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A note from Eldwurm

Rewritten it a bit at the end. 19/4/2021

I always wonder whether there’s an afterlife. Like what’s life after you died? Have you ever question it? Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m rather interested in knowing that. More so since I died twice. Not gonna lie, I really did went through death two times, and looking where I’m at, I think a third one is coming along in the future.

Maximus Cain stared at the familiar ceiling. He felt the soft bed underneath him, and yet it wasn’t up to his standard. Could have done better, thought the man. On second thought, why does all of this feels familiar? He propped his body and took a quick look around. His head tilted left as his eyes narrowed. My room? A simple minimalist room with a bed far from the window and a table with a desktop, it couldn’t get any simpler than this. His curiosity left, replaced by a loose smile. Well, who would have thought? I’m back in first my life, and that’s quite a coincidence. Come to think of it, how did I die in the first place?

Vague memories came back. Memories that were long forgotten over nine-hundred and ninety-nine years. A year short to a millennium. His first life was short, but not the second. Hmm, I do remember a bright flash of light, and it kinda sounds like… Oh! An explosion, now I remember. I definitely got caught up in an explosion. I think…

Maximus still wasn’t sure of how he died in the first… Wait, this doesn’t make any sense. If I died, why am I still here? A flash of realization came knocking on his brain. Technically speaking, he wasn’t dead in the first place, he just woke up. Like from a dream, a very vivid dream. Maximus got up and ran to his bathroom. He saw his reflection in the mirror and was stunned to see it. A pale, gaunt man with brown hair and brown eyes. It’s me. He recognized his old face, a face that was similar yet different. I look like a dead man. Well, almost dead. His eyes caught something around his neck. He stretched the collar of his white long sleeve and saw what was underneath.

Damn, that’s bad. A burn keloid scar extending from the left side of his neck down to his left flank. Half of his left upper arm had also the same scars. That’s definitely from whatever happened to me. He also noticed the emaciated skeleton body he had. Whatever it is, I need answers.

“Max?” a woman’s voice turned him over. He saw a woman standing there by the door. Her hand covered her gaping mouth with widened eyes. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“Kate?” Max recognized who she was as the memories were coming back to him. Even after almost a millennium, he still remembered the face of his sister. Long wavy dark brown hair with her eyes similar to his, a deep brown color.“Hi,” Max said, waving his hand awkwardly. “It’s been a…”

Kate jumped at him, hugging him tightly. He felt her arms wrapped around his thin body. He couldn’t let out a word as Kate broke into tears. It took a while for everything to calm down.

“I’m glad you woke up,” said Kate, staring her brother in the eyes. “What happened Kate?” Max pulled out the big question. Kate stared down in silence, taking her time with her fists clenching hard. Max noticed this and placed his hand over hers. “Is everything alright?” He probed further.

“Nine months ago, you were caught up in an accident, an explosion,” Kate said. I was right, it was an explosion. But damn, did I really survived an explosion? That’s kinda Die Hard material.

“But it wasn’t just an explosion.” Kate raised her head, looking once more at Max’s eyes. “It was the doing of the Elder Dragon, Droduin,” said Kate with a deadpan expression.

“Wait, what?” Max bewildered. Is she serious? His eyes shifted from side to side unconsciously. “I know what you’re thinking. It sounds crazy but…” Kate pulled her hand and grabbed over Max’s. “It’s the truth. Strange things had happened after you went into a coma. Things that are hard to explain.” Max had his fair share of weirdness back in his second life but being bombarded about some weird shit happening in the normal earth was rather hard to believe.

“Here, you have to look at this,” Kate took out her phone and showed him a video. A ten feet two-legged lizard caused a chaotic scene in the street of Manhattan. It flipped cars, crashed buildings, and even ate fleeing pedestrians. It looked so real that it could have been a box office for a continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise. “Well, in nine months the Jurassic Park franchise definitely step up their game. I just hope this isn’t the trailer. You know how-”

He felt nails digging into his skin. “Ow, ow, I get it, I get it.” The pain stopped. He pulled his bony hand away. “Don’t bleed the skeleton man, I’m fragile and defenseless.” He feigned weakness with a pained face.

Kate stared at Max in blankness. It lasted for a while. “You’ve changed,” said Kate. In her eyes, Max felt out of place, different from what she knew of him. He wasn’t this relaxed from what she remembered.

Max lightly smiled. Nine hundred and ninety-nine years was a long time and a time that could definitely change a person. He wasn’t fazed as Kate would expect. Real-life monsters running around the city were something that anyone would freak out about. “I’m just glad I woke up from a coma.” Max smiled.

Kate sighed out of relief. But a bigger thing waited at the edge of her lips. “Max, there’s something I need to tell you.” Her eyes glanced away from Max. She didn’t know how to tell this. “What? More surprises? I’m hoping horny sirens are swimming around Long Beach,” Max said with a chuckle in the end.

Kate sighed again. “I don’t know whether this is the right time or not. But it's better for you to know sooner than later,” Kate said. Max could hear the tone in her voice changing. The nonchalant look he had turned stoic. He prepared his ears as she said, “Mom isn’t here anymore, Max.”

Max stiffened. It came at him like a tidal wave. He felt his heart constricted as the stoic face broken into a frown. Mom, Max thought. It was something he had long come to peace with. Something he had buried during his second life, a life that he knew that he won’t come back to his original world. Yet fate was twisted in a sense. He died in his second life and came back, unexpected in a way. But it seemed everything had a cost.

“Max?” Kate’s eyes turned moist. Max was crying in silence with not a word coming out from his mouth. Tears trailed down his cheeks as he couldn’t believe it. Mom. He called for his mother with his palms opened, catching the tears that he shed. The long-forgotten face of his mother resurfaced in his mind as he thought, I miss you…

His heart ached and he felt the pain. “It hurts,” he mumbled, looking at his sister. “It hurts, Kate.” It had been a long time since he felt this kind of pain. Kate broke into tears as she hugged her brother. The only living family in her life. Both brother and sister shared their grief as both cried together. Only the sounds of their sobbing filled the whole room and the whole house. While outside, it was a bright day with the sun shining.

***

Max stood over his mother’s grave, staring at the tombstone with a vacant stare. His black suit was bigger and looser, thanks to the bared bony body he had. He stood there for over an hour with Kate by his side. They didn’t move nor did they speak. They just stood, staring at their mother’s grave. He had already asked of what happened and Kate gave him all the details regarding their mother’s death.

“Mom was waiting in the pharmacy for medical supplies. It was safe since Newark was designated by the army as a safe zone. But then it happened, I was working in the cafe and the news came up. The reporter said a Rupture appeared right across the street from the pharmacy, and then they came…” Kate broke into tears once more. “I’m sorry Max, I’m sorry that I didn’t do anything.” She begged for Max’s forgiveness. “I-I-I’m… sorry… sorry for being useless,” Kate said. She lamented the fact that she was weak. She could only stand at the military line around the street as the military handled it on their own. She could only call their mother from afar, screaming for her name, nothing else, nothing more.

Max stared at his mother’s grave. Sorry, mom. He said in his heart, apologizing to his mother. Sorry, I’m late. His chin trembled as he fought back the urge to cry. He pulled his sister by the shoulder as he kissed her on the head. “It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault.” He echoed those words to Kate as both shared another hug. Max didn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t do anything.

After another hour, they left the graveyard with dusk approaching. Kate was in the driver’s seat, wheeling the old Toyota Camry. Max stared out through the window, taking in the new place they were living. “What do you want for dinner?” Kate asked, trying to liven up the atmosphere. “Anything’s fine,” Max said. “I know a great pizza place near our house. You’ve got to try it, they make like the best margarita pizza of all time.” There was excitement in Kate’s voice masking over her sorrow.

House. The term house felt rather foreign after knowing the truth. The moment he stepped out of his house, the street was unfamiliar. It wasn’t Queens, he thought. A thorough explanation enlightened the man in the dark. Kate told him, that after what happened in Queens, their family moved to a town in New Jersey, courtesy of the government's aid. And about his room being the exact way, Kate told him that mom wanted it to be like so. It wasn’t much work considering Max was a simple man, but what Kate said next struck him hard. Mom didn’t want me to be surprised after waking up, she knew I would wake up. Max once again on the verge of crying. But he pushed it back. He didn’t want Kate’s effort of livening things up to botch.

“Sure, why not,” Max said, lightly smiling at his sister. They exchanged glances for a brief second and a light smile hung on Kate’s face. Kate turned the radio on and dialed up the volume. “I’ve got your favorite song,” said Kate. A choir’s voice broke through the radio, a harmonious intro that touched Max in the heart. He smiled. We are, huh? He remembered the intro by heart. A song that resonated well during those days. His head bopped to the song as they reached the pizzeria

***

“It’ll be ready in twenty minutes,” said the waitress. She left the table, leaving the brother and sister alone. “You gonna love it,” Kate said, hyping up the best pizza she had ever taste. Max smiled seeing how happy his sister was. It was a good look for her, better than a gloomy face. His eyes turned to the television bolted on the wall, the news title gained his attention. It was another report about Rupture. He turned back to Kate. “So, want to fill me in about these Ruptures?”

Kate’s smile vanished replaced by a pout. “Great, you just mess up my good mood,” said Kate. Max shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry, but I’m still clueless about all these Ruptures. The only thing you told me or show me was a dinosaur running loose in New York,” said Max.

“Fine,” said Kate. She gave a thorough explanation of what she knew. Rupture, an unknown phenomenon that opened up a rift to another dimension. A dimension that spilled out monsters onto earth. “Many died…” Kate said with her head down. “Then, how did the military handle it? They nuke them?”

“No,” Kate said. “Well, I don’t know what the government really did, but I do know that the people are fighting back.”

“That’s not surprising, considering people love their guns,” Max said. I think I should get one.

“No, Max. It’s not the guns.” Kate shook her head. Max’s assumption was way off. “Then what…” he didn’t finish his words, turning back, staring in a direction. “Max? Is everything…” Kate couldn’t ask. Max got up and left. Kate gave chase. “Wait!”

Max left the pizzeria and ran by the side of the road. He left the bright light of the road and the town, running into the trees. “Hey!” Kate caught up and blocked Max’s path. She panted for her breath. “The heck Max?”

Max was more worn out than her. He was in his worst condition and running was pushing it. “I… found…” he was huffing for his breath. “Something,” he pointed in a direction. Kate followed Max’s finger and found something glowing in the darkness of the trees.

Max stood back up straight and walked over to the light. “Wait, you don’t know what it is.” Kate grabbed Max by the shoulder. “Then, let’s find out,” Max said. He continued and Kate trailed from behind. They approached the glowing light and as they stood before it, Kate couldn’t hide her surprise. Her eyes were wide and her mouth gaped. “A Rupture!” she said. Max stood and smiled. I guess my Chakra Sense is still working and this…

He glanced at the Rupture on the ground. A multiple spectrum color, glowing on the ground in a certain irregular area. “Max, we’ve got to run!” there was urgency in her voice. She pulled Max by the arm and yet he won’t budge. “Max!” she shouted.

“Growl…”

Both turned heads at the Rupture. A lone growl echoed through the dark forest. It made Kate’s skin crawled hearing that eerie cry. The fear of monsters took over her. She let go of Max and grabbed something from behind, stashed in-between her jeans. She pulled out a Glock 19 and took aim at the Rupture.

“Wow, I’ve never expected that,” Max commented, seeing his sister armed with a gun. Kate had enough of feeling weak and useless. She took matters into her own hands and stepped up on the plate.

“Max! We’ve got to fucking leave! The monsters are gonna come out.” She urged her brother. Yet he stood still and turned his back to Kate. He smiled and bewildered Kate. She didn’t get why her brother was acting like this. She knew the fear of being near a Rupture. She lost her mother and she once lost her brother.

“Kate,” Max called. “You said mom died because of this, am I right?” He pointed the thing behind him, the thing on the ground.

“Max, this isn’t the time to play games,” said Kate. “I’m not,” his voice turned cold and so did his eyes. It felt hollow like staring at a void. Kate was shocked by the change. The nonchalant smile was long gone replaced by that cold demeanor. He grinned and said, “Whatever that killed mom, I’m gonna give them back a million fold.”

Kate felt goosebumps and for some odd reason, she subconsciously feared her own brother. “Max?” her voice trembled.

Max turned to the Rupture. “Go back, Kate.” Max walked closer to the Rupture. “You’re not ready for whatever is inside there.”

“and you are?” she questioned back.

“That’s what I’m about to find out.” He stepped into the hole in the ground and he vanished.

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