The Way It Was

By Tom Foster

 

 

 

Saturday, November 23rd, 2002

 

 

Nothing was the same anymore.  Such a gross understatement wasn’t hard to make, but it was even worse to realize as truth.  Kerian Anne Turmish had been born into a world that had made sense once, when the land she’d been introduced to had not been a place made for killers and things that clung to the shadows just waiting to spring upon the unwary.  The world she’d wanted to grow up in and eventually create her own family had been lost to her it seemed, gone before she’d ever had the chance to really understand it fully.  As she stood upon the southwest bank of the Willapa Bay, Kera couldn’t help but feel a chill run down her spine that had nothing to do with the temperature outside.

Even in the warmest of summers there was a definite chill when standing so close to the water, a fact that she had enjoyed growing up.  Like her boyfriend Tyler she had never been much of one to withstand a great deal of heat.  She could remember a trip that the family had taken down to southern California many years back.  They’d gone to Palm Springs to visit relatives and what was worse, they’d gone in the middle of August, arguably one of the hottest months out of the year.  She could remember a little too well the sunburns that she and Tyler had suffered through during the trip.  She smiled as the memory of how miserable they’d been surfaced after so long.

“Am I interrupting?”  Kera turned to regard the speaker, she’d already felt the blonde coming but had decided to wait until her friend arrived.  Brooke Landis, a friend since grade school and a pleasant companion even in the worst of times, strode up to her with a gentle smile upon her features, her feet crunching lightly through the light frost that had coated the grasses around them.  Winter was on its way to the peninsula already and would no doubt grip the land in its icy hold for several months.  Thankfully enough the salt air was not conducive to snowstorms all that often, though Kera could remember at least once or twice when the snows had fallen upon the coastline.  It had lasted for all of a day.

“No, I was just standing here, wondering about things is all.”  Brooke nodded her head at her friend’s statement.  Kera had been daydreaming in fact, a luxury that they were afforded far too seldom these days.

“Sarah is inside with Maddie, it looks like she’s going to be okay.”  Kera rolled her eyes as she thought of their other companion, Sarah Burgher.  The dusky blonde was at her best moments an impetuous youth and given more to action than thought.  This was what had brought the trio to this place now when Kera would rather be in Ilwaco, where her boyfriend had gone.

Her love, a young man only a year her senior, had gone on what many who had been left behind in Ocean Park had called a suicide mission.  None of them had understood just why he had decided to make his way, alone, into the heart of the viper’s den without so much as a single companion to make sure he remained safe.  Of course, in this new hell that they were forced to call life Kera wasn’t quite sure if “safe” was anything more than a fantasy that had no grounding in reality any longer.  None of them had been safe for several months now, at least not when it came to wondering whether or not they would be able to open their eyes on the next sunrise.

Their world had changed so drastically in the last several months that Kera could hardly believe they’d adapted so well.  Everything they’d known had been flipped almost upside down, forcing them to conform to what they could no longer understand or be trod beneath the cruel feet of change.  She’d heard so many times from her boyfriend’s parents, the couple that had taken her in as a child, that life would change after high school.  This was undoubtedly not what they’d meant.

In one night the world they’d known had been torn apart.  Evelyn and Gary Ferris, her boyfriend’s parents, had been savagely murdered by three of Kera and Tyler’s classmates, while all around the peninsula the same occurrence had taken place.  The young had supplanted the old somehow and for some macabre reason that they had yet to truly discover, inciting a bloody war that had lasted for only a matter of days before each and every adult over the age of twenty had suddenly gone missing or been found torn apart.  Kera hadn’t been able to understand just what had been going on, none of them had in fact, but she and Tyler had made quick work of abandoning the only home they’d known for so many years, striking out to see just who had managed to survive.

The fellow students that had been responsible for the death of Tyler’s parents had been ready to kill them as well unless they were to join their demented cause, but Tyler and Kera had proven stronger and far more deadly.  The act of killing another human being had been repulsive to Kera and still was, but no longer did she feel the regret that had threatened to crush her at first.  Life was now a matter of survival, but what her boyfriend had gone to do seemed more akin to murder than anything.

Only two weeks before one of their former classmates, a young lady by the name of Brianna Woodall, had been cruelly beaten and dumped outside of their refuge, the large store known as Jack’s Country Store. A note had been left on Brianna’s person, a missive that Tyler had not allowed anyone else to read.  It had most likely been the note that had prompted her love into making his way south towards Ilwaco, where it was more than likely that the missing adults had been taken.  Brianna had confirmed this once she had woken, telling them of how several of their classmates had herded up the adults on the northern end of the peninsula and prodded them towards Ilwaco.  The image this had brought to Kera’s mind had been so horrific that she had shook it away immediately.  That such terrible things could happen in so short a time was more than hard to believe, it was absolutely horrifying to think that anyone she’d once counted as friend could do such a thing.

“How hard did Sarah hit her?”  Kera asked.  They had promised Tyler that if two weeks passed and he did not return that they would come looking for him.  The two weeks had passed and he was still not home, which meant in Kera’s mind that something had happened.  She had promised long ago that as long as she lived nothing would ever happen to Tyler, she would not allow it.  Kera had loved Tyler for many years, feeling a bond with the young man since the time they were children.  He was her everything, the only one that could tame the wild love that existed within her heart.  Many had claimed it was only puppy love when they had been children, but Kera and Tyler had known it was far more.

“She hit her pretty hard, enough to give her a mild concussion.  But Maddie’s already responding to the food and drink that Sarah’s been giving her.”  The three of them had been on the road to Ilwaco when Kera had noticed that they were being followed.  The slip of a girl, her name was Madeline Rohen, had been another of her friends and had come as another surprise that she hadn’t anticipated.  Maddie had always been a nice girl, kind of shy but easy to open up once she was comfortable with someone.  Kera and Tyler had enjoyed Maddie’s company more than once in the past year and had come to find that the young woman was a very interesting person.  That she came from a poor family and a rocky background didn’t matter, she was a decent human being.  The fact that she had allied herself with those who had inflicted so much carnage had been hard to believe, but Kera was bound and determined to see if they could possibly convince the girl to convert back to the gentle soul she’d been.

The three of them had taken refuge in the small farmhouse that Sarah and Maddie were now in, hoping to lure Maddie into a spot where they could flank and then capture her.  Maddie had fallen for their simple trap quite easily, but it had been Sarah that had almost made Kera’s efforts pointless.  As with everything else upon the peninsula, changes had occurred within the three of them as well.  To Tyler had been given the strange ability to absorb any and all kinetic force and then release it in what many of them had already dubbed “energy bombs”.  Added to his already deadly martial skills the young man had become easily the most powerful among them as well as the most dangerous.

Kera had been given dominion over the elements of the land, finding that she was able to utilize them easily to any extent she could think of.  Her control was still a rudimentary thing, meaning that she could only perform small feats.  Brooke had been given the power to project her voice in such a way that any song she gave voice to, no matter the tone or force, would enact a change she desired within an individual or a given area.  She had already come to master a few aspects of this strange talent, though like Kera she was still too new to such a talent to make full use of it.  Sarah’s was undoubtedly the most simple and the one that had allowed her to almost take Maddie’s head off with a length of wood.  The blonde’s speed had made her into something akin to a child’s comic book, allowing her to move at such a rate that she was little more than a blur.  It had been this added force that had almost done Maddie in as the length of wood that Sarah had used had smashed hard into the dark-haired girl’s head.  Kera was just glad that Sarah hadn’t been using one of the carving knives she carried with her.

“Something’s got to be done to calm that girl down.”  Kera said, speaking of Sarah as she shook her head.  Her long brown hair had been done up into a simple ponytail, flowing down the back of her sweatshirt as it swished back and forth with the movement of her head.

Brooke smiled, “She’s fine Kera, just a little overzealous is all.  At least Maddie’s going to be conscious soon, she’ll just have a really nasty headache for a time is all.”

“The bay gets so cold this time of year.”  Brooke frowned lightly as she regarded her friend, wondering what had brought the words spilling from Kera’s mouth.  She could see in the woman’s hazel eyes that Kera’s gaze was focused on nothing, or perhaps something far away that was meant only for her.  Brooke found herself wishing at that moment that she had someone that she could feel this strongly about, that she would gladly go to the ends of the earth for if it meant just one last chance at seeing them.  She knew of the bond between Tyler and Kera and couldn’t help but be just a bit envious.  She and Tony, her late boyfriend, had gotten along just fine and in fact had been planning to attend the same college after high school, but there had always been the questions in her mind of what life would be like if she allowed herself to remain with Tony indefinitely.  He’d been a nice, handsome young man, but like her, he’d still be growing and finding out who he really was.  High school had been a fine place to do this, but it had still been a time in their lives when being young had been more important than what was to come next.

“He’ll be okay Kera.  This is Tyler we’re talking about.”  Brooke flashed a grin at her friend as she spoke, hoping it was help Kera to lighten up just a bit.  As the other woman grinned just slightly Brooke was still heartened to think that perhaps the gravity of their current situation hadn’t begun to bow her shoulders just yet.  The good lord knew it was already heavy upon their hearts, they didn’t need it to force them to their knees as well.

“I know.   But I’m still worried.”

Now Brooke knew that her friend was concerned.  While Kera wasn’t close-mouthed about her feelings she rarely if ever expressed them so easily.  Like Tyler the woman was more reserved when it came to such things, she didn’t give out more than she felt was necessary.

“What if he’s not the same?”  Kera didn’t answer Brooke’s question for many moments, keeping her gaze out upon the bay as though she hadn’t heard.  Brooke realized her friend didn’t want to think anything bad about Tyler, neither did she.  Though she hadn’t approved of Tyler’s methods in their survival thus far she could no longer find fault with his results.  She had pledged her life to the man with every ounce of morality and truth she could muster, which was considerable, and she would hope against all hope that her question would be answered with a negative.

“I don’t know Brooke.  I just don’t know.”  That hadn’t been what Brooke wanted to hear, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything else.  As she turned her own gaze to the bay Brooke felt a cold lump within her heart when she thought of Tyler.  He had gone to Ilwaco to free the captives they’d learned of in any way he possible could, no matter what happened.  Brooke had known Kera and Tyler for too many years to misunderstand Tyler’s methods.  She had seen the young man black out once before when she and Kera had been endangered, and it had scared her so badly that she’d been unable to talk to Tyler for several days after.

She knew her friend was a compassionate and loyal person, she knew that Tyler would give the shirt off of his back to anyone in need.  Even those within the school that hadn’t always liked him found that he was a person to at least respect, someone who wouldn’t hold grudges for long and would forgive more readily than punish.  Only a few people in school had ever been able to hold a grudge against Tyler for more than a month or so, and even then they wouldn’t go out of their way to bother him.  He was far from being a saint, but he was a good person.  The thought that something like that might change was hard to stomach.

Brooke knew that Tyler could be cold and calculating, she had seen that he could be vicious and unforgiving, but this was a side of him that rarely if ever surfaced.  The day he had nearly beaten a man to death, and at the age of thirteen no less, had never left her mind.  She and Kera had accompanied Tyler down to the corner market in Ilwaco shortly after school had let out, discussing their triumphs and losses during the end of the Track and Field station.  They’d stopped at Hilltop Elementary to enjoy the sack of food they’d bought and had been accosted by two grown men, both who had focused almost entirely on her and Kera.  When the men had told Tyler that they were going to take her and Kera off and “have some fun”, Tyler had stood up, stating firmly that they would not.  The men of course had laughed, thinking that a boy had no chance of fending away both of them.  One of them had had to find out the hard way that Tyler’s word was far more than just talk.

Tyler had pummeled the man that had attacked him so badly that the unfortunate fellow had been sent immediately to the hospital with injuries so severe that it had looked as though he’d been hit by a truck.  Worse than this however had been the blank look in Tyler’s eyes as he’d hammered away at the man, the absolute lack of presence within his eyes that had caused him to look as though he were in a trance.  Later on he’d claimed not to have any memory of the event after he’d stood up.  The few adults that had questioned him about this had not believed it at first, but when pressed Tyler had still claimed not to remember nearly beating a man to death.  In the end he’d been scolded, grounded and admonished for taking matters into his own hands.

Brooke hadn’t agreed completely with the punishment, she and Kera had after all been spared from whatever unimaginable horrors that the men would have inflicted, but she had still walked softly around Tyler afterward.  It hadn’t been the last time either that Tyler had lashed out at someone in a blind rage.  Only another two years later he’d broken a senior’s jaw during football practice when the larger boy had pinned Tyler to the ground.  That case had been taken to court and had been ruled on in favor of Tyler thanks to the proof of physical torment that the senior had inflicted on Tyler for many years.  Still, the student body had began to look differently upon Tyler for a short time.

“He’ll be the same.  He has to be.”  Brooke said.  She didn’t feel the truth of her words, but it felt good to say them nonetheless.  She had to believe that Tyler was the same man, that he wouldn’t change so drastically in such a short time.  If she couldn’t believe that then there would be no reason to keep traveling south.

“He went to Ilwaco to kill, Brooke.  He’s not going to let them all free, he’s going to make sure they don’t suffer any longer.”  Brooke felt the lump of ice turn to lead in her heart as Kera spoke.  She knew too well that her friend was right.  Tyler’s motives for traveling south were not as pure as she would like to believe, he was not on a mercy mission to free the adults and non-conformist children, he was going to make sure that they weren’t forced to suffer whatever degradations that their former classmates might be inflicting upon them.  According to Brianna the stadium that sat just a short ways from the high school had been reinforced with extra tall fencing and razor wire so that escape was impossible.  Brianna had gone on to tell them of how the football field had been utilized as a sort of arena, not unlike the Roman gladiators used so long ago.

The idea of this had appalled each one of those who’d heard it.  To think that their classmates had created such a bloody sport within what had once been a field filled with memories both good and bad was sickening.  Kera hadn’t even wanted to think of what might occur on the field grounds now, though her imagination had done quite well in filling in the blanks she had left.

“I know what he went for.”

“And you don’t think killing will change him?”  Kera turned to look at Brooke now, her eyes hard as she stood absolutely still.  Brooke didn’t want to argue with her friend just now, especially not given their current circumstances.  But perhaps it would be better to get this out now rather than the closer they got to Ilwaco.  They were already close enough to the port town to reach it within the next day, but they’d already decided to stay within the home until Maddie recovered.

“Has it changed him yet?  He’s killed more than once in the last several months Kera and he’s still the same man, or at least mostly.”  Brooke added this last part at the last second as she finished her sentence.  What she said was true and Kera knew it, Tyler was for the most part the same man, at least for the most part.  He had changed in a way, but then so had they all.  Having their world tipped on its ear suddenly overnight had a strange effect, it had made them all grow up just that much faster.  There had been a time when none of them had been forced to worry about waking up the next day, when their greatest concern had been studying for the next test in a long succession of papers and exams.  Now their biggest concern was how well fortified their home was within Jack’s Country Store and whether or not they would discover a new and more dangerous enemy on the next day.

“He doesn’t laugh as much.  And he, I don’t know, he’s too serious now, as though he can’t loosen up anymore.”  Brooke nodded, she knew exactly what Kera was speaking.  She’d noticed the changes as well and had wondered at them just as much as Kera no doubt had.  Tyler had at one point been a rather carefree individual, given to laughter more than brooding and living life as though it were a massive playground rather than the real world it actually was.  In short he had been much more alive, much more child-like in the way he composed himself.  This man they both knew now was the same person, but the carefree attitude seemed to have been replaced by a wall of stone, a barrier that Tyler had somehow lain across his heart in order to do what he must.  Brooke could sympathize a bit, she had already begun the process of moving on a few months before.

None of them had truly accepted the fact of what their lives were now, but all of them had quickly realized that life was not going to grow any easier. Grieving would allow them to move on, but it would not allow them to live as they needed to if it became a prolonged thing.  The time to mourn the dead was gone, the days that lay ahead now were for the living.

“He still cares deeply for all of us and wants us to be safe.”  Kera nodded at Brooke’s words but did not reply, keeping her gaze out across the bay.  As Brooke followed her trackless gaze she could have sworn that she saw a ripple just beneath the water, as though something had moved off just a moment or two before she would have spotted it.  The shadow of something beneath the water hinted at the fact behind her suspicion, but she couldn’t have said what the creature was even if she’d wanted to.  So much about their world had changed that it was no surprise that the local wildlife would be a part of it.

“Do you think this has happened all over the world Brooke?  Or are we just cursed to have it happen here?”  Brooke shook her head, she had thought of this as well but could not speculate.  There were no rumors or beliefs that anyone had escaped this hell, at least not upon the peninsula, but she also knew from the story that Brianna had given them that apparently any who tried to make their way off of the peninsula did not return.  That could have meant many things, but Brooke hadn’t been of a mind to test any of them.

“I’m not sure.  We don’t get any television reception or radio.  Even cell phones and land lines are useless.  Its funny though that the utilities still seem to be working.”  It had been several months since the change, but yet the power and water had continued to flow without any cease, startling each one of those that had survived.  In each and every post-apocalyptic story they’d ever read or watched both Brooke and Kera could remember that the power and clean water had been among the first concerns of the bedraggled survivors.  That they still had use of the utilities was amazing enough, but they had not questioned it so much as they had decided to instead enjoy it.  Having working lights, clean running water and the ability to cook their food with electricity was simply too good to be believed.

“Life used to be so simple.”  Kera’s voice was quiet as she spoke, her eyes closing for a moment as Brooke listened.  She could hear sorrow in her friend’s voice, even a hint of melancholy, but there was strength there as well.  So much had been taken from them, so much that could not be given back.  She had felt the bite of this strange malady that had sown its chaotic way upon their lives as well, but like her friends, she had refused to succumb to it.  Those in Ilwaco that had been so readily corrupted by the strange, feral nature that they had given themselves to were lost to them now.  Friends, classmates that had at one time been around them for years were now the most bitter of enemies, a turn of events that Brooke could not help but lament.

“Life is still simple, but the rules have changed a bit.”  Brooke replied.  Kera found that she couldn’t really argue with that, even though she wanted to.

*                      *                      *

 

Almost an hour after she’d stood on the bank of the Willapa Bay with Brooke, Kera finally managed to wander inside to catch some rest.  It was an elusive prey at first, ducking and dodging its way through her consciousness, evading her even though she could feel it within her bones.  Finally though Kera fell asleep, sinking into the soft covers and mattress of the bed within the master bedroom of the home.  Brooke and Sarah had each taken their own rooms within the house, Brooke the living room and Sarah one of the other two bedrooms along with Maddie, whom she was still charged with looking over.

Sleep was good, it helped her to relax finally, aiding her into a rest that she didn’t feel she deserved but could definitely use.  Kera had not forgiven herself for allowing Tyler to go alone towards Ilwaco, no matter that he was almost a grown man and could make his own decisions.  He was her love, her heart in all ways, it didn’t seem right to her to allow the man whose child she now carried to walk into danger by himself.  But he had wanted it this way.  That was Tyler though, even before he’d changed he had always wanted to do things on his own.  He acknowledged help when he needed it, but he was also stubborn to refuse it when he didn’t want others to get hurt for his decision.

In some ways he was far more mature than his eighteen years would indicate, but in her mind he would always be the young man that had looked at life each day with a fresh outlook and a smile that told the world, “bring it on”.  That was her Tyler, he was so confident that he could grin in the worst of storms, the most dangerous of situations.  He knew his limits, he knew when he was outmatched, but he didn’t’ care.  In many ways he was the most fearless person she had ever met, the most dominating personality that she might ever know.  Thankfully he didn’t throw it around, preferring to keep his ego in check at most times, but it was far too obvious even when he didn’t wish it to be known.

As she fell into deeper slumber Kera remembered the Tyler that had been, not the man that he was now.  She loved him still as fierce as ever, but there was no denying that he had become a different creature, someone that she didn’t entirely know as of yet.  This mattered not a bit to her, she would always love him, no matter what.  As the darkness finally enfolded her fully into its waiting embrace Kera let this last though linger, allowing it shield her against the nightmares that had come all too frequently as of late.  It was more than enough, just as it had always been.

*                      *                      *

 

The waters in front of her lashed hard against the weather worn rocks that had been set upon the side of the road so long ago.  Placed there to absorb the force of the storms that rolled so unerringly upon the coastline with barely a hint of warning, the massive stones had seen many a decade of harsh weather and had still remained, dislodged only by the fiercest of shoves from the river that flowed just beyond their place.  This day was no different as she looked skyward, seeing only the dark, iron gray clouds that visited the peninsula so often during winter and spring.  Fall was a far more festive time upon their home, displaying colors of such intensity that the eye was drawn to them all at once, causing one to feel as though they were mired within a panoply of dark hues that simply radiated a feeling of hearth and home.  This was not the same, though she could not help but feel a sense of home, a feeling of familiarity that she could not feel anywhere else. 

            Looking down Kera saw that she stood upon one of the water-slicked rocks, her footing as sure as any.  Casting her gaze out to the rolling breakers within the river she could see the massive swells and whitecaps that were normal for storm season, their every cresting movement sending them forward or to the banks where they crashed upon impact.  She knew that to stand upon one of the rocks during such a time was more than a little dangerous, but for some reason she felt as though she were in no danger, that she was completely safe.  There was only one explanation for this, Tyler was near.

            All her life since she had known him, Kera had always felt safe around Tyler.  The effect he had upon her mood was such that she could not bring herself to stay sad, depressed or even angry when he was around.  He was a balm to her heart that she could not do without, a soothing presence that made everything, even a storm such as the one that seemed to be brewing, seem like nothing at all. 

            Kera looked to her left first, her eyes taking in the far shore of Astoria, where she expected to see the bustling port city that she’d known so well for so long.  What she saw instead was a ruin, a decrepit pile of rubble and shattered buildings that barely resembled what she could remember of the city.  Nothing remained of Astoria it seemed, not even the houses atop the hill had seemed to escape whatever ruination had been visited upon them.  Her heart thudded madly in her chest as Kera tore her gaze towards the bridge, her eyes widening further at what she saw. 

            The four mile long bridge that led from Astoria to the Washington bank of the Columbia River was little more than a few iron beams and concrete shards sticking up out of the water.  Not a single arch remained, leaving only empty air where once the proud green metal of the bridge had existed.  How could such a thing have happened?  Her mind whirled with the impossible image, stunning her so readily that Kera couldn’t help but gasp in horror.

            “Much will change.”  Kera almost stumbled as she heard the voice, whipping her head around to view the speaker.  The water that had slicked the top of the stone she stood upon betrayed her as Kera’s feet began to slip, sliding dangerously as she felt her balance deserting her.  Even as she began to fall however she felt a strong hand reach out, grasping her easily by her right arm as she fought to regain her footing. 

            After several moments she stood straight once again, her balance regained but her mind still awhirl with the impossible things she had just seen.  Her heart hammered away in her chests like a crazed animal as her mind denied that she had seen the far bank or the bridge correctly.  As she looked up to see the face of her savior Kera’s breath caught again, an uneasy smile creasing her lips as she looked upon her lover’s face. 

            Tyler had changed.  She knew already that he had changed from what she remembered, but there was more to him now than she could remember in the past several months.  Instead of allowing her to see his eyes he wore a pair of dark sunglasses, tinted so black that it was though they absorbed any ambient light rather than reflecting it.  His face had changed slightly as well, though Kera could not dwell upon this completely for the moment. 

            “Tyler?  What’s happened here?  What happened to Astoria?  What happened to the bridge? What-?”  Tyler brought one finger to his lips silently, reaching out to caress Kera’s chin gently as she was silenced.  Kera felt herself tremble slightly at his touch, feeling a strength within the man that she could not remember.  There was power in his merest caress, an electrifying sense of absolute force that could not be ignored and she could not remember having been present ever before.  Something had changed in Tyler, that much was obvious.  But when had it happened?  Was this what had happened to him when he’d gone to Ilwaco?  Was she right, had the same thing that had happened on the peninsula happened elsewhere?  So many questions rattled through her mind at that moment that it was all that Kera could do not to give voice to each one of them, finding that her senses were just as confused as the rest of her.

            “Things are going to change dragonfly, they’re going to change in a big way.”  Tyler’s face pinched slightly as he spoke, his gaze never leaving Kera from behind the dark glasses.  She could feel something at that moment, as though Tyler were relieved in a way to see her.  Such sadness poured from him that she could not help but feel tears trickle from her eyes, mirroring the strange sorrow that suddenly seemed to come from the man.  What was happening?

            “What happened here Tyler?”  Her love didn’t answer for a moment, inhaling through his nostrils as though steeling himself in a way.  Kera couldn’t help but tense, she knew nothing of what was coming, nor did she understand why Tyler was here, now, when he had been in Ilwaco for the past two weeks.  What had happened?

            “It’s easier to show you Kera.  So much has happened, or will happen, that words can’t adequately explain it.”  Kera still didn’t understand as she shook her head lightly, her long brown locks blowing about in the winds that ripped along the banks of the river.  She had no clue as to why she was here now, nor did care.  She was with Tyler, that was all that mattered.  Unfortunately the rest of what had happened in her sight still nagged at the back of her mind, refusing to simply be dumped aside as it tore at her consciousness, demanding her attention despite the fact that she did not wish to give it. 

            “Please Tyler, just tell me what’s going on.  Are you okay?”  Tyler managed a weak smile just then, the facial hair (it had grown so thick!) upon his cheeks and above and below his lips crinkling slightly with the gesture.  He seemed older somehow, far more experienced and even harder in a way that she could not reconcile with the man that had left on that fated morning two weeks before.  This did not seem like the Tyler she knew, but it was still him nonetheless. 

            “Close your eyes Kera.  Trust me and close your eyes.”  Kera narrowed her eyes just a bit as Tyler took one of her hands in his own, his calloused fingers caressing her fingers gently.  She felt such a warmth from this man, just as she always had, that she would trust him with anything, no matter what.  Tyler had always been the man for her, no matter what anyone had ever said.  Other young men had tried to woo her, they’d tried to vie for her attention, but it had always been meant to be her and Tyler.  Not once in their lives had it ever seemed to either of them that it was meant to be any other way.  They were bound together in such a way that not even death would break them apart it seemed, that even the grim visage of the reaper would be hard pressed to even nick the ties that bound them. 

            As Kera closed her eyes she held her breath, unsure of what was about to happen.  She would trust Tyler, he would never harm her nor allow her to be harmed, but at this moment she was concerned, though she did not know why.

            “I am sorry my love, but this is what must come to pass.”  Kera frowned as Tyler spoke.  She wished to ask him what he meant but in the next moment was rocked backward as images flooded into her mind, random bits and pieces of scenes and surroundings that assaulted her every sense as she was almost knocked to the ground.  Tyler’s hand was there upon her however, holding her steady as her balance threatened to leave her once again.  As he held onto her firmly Kera opened her mouth wide, almost screaming in an attempt to banish the thoughts and sounds that now assailed her.  So much pain, so much sorrow, she could not help but feel each bolt of sadness like a lance into her heart, an icy stab of such agony that it was all she could do to not break down in sobs of heartfelt despair.

            There was more than this however thankfully.  There was joy, there was happiness, there was honor and the feeling of those who would lay their lives down gladly for one another, a truly warm feeling that alit upon her bones and sank deeply into her soul as she was dimly aware that Tyler was still holding onto her.  He would not let go, he was the rock, the juggernaut of the ages she sensed, the one that would always be there when he was needed.  Yet she felt the sadness within him as well, the utter sense of loneliness that emanated from his being.  How could that be?  He had her, he had the rest of his friends back in Ocean Park, how could he still be so undeniably sad? 

            Kera rocked back once more as what seemed like eons of time pressed against her, threatening to squash her mortal mind like an ant beneath the foot of a lumbering giant.  There was so much within the simple touch of her love that was conveyed that she could scarcely comprehend why he had done this, why he had shown her this.  What had happened?  Why did he seem so different?  Her mind screamed at her to stop, to cease and desist this continuing storm of emotion and allow it to rest.  Kera would have liked to do nothing more than this, but she was denied her memories of the way it was.  There was no sense of time now, only the crushing despair and the balancing emotions that strove to bring the entire mess back to level dominated.  Her mind was overwrought with the effort of attempting to assimilate this sudden and very unexpected task, threatening to shut down at any second as she still felt Tyler’s gentle grip upon her arm.

            “I am sorry my love.  We will enjoy the time we have, but this must come to pass.”  Kera wanted to cry, she wanted to shout for joy, she wanted to break down and sob until her tears dried up, anything to rid herself of the pressure that was now laid bare against her battered nerves.  She wanted it to end, she wanted the unwanted despair to leave, to depart like a wisp of storm cloud that knows to expend itself is folly.  She wanted to-

 

-wake up.  Kera jolted from where she lay half-sprawled upon the bed, flinging a large, fluffy pillow across the room suddenly as she came awake with a start.  Her breathing was heavy as she leaned forward after several moments of glancing at the shadows within her room, as though to make sure that she was alone.  The dream faded quickly as she leaned forward, holding her head in her hands, finding that she was sweating profusely for some reason.  After several moments she could no longer remember what she’d been dreaming about.  All she knew was that Tyler had been there.  That thought alone seemed to comfort her more than anything.

 

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