Resu's Swan Song
My brother’s voice in my head pulls me from a recurring dream that is just colors flashing beneath my eyelids. Bright, velvet-rich shades float and blink in and out of existence. Sometimes certain colors dominate others; sometimes they all collide, like an explosion of acrylics coating the black of my consciousness. I can never figure out what it means exactly, and I always wake up before the colors morph into anything interpretable. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just my mind being lazy and refusing to come up with something more complex to play on repeat every night.
The sun’s rays are hot on my face, burning through the worn piece of cloth we hung over our bedroom window. The makeshift curtain is far too thin to be useful, but I put it up there anyway. My eyes sting as they flutter open, and I groan loud enough for Tirigan to hear me. As always, Tirigan would have woken up with first light and eaten his breakfast at the table outside of our trailer. I know if I were to look out the window right now, he would be hunched over a book and tapping his toes to a rhythm only he could feel.
I didn’t realize my alarm clock included an annoying brother option. I stretch my arms above my head and yawn widely.
The mechanics of the alarm clock we own would not allow for that function to exist.
My lips curl into a familiar smile at my brother’s literal interpretation of my words. How is it that you can deadpan just about anything when the mood strikes, but whenever I make a joke, you can’t spare the brain power to understand?
Perhaps if your jokes were more humorous.
My brother’s special brand of humor is something not many people would understand. Mostly because he doesn’t talk and uses me to interpret for him, but there is also a subtlety to him that would slip past those who’d mistake him for simple. I’d like to take credit for it, since it took me (with help from John and Calla, of course) ten years to get him to understand basic social interactions, but over the last few years Tirigan has tried very hard to relate to us more. He used to be so perplexed by the way people interacted in the books and movies we enjoyed, but now he is not only understanding most of the things he sees, but maybe even understanding them more than I do. So, when he pretends to misunderstand or actually misses the joke and takes me at my exact words, it reminds me of the innocence he once carried around him, and it makes me laugh. Not in a malicious way, but in a way that makes my chest grow warm and my eyes close with a smile.
Why did you wake me up, anyway? I throw the question to my brother before kicking the blanket off my legs and pulling myself out of bed.
Your dream was becoming too vivid. It was distracting.
I roll my eyes and walk to my bedroom door, pulling it open. “Good Morning, Resu.”
“Good Morning, Charlie,” Our personal assisting device’s voice is silky and deep. It’s a comforting sound first thing in the morning.
You aren’t supposed to be dream walking, Tirigan. We-
I could not help it. The colors. Cyan. Scarlet. Grey. Mustard. Indigo-
I get the point.
They were too loud. It was very difficult to keep them out.
I sigh and nod, knowing that even though Tirigan can’t see me, he will know I’m not really angry with him. It can be very difficult to keep the other out if one of us is experiencing anything on a more extreme level.
I make my way to the bathroom, wiping sleep and irritation off of my face. As soon as I’m inside, my environment makes me stop short. Usually when my parents have night shoots, they have showered and gone to sleep by the time I wake up in the morning. The ventilation is so poor in the trailer that the bathroom stays foggy for over an hour afterward. This morning the bathroom is only slightly moist, probably from the shower Tirigan took when he woke at the crack of dawn.
Are John and Calla not back yet?
The other reason I woke you.
I begin to undress and let my mind roam over reasons why my parents would still be out this late in the morning.
“Shower time Resu. Forty-one degrees, please.” The shower spurts to life and lets off steam almost immediately. “Thanks, Resu,” I yawn.
“You’re welcome, Charlie.”
I step under the water stream and think about where my parents could be.
Despite what my father says about the stories and legends surrounding the jungle, I’m not too proud to admit how terrified I am that something might have happened to them. Stories have to come from somewhere, and at least some of the story is true. There really are monsters on Eridu. Scorpion Men. Hundreds of šēpusi tall. Legs as thick around as a Giant Sequoia’s trunk. A tail stinger with multiple sharp appendages. I’ve never seen them, having been born on Earth, but I’ve seen pictures.
In the legends, upon entering Earth, the Aqrabuamelu are said to have transformed as a result of Earth’s apocalypse. They evolved further to match the horridness of their circumstances. I don’t know how much evolution is needed to turn something nicknamed “Scorpion Men” into something even more horrible, but that is how the story goes.
The Aqrabuamelu are only supposed to be found in the most dangerous place on earth.
The Northern hemisphere.
The northern part of the planet is still uninhabitable since that is where the asteroid actually hit, but there are pockets of dangerous areas around the equator that extend into the southern hemisphere. The stories don’t give reasons as to why the creatures don’t travel further south, and we are just left to wonder. And hope none of it is true.
Zoúnkla is one of those pockets and being so close to it without any concrete evidence as to whether it’s actually safe for us to be here, I’m naturally a little uncomfortable. My parents, on the other hand, have never shown fear of anything aside from tiny cuts on their daughter’s hand. I don’t know if it’s because they possess an unparalleled sense of courage or because they’re both too stubborn to accept anything they don’t witness with their own eyes. Either way, both of them have been buzzing with energy ever since we started our journey here.
I can feel Tirigan’s anxiety float through me, amplifying my own. I rush through my typical shower routine. I’m sure it’s nothing. They probably just fell asleep or something.
I turn off the shower and dry myself with the yellow towel none of us like because it’s too coarse and doesn’t soak up enough water. There are only four towels, and on laundry day it isn’t unusual for one, if not all of us, to stand outside next to the clothes line and fight over the good towels.
I grumble as the towel slides over my wet skin and does absolutely nothing to dry it.
That’s it! The next time John goes into town for supplies he is buying a new towel.
The towel wraps begrudgingly around my long dark hair and I set the temperature regulator on my clothing before pulling them on. Earth’s ozone layer has yet to completely stabilize, so we wear clothing over most of our skin to protect us from the sun. Anunnaki heal sunburns faster than they can get them, but using our regeneration abilities all the time drains our life force. It’s better to protect ourselves and live longer than be completely care-free and shorten our lifespan.
That is the third time you’ve said that.
Then why is this abomination still wrapped around my head?
My lips purse and my eyebrows furrow together. Who needs food when I have to walk around in damp clothes all day because I’m still wearing my shower when I get dressed?
How does one wear a shower?
Ugh, never mind.
I stalk out of the bathroom and into the small kitchenette to make my breakfast. The cooler doesn’t hold much, but it does have enough food to make a decent meal. I place bread and an avocado on the counter.
The solar converters that connect to the small appliances in the kitchen run along the counter and out the window where they hang and soak up power from the sun. The toaster, a collection of metal pieces and wires that Tirigan created in an afternoon, looks more like a death trap than a cooking appliance. Its presence makes me both roll my eyes and smile, despite the very real possibility of it exploding in my face.
I place my bread inside the toaster and pull down the contraption that’s supposed to turn it on. It kicks to life and I turn to the avocado to slice it.
“What are the chances that thing will blow up, Resu?”
The intercom in the kitchen gives an answer quickly. “Less than seven percent, Charlie. I wouldn’t consider your fear to be a reasonable one.”
“Says you,” I mutter under my breath.
Right as I slice into the avocado, something in Tirigan’s mind shifts dramatically. It’s as if he has suddenly been submerged into another world entirely. His thoughts run too quickly to understand. And then I realize they aren’t Tirigan’s thoughts. They’re his emotions.
He’s shocked, confused, overwhelmed… terrified.
My hands freeze on the knife and avocado.
Tirigan? What just happened?
Something flashes before my eyes and then I can see my father standing outside of our trailer, his body covered in cuts and bruises that are healing before Tirigan’s eyes. His shirt and pants are torn, even shredded in certain parts, which should be nearly impossible considering how strong our clothing is made to be. He bends over and vomits into the dirt.
John. He is… he was injured.
Tirigan’s thoughts are incredibly stilted; it’s painful to receive them. I drop the avocado and knife and cradle my head in my hands. Grimacing, I reach out to my brother.
The pain instantly evaporates along with my brother’s emotions. I don’t have time to kick myself for my mistake. It takes me a moment, but my body eventually remembers how to move again. I race to the front door, swinging it open before I can come to terms with the fact that along with my brother’s momentary unfiltered emotions, I just saw through Tirigan’s eyes. That’s new. I don’t have time to be excited or frightened by that fact, though. My father’s sudden appearance paralyzes my mind and keeps me from thinking of anything but John and Calla.
Outside, John’s eyes are wet and blood-shot; his clothes are tattered and blood stained. The bruises on his face and arms that I saw through Tirigan’s eyes are nearly completely healed, leaving only a gash across his cheek that is currently in the process of closing.
“John?” I say hesitantly, taking in my father’s appearance and my mother’s absence. “What happened? Where is Calla?”
He just appeared. No visible point of entry. Tirigan’s thoughts choke, like he can barely get his mind to find the words. I can feel a glimmer of his fear, but it’s nothing like before. My eyes shoot over to Tirigan. He is still sitting at the table next to the front door of the trailer, a well-worn paperback book clutched in his hands. His eyes are wide and darting from John to myself. Despite his excellent control, I can feel his panic rising.
What? That doesn’t-
“There isn’t time.” My father’s rough voice cuts through my thoughts. I whip my head back towards him. “Come inside. We have to move.” He begins to walk quickly towards the door, his steps lighter than I would expect of someone wearing his expression.
“What?” I ask, following him with my eyes, but not my feet. “What is going on? Tirigan said-”
“Get inside,” John interrupts, pulling the front door open and holding it out. “I’ll explain as much as I can while you pack.”
Pack? Tirigan is standing now, moving towards the front door, but I’m frozen.
“Now!” My father yells at me for the first time in my life. My feet scramble despite my mind’s inability to catch up. I am back inside the trailer quickly, trailing behind Tirigan, who has started to twitch his fingers at his sides. It’s a habit he grew out of when he was ten.
John comes in behind us, then shuts and locks the door. I wasn’t even aware that the door locked.
“Resu, damage report please,” I request, even though I know it doesn’t really matter.
“Scanning.” The AI answers, then a moment later adds, “Multiple lacerations that have recently healed, four broken ribs that have begun to fuse, a healing brain contusion, and a ruptured anterior cloaca chamber that is almost sealed.”
My eyes widen as John turns back around to face us. On his face, I see something far more frightening than his healing injuries. His eyes are red, his chin quivers slightly, and his entire body looks like it’s about to collapse in on itself. I want to go to him, pull my arms around him, and comfort the obvious devastation he feels, but my own fear stops me. I don’t dare say anything, knowing the only thing that could do this to my father would send me over the edge as well.
Something happened to Calla.
“I’m sorry,” He finally croaks out with one last long look to both of us. Then he is moving again, pushing past us to the bedroom Tirigan and I sleep in.
“Calla? Is it- Did she-” I try, but Tirigan’s mind stops me.
That’s impossible. I turn and face him, wishing I could have some of his confidence. We are Anunnaki. We live for hundreds of years. We heal at extraordinary rates. Calla is not dead.
The creatures, Zoúnkla…
They don’t exist. Fairytales for children.
You don’t know that.
It is the most logical explanation.
John’s return interrupts us then. He has a small green duffle bag in one hand and a larger black one in the other.
“You have to listen carefully. I don’t know how long we have before…” He shakes his head slightly, as if throwing out the sentence he obviously had no intention of finishing. His eyes zero in on the control panel box for Resu and he runs to it, dropping the duffle bags to the floor. John pulls open the control panel door and starts pulling out all of the wires connecting our personal assisting device to our home. “Sorry Resu,” John mutters. He doesn’t spare us a glance as he crosses the room to the kitchen where he fills another bag with all the food we have in the trailer.
“Where is Calla?” I demand.
“They took her,” John answers, hurriedly putting the last of the bread in the bag and then turning to face us both. “Your mother,” John shakes his head again and runs his hands through his hair. He suddenly looks hundreds of years older. “She isn’t... “ He pauses, then lets out a loud, defeated breath. “She isn’t Anunnaki.”
My mind goes blank. Of all the things that I could expect to come from my father’s mouth, that’s probably close to the last. Saying Calla isn’t Anunnaki is like saying the sky is green. It’s absurd, it’s unthinkable. If she isn’t Anunnaki, what is she? I don’t have to ask.
“Anunnaki aren’t the only intelligent species on Earth.”
“You’re talking about humans?” I ask in disbelief. It’s impossible, of course, but it’s the first thing I can think of.
“No. I mean, yes, she is human but,” John shakes his head, pushing himself to concentrate. “Her people are not the same as the humans in your textbooks.”
I can hear Tirigan’s breath growing ragged, his chest rising and falling at a much faster rate. He crosses his arms over his chest tightly.
“They call themselves Téssera, and they are very powerful beings.” John swallows hard and pushes himself closer to us. “I am so sorry we didn’t tell you. We couldn’t… we just wanted to protect you. We weren’t supposed to… we shouldn’t have…” He’s speaking too quickly. I can barely make sense of his words. His hands go to my shoulders and squeeze tightly. They’re shaking so I place my hand on top of his. A tear falls over his cheek. “If the Negral ever found out about you, if they knew…” His eyes grow wide again as he speaks about our government. He whispers as he pulls me to his chest. “I am so sorry.”
My body just wants to melt into my father’s embrace, accept his words and cry with him, but there is too much I don’t know. My confused sorrow is replaced with anger. I pull out of his arms and look up at him with determination.
“What does all of this mean? Where is Calla?”
“They found out.” John releases his hold on me, but doesn’t step back. “I don’t know how. I always went alone into the city. They shouldn’t have even known she existed.”
“Who is they? Who took her?”
The clock over the sofa chimes and John nearly jumps out of his skin.
“There’s no time.” He steps back to the bags he had placed on the floor earlier and picks them up. “It’ll happen soon, and you need to be gone before then.”
“What? What will happen? Where are we going?” I’m pretty sure my voice sounds more like a pleading whine rather than the demanding tone I intend it to be, but my father turns back to face me anyway.
“Now that they have her, your mother will do what she has to in order to protect you. When she does, the powers she transferred from you when you were born will be returned. We need to get you to Mitéra before that happens.”
Did he just say powers?
“Téssera land,” John answers.
My mouth goes dry and it feels like my heart sinks a few inches in my chest.
“I’m sorry,” I say in a daze. “Run all that by me again?”
John sighs and shakes his head once more, moving past us and towards the front door.
“You two are half Anunnaki, half Téssera. When I said the Téssera were powerful beings, I meant it. Once your mother releases your powers from the stones, your Téssera half will begin to express itself and your powers will be very difficult to control. The Nergal will be able to track you until you cross into Mitéra.”
“This isn’t real. This doesn’t-” I try, but John cuts me off.
“Haven’t you ever wondered why your mother doesn’t heal as fast as you or I do? Don’t you find it odd that you’ve never spent time with other Anunnaki?”
“I-I just assumed-” I stutter.
“I was lying when I said other Anunnaki twins could speak telepathically,” John interrupts, his eyes darting between us. I can tell he’s trying to find the right thing to snap me out of my disbelief. “It was something your mother worried about, that maybe she wasn’t able to cast out your powers properly. No one ever came for us, though, and it turned out to be necessary after Tirigan stopped talking. I don’t think she would have had the heart to take it away even if she could.”
The room is silent as Tirigan and I absorb this information.
“So much for Calla’s genetic mutation,” I mutter after a few moments. I hope I sound every bit as bitter as I intend to. Before John has a chance to respond, I throw him a question. “How come the Negral couldn’t track Calla’s powers?”
“She never used them.” The corner of John’s mouth lifts involuntarily, almost like an echo of feelings not tortured with current events. “After she cast your powers into the stones, she stopped using her own. Your mother was a very practiced invoker; she had an incredible amount of control.”
I reach out for Tirigan’s mind, but he promptly shuts me out. My head snaps in his direction, but his eyes stay focused in on John. He wants to communicate; his bottom lip is curled in between his teeth in a way that I’ve learned means he is considering his thoughts carefully, but whatever it is, Tirigan doesn’t want me to hear it yet.
“I know this is a lot for you to take in, but we have to go. They found her and when she…” John winces around his unvoiced thought. “They will find you too if we don’t move.”
“What about Calla?” I ask fearfully. I don’t understand what is happening, but I do know that my mother is not with us and that needs to change immediately. “Shouldn’t we be trying to get her back?”
John sighs shakes his head minutely.
“We can’t.” He walks around us, picking up the bags as he heads for the door. “Your mother doesn’t want to be rescued. She wants you safe. Now pack some clothes and anything you can’t live without, and meet me outside.” His tone is far harsher than it was only seconds before, but I can still hear the pain laced around each syllable.
I turn towards Tirigan, who is staring at me with wide eyes. He lets me back in to his mind, no doubt after securing away whatever it was he was thinking before.
I don’t know how to do this.
What, pack? I guess you should bring some of your books, maybe-
No. I don’t know how to do what is happening to us now. Leaving. Not having Calla. Being something new. I don’t know how to do any of that.
I’m momentarily amazed by how vulnerable Tirigan has just allowed himself to be, but then I realize he hadn’t intended to be vulnerable. He is just being honest.
I don’t either.
Tirigan turns away, but I search for his eyes once more, forcing an encouraging smile onto my lips.
We’ll learn together, okay? We can do this if we stick together and focus on the plan John laid out for us.
He doesn’t look convinced, but he nods. I take that as a good sign. I turn and dash to our bedroom, Tirigan following closely behind. We each grab a backpack and stuff it with clothes and items that are most important to us. For me, it’s a set of knives my father made me, a few pictures of all of us and one of my mother that I took myself, and a few books I’ve read more times than I can count.
When I’m done, I see Tirigan packing books and his knives as well, along with the blanket John made for him when he was small, and the flashlight he keeps by his bed.
I don’t know.
I inspect his outfit and give him a questioning glance. As usual he is dressed very well, in clothes he made himself that are perfectly tailored to his curvy, yet compact, muscular frame. Tirigan has always preferred to make his own clothing rather than purchase it. He also tends to dress more formally.
Do you want to change into something more comfortable? Who knows how long we are going to be traveling for.
Tirigan looks down at his outfit and gives me a disapproving look.
I am comfortable. I don’t have anything more comfortable than this.
Rolling my eyes, I pull my backpack onto my back and lead us out of our bedroom.
Did John grab water?
I don’t know. We should. We do not know how long it will be until we reach our destination.
Tirigan’s thumbs rub anxiously against his pointer fingers, as I start filling water bottles up and placing them in my backpack.
We don’t know anything because our parents lied to us for the last seventeen years.
Tirigan huffs out an annoyed sigh right before he moves past me in the direction of the front door.
Acting like a child will not change the situation. His words slice through my carefully placed defense mechanism of mocking incredulity. I finish filling my backpack with a sullen look on my face.
Whatever is happening, Tirigan is right. Sulking isn’t going to make Calla appear or make this situation any more understandable. It may help me not have a complete breakdown, but it won’t keep us out of danger.
And right now, keeping my brother safe is the only thing holding me together.