Total Eclipse of the Sun
Chapter 1 : A birthday far, far away
As my GPS spoke of the arrival at my destination, my feet exuberantly announced their happiness once I finally exited my gray Nissan Cube. I had left Montreal before the sun had begun to rise up and it had been set for several hours by the time I reached my destination. Muscatine wasn't exactly the closest place to my home, and probably not the most popular one for someone to spend his vacation, but I was there so I could spend some time with my friend, Michael Weston.
While Michael and I have been friends for a long time, the distance between our respective homes prevented us to truly see each other in person. We first met in a game of Starcraft 2 soon after its release. The map we used back then was a 3 players free-for-all. All I remember from that match is that the third player was constantly attacking me, leaving little time to expand and explore the map. After a rather big attack, the game informed me that 3rd player had left the game. The match ended quickly when I saw the large army belonging to a certain player that I hadn't seen so far. While watching the replay of the match, I noticed that the first player hadn't bothered with Michael, whom had used that stupidity to build his army unhindered while I struggled to defend myself. To be honest, I never did well with real time strategy games. I prefer the turn based variant because they give me enough time to actually plan my moves at all times.
After that frustrating match, I decided to leave the game to play a bit of Left 4 Dead. Killing a horde of infected had a strange calming effect when I was 15. At the very least, that was what I had planned to do at the time. Until a certain player using the same user name as the one which had just defeated me joined. Oh, I must not forget to mention that I was using the same user name too and that we were both using microphones, so naturally, Michael started to insult me. Normally I would just have muted him, but I had already reached my limits. So I did the only reasonable thing at the time; I insulted him back. After a while, and a few players leaving as soon as they joined, he suddenly started laugh rather loudly and I soon joined him. We had become friends in a rather messed up fashion.
We didn't actually meet in person until five years later, when he accidentally bumped into me at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. To say that I was surprised to hear his voice when he excused himself would be a major understatement. His parents have the odd habit of planning things without saying a word to their children. So while I knew that he was gone with his family, neither of us knew where they were going. I do remember that his face had been hilarious when I turned around to face him. He took that opportunity to properly introduce me to his family. Especially his two younger sisters, who knew me only as their big brother's WFF (Weird French Friend).
A year later, he received a small inheritance from an uncle which allowed him to buy a small house. While he wouldn't admit it to me, I knew that he chose to stay in the same city as his parents so that he could still see his younger siblings when he wanted.
Speaking of him, my black-haired friend was slowly approaching, his azure eyes giving an odd look at my choice of car; his face was truly worth it. I had taken this model to provoke reactions into others after all. Once he was near the car, he seemed unsure if he should say anything at all, still trying to cope with my decisions. You would have thought that, after having known each other for ten years, he would have been used to my antics by now.
Apparently he wasn't, and I couldn't resist the urge to use this opportunity.
“I'm sorry about the car, they were out of curves when I had to buy a new one so they went for a cube instead.” I told him very seriously. He shook his head at my absurd statement and muttered something about curves.
After a few seconds, Michael finally managed to snap out of it.
“So Alex, how was the trip? I hope there wasn't too much traffic.”
“The traffic actually wasn't all that bad, and the trip was much more enjoyable once I left the roads from the province of Quebec.” I frown toward the end. There is nothing to be proud of when you can easily know you left the province you were born in by a great reduction of bumps and potholes in the road.
”I'm tired from all this driving though. Let me gather up all my stuff and then we should probably call it a night.” I quickly added as I started to walk towards the trunk of my car.
Once I was in possession of my bags, Michael showed me the room I would be staying in for the next week. Once he had left the room, I changed myself into the pyjamas I brought with me and quickly fell asleep.
The return to reality due to the alarm from my phone was as bad as usual. While I had no problem waking up early, you couldn't say that I was truly conscious until I drank my daily dose of coffee. Or have that weird dream I have once in a while.
The dream itself is about a tall white horse with the horn of a unicorn and the wings of a bird. Its multicolored flowing mane was matching its tail. There was also the tattoo of the Sun on its flank. It is fighting a beast from hell with the help of what I can only describe as a chimera on a great volcano. The fight in itself is great, though it would have been more epic if the image part of the dream didn't look like a cartoon. Later during the fight, the white horse is struck by beast, sent flying toward the edge of the mouth of the volcano. The chimera teleports itself next to the equine at the call of its ally. At first, the chimera looks like it is about to help its friend before it starts to laugh like a stereotypical evil character and simply kicks the horse into the lava.
As it is about to touch the lava, the dream's location change into a rather well decorated room with several symbols related to the sun. The chimera reappears in front the horse, who's traits clearly display anger towards the chimerical beast. Then, after a few words, there is a flash of white that ends the dream. The weirdest part about the end of the dream is one of the emotions that I can feel resonating from it; a great amount of guilt.
As the last remnants of sleep left me, my alarm was finally turned off. The only problem was that I was still lying on the bed. Turning my head, I noticed the rather angry face of my friend next to where I had left my phone yesterday...
“While I don't mind that you like to wake early, don't you think that you could LOWER the volume a little bit?” He then proceeded to look at the display of phone before adding, “6:32 in the morning! Don't you think that that's a little too early when you are on vacation?!”
“I'll turn down the volume... I'm sorry!”
I looked at him sheepishly. It might be better if I don't tell him that it normally takes me a good 5 minutes before I notice the sound of the alarm, even at full volume. On the other hand, he already knows that I am used to waking up early no matter what. I think that his irritation about the time has more to do with the fact that he had been woken up a little too early.
“I'll go make some coffee.” He answered flatly.
He left the room, closing the door behind him. At first I wondered why he had closed the door as I was following him, until I noticed that I was still wearing my pyjamas from last night. Okay, I might need a cup of coffee too after all...
Once I arrived in the kitchen, properly dressed, I noticed that Michael's mood had greatly improved since I last saw him in the guest bedroom. I also found a cup full of the magic brew that I needed waiting for me on table. Well, I think it was for me considering that my friend already had an empty one beside him on the same table.
Once all of the miracle liquid had been absorbed, a pleasurable flowed through my now awaken body. Once I reopened my eyes, I noticed that there was also a bowl containing O-shaped orange and green cereals. Hearing laughter emanate from within the room jerked me back to my senses; I had forgotten that my reaction to coffee normally amused others. Especially those who aren't used to seeing me in the morning. Ignoring my friend's reaction, I decided to simply sit at the table and start to eat the cereals that he served me. They had the taste of apple. And sugar of course.
Once Michael's laugh finally died out, I decided to strike up a conversation with him.
“Thank for the coffee by the way, I really needed it.”
“It was my pleasure, in more way then one.” He answered as his mouth turn into a grin. “I know you told me that you weren't all there when you wake up, but I never imagined it was that bad.”
I sighed and decided to change topic.
“So, any plans for today?”
“Well, I thought that you could decide, considering that it is your birthday today after all. Beside, you're here for over a week. We don't exactly have as many places worth visiting compared to Montreal anyway.”
Oh right, I had forgotten about my birthday. It's not that I don't like my birthday, but one more year don't change much once you reach the legal age of 18. While 25 is a nice number, it isn't as if it will bring any change to my life.
“Yours is in two days, right?” I asked him unsure as I remembered that I was only a few days older than him.
“Sunday, yes. Are you still sure you want to accompany me to the dinner? The pests will be there.”
Now it was my turn to laugh at his expense. While he did love his sisters, Fiona and Samantha hardly listened to him.
“You know that I like to see your IES (Insane English Sisters). Besides, it's their birthday too.”
“Right... So, is there anywhere you wanted to go?”
“I think you mentioned that you had a Gamestop? There's a game that came out this week and I didn't have the time to pick it up.”
It was one of the inconveniences of this early vacation. I had to make sure that the parts of the code I was working on were finished considering that it was critical for the next phase of the project. The code didn't cooperate until Wednesday, but I managed it in the end. I was thankful for this because it would probably have taken the duration of my vacation for another programmer to figure out my code. The bad part is that I'll need to work on the documentation once I'm back. Great, it is my favorite part...
“Yes, there is one not too far.”
“Also, I'd like to buy a few things from the supermarket. You need to try one of Quebec's delicacy. I can't believe that you still haven't tried poutine.” I replied, maybe a little too enthusiasm.
“I'm not sure I would call french fries with sauces and cheese a delicacy...” He replied half heartedly.
“Okay, I'll admit that it will not be as good as the real thing back home, but you have to try it. It is my birthday after all.”
“Fine, you win. But it can't be too healthy.”
“Like several American dishes...” I muttered to myself before pulling out my phone to look at the time. “I guess that 7 o'clock is a little too early to go out.”
“Definitely... Did you reduce the sound of that evil thing?”
“Eh, nope. I forgot about this... I think I'll just remove it.” I proceeded to make it so. “I guess it won't hurt me to wake up a little later. What do you think about starting a small game of Civilization to pass the time?”
“As long as the map isn't too big. It would be fun if we manage to complete this game before you need to go back home.”
We took care of the dishes before starting our match of Civilization 7. I was happy to have brought my gaming laptop because Michael was one of the few persons I knew that was still challenging to play against.
After a couple turns, we finally noticed that over 3 hours had already passed. Once we were certain that the game had been properly saved, we took Michael’s car to travel to our first stop : the local GameStop.
While looking through the newly released games on the Playstation 4, I first noticed that they finally released the third installment of Destiny. While I was interested into this game, I was in no hurry to buy it. I have always preferred to play first persons shooter games with friends. Considering that we only had one console available back at Michael's home, I preferred to wait to be back in Montreal to buy it. Beside, Michael have already bought it on its release.
On the other hand, I grabbed the other game on the self that caught my attention. It was a proper remake of Final Fantasy 6 for this generation. While the original game was released before my birth, a friend back home had me try it a few years ago on a fully functional Super Nintendo! I was entranced by the story, though I couldn't stop from feeling that certain parts of the story felt familiar somehow. It's weird though, didn't they make a remake of all the Final Fantasy except the seventh at this point?
Once the game was bought and the offer to protect it declined, we traveled to the nearby Walmart. It's probably not the best place to do groceries, but it will do for our needs. Actually, when I think about it, we could have skipped the GameStop and bought the game here. We first grabbed a bag of frozen fries. Then, after a few minutes of reflection, I decided to take a jar of Bolognese sauce. It had been a while since the last time I had eaten an Italian poutine.
Once we reached the dairy products, I let Michael take care of the cheese while I grabbed a few yogurts. My friend wasn't too happy when he saw me coming back with them. I might have overused that joke just a little too much. At the very least, those were coffee flavored yogurt.
Our final stop was a Quiznos at my insistence. While Michael had proposed several other choices, I preferred to stay with what was familiar to me. I ordered a Black Angus sub on Rosemary Parmesan bread while my fried preferred a Veggie Guacamole sub on wheat bread. Once we had our dinner, we were on our way back to Michael's house.
Once we reached Michael's home, it was four minutes past noon. We quickly placed the food we bought into the fridge. My friend had given the yogurts a dark look as we closed the fridge.
“You know, they won't hurt you.”
“It is not the yogurts that I don't trust, it's what you want to do with them.” I could easily feel his anger hanging on each word...
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean this far with that joke...” I decided to try to defuse the situation with a little joke. “Besides, it's coffee yogurt. You can never go wrong with coffee.”
The first traces of a smile appeared on his visage. I hoped that I didn't make him remember my moment of awfulness this morning though.
“I'll be fine. Just don't bring this up again. I didn't think that it was possible for a sane person to be angry at a yogurt.”
“Who said that the two of us were sane?” That comment was the coup de grâce to his bad mood that I had provoked. I continued, more seriously this time.“I promise that I won't bring up the yogurt again.”
It wasn't the first time that I had gone too far with one of my jokes and, unfortunately, Michael had been on the receiving end most of the time. The first time that it happened, he didn't speak to me before a week. It took some time to mend our relation, but it proved to be mutually beneficial in the end. Michael even based his first book on our relation.
“Speaking of food, shouldn't we eat our subs while they are still hot?” With the little yogurt accident, I had completely forgotten my empty stomach. A fact that it didn't waste time to remember me.“I'll take that as a yes.” Michael was definitely smiling now.
We each took our respective sub from the microwave, where my friend placed them to keep them hot, and sat across the table. As I was about to take my first bite, the world suddenly stopped.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~fear~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“...sister is already gone...”
~ ~ ~ ~exploding anger~~
“...won't be able to protect...”
~ ~ ~ ~undying regrets~ ~ ~ ~
“For five score, divided by four...”
Actually the world hadn't stopped, considering that a cylindrical object had replaced the food in my hand. An object that I quickly dropped as it was now my turn give my friend a dark look. The redness of my hand indicated that it had been in contact with the ice for a few minutes.
“I'm sorry, when I saw you freeze I couldn't stop myself,” Michael started while laughing. “but I thought that it would have snapped you out of it. It has to have been five minutes since you stopped moving. Are you fine?”
That was a stupid question! Why would I be fine?!
“Of course I'm fine! Everything normal! After all, it's normal to have a blackout!”
I noticed too late what I had just told him. Somehow, the blackout had flared me up considerably and now I felt guilty about unleashing my anger on him. If only I knew what provoked those emotions.
“Sorry, I didn't mean to ...” I started until Michael interrupted me.
“Don't worry about me.” His facial expression had greatly changed. It was now showing concern. “It's probably only the stress from the week that finally caught up with you. Just eat up and we'll find a way to make you relax afterward.”
I wish he was right, but I knew that last week hadn't been that bad. The best way that I could explain what happened was as if my emotional state had been replaced by the one of another situation. But this is a little too crazy to have truly happened.
Anyway, I had bigger problems; like my thighs itching seriously ever since the blackout.
Once I had finally devoured my dinner and calmed down slightly, Michael agreed to let me play my newly acquired Final Fantasy game. He was interested in seeing the game in any case, though I made him swear to keep his opinion to himself. He has always been overcritical about the stories from the different forms of media. I always have attributed this to the fact that he was an author.
Once his PlayStation started up, we were greeted by a stupid message telling us that we needed to update the console to be able to sign in. The good side of the situation was that it gave me the perfect opportunity to check my thigh. I had been scratching my legs ever since I started to eat, but it was still itching.
After telling my friend my intention of using his bathroom, I quickly traveled there. Once safely inside, I took off my pants only to notice an image that covered my thigh.
A tattoo of the sun.
On both sides.
Great, Michael apparently did more than play with some ice...