been relayed to be little more than a back alley with the expansion of the city dived into the labyrinth of cement, steel and glass.

As he came in, he gave a subtle nod at the local attendant, a short and ageing Asian man wearing clothes that had gone out of style nearly two decades ago. He climbed up the stairs two at a time and locked himself in the room he rented. The crammed space was smaller than he had ever lived in, the bathroom of his parent's house in Phoenix was larger. All it contained was a futon, a small drawer and a battered desk where his laptop rested. 

He slouched down on the stool, leaning over the tiny workplace, trying to figure out what to do. He was supposed to be in Hong Kong to study social sciences but he'd ditched his classes to try to find the man from his vision. Now, that he'd done it, that man didn't want anything to do with him... 

"He's a real dick..." He found himself mumbling. "Kind of a handsome one..."

He brooded for a moment until someone knocked on his door. Stirring up from his torpor he walked to the door and opened it. The owner stood there, an envelope in hand.

"This just came in for you." This one said, his voice laced with the local accent.

"Thank you Mr. Ming." Austin answered, giving him a polite head nod after taking the letter. Once the man walked away, he closed the door and ripped open the envelope. The inside contained a single sheet of glossy paper and a smaller ticket. At the top, was a stylized 'A surrounded by a crown of laurel'. Bellow was a short message.

Austin Daniel Carter, The Atlantean foundation has selected you for a free seminar on self improvement and personal development, we sincerely hope that you will join us on the 17th of July at nine PM at our Local Hong Kong Facility.

-Sincerely, Elizabeth McKay, Local Representative.

"Spam." Austin said with a shrug. He didn't know much about the Atleantean foundation, but he'd heard the name. It was some large corporation, juggling biotech, ecological concerns and the kind of new age self-help group his aunt rambled about every family gathering. He tossed the envelope onto the bin and took a change of clothes with him, leaving the bedroom and heading for the showers.

It was still early in the evening and so the place was deserted. He quickly undressed and jumped under the still lukewarm water. As it splashed over his face, he felt the grime and his worries wash away.  He loved water, it always seemed to soothe him. He let himself be massaged by it for a moment until he once again felt the sense of vertigo that washed over him. He tried to move out of the shower, but instead he slipped on the wet ceramic. 

He didn't even feel his head hit the ground. 

He saw the pristine hall of a board room, several people sat around the table, he walked closer and saw them playing cards, the top of the table lined with felt. One of them laid down his hand and collected the single chip standing at the center, on it a visage was engraved, with a very recognizable visage on it, bleached spiked hair crowing it.

His vision shifted again. He saw the entrance of a towering building, the sky around the skyscraper was inscribed with floating luminescent runes. The massive sign proudly declared 'Atlantean Foundation, For a new you and a better tomorrow.' A Woman approached him and extended a hand. "Welcome back, Mr. Carter."

The vision faded away and he was surprised to see himself in the common area couch. There was a small crowd around him and his head hurt twofold. 

"He's coming back to his senses." A girl yelled. "How are you doing?" She then added, lower in voice.

"Like a truck ran over me." He grumbled, opening his eyes. 

"You just had an epileptic episode in the showers, when you calmed down, I dragged you out. I think you hurt your head."

With the pain, he didn't think to ask what she was doing in the men's shower. Instead he flashed a weak smile at her. She had dark skin and seemed of Semitic descent. Her blue eyes felt piercing to him.

Thankfully she hadn't dragged him out naked, as a towel was wrapped around him, held in place with a safety pin. 

"I'm Serah." She said. "Do you need help getting to your room?"

"No I'll be alright. And thank you. I'm Austin by the way."

With that he suffled back to the changing room, feeling drowsy and his body aching. He pulled on his pajama and went to bed early, drifting into a spiral of endorphin fueled dreams.

The End

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