Interlude I: Day Forty- Three (Tirigan)

A Human Response


Sleep eludes me. Atypical. I sleep when tired. I wake when rested. I do not try to sleep if my mind or body is not at peace.

Tonight, after a day I have yet to find the right description to categorize, I find myself trying and failing to fall asleep. An anomaly of maddening proportions. My failure isn’t the result of the murmurs that surrounded me earlier or the cool breeze that chills my bare skin. Neither my environment nor my body play any crucial role in my sleep deprivation. It is my mind. My regrets. I am suddenly just as undisciplined as Charlie.

My sister sleeps soundly beside me, as if what she did today was entirely unremarkable. Short-sighted. Reckless. Brave. There is also the nagging vexation of not knowing where Calor and Avias are at the moment. Walked off together seventeen minutes and twenty-seven seconds ago. Only the light of the moon and stars to guide them back to camp.

I know that Oleander isn’t asleep because I do not hear from him at all. Position unchanged. He must still be sitting next to the fire everyone sat around after dinner. Kor and Bo went directly to sleep after we ate; Kor from exhaustion and Bo still sulking over her alienation from the fight. Charlie and Oleander spoke briefly while I watched the flames dance around the burning wood, but I filtered out their conversation before I found my place in the sand and attempted to sleep. Failure. Whatever they were discussing wasn’t important. It is rare that anything of importance is spoken over dying embers. Jealousy.

Nothing seemed to matter in the moments after my sister became a murderer, and I became the only one who considered it to be an issue. Oleander didn’t look pleased at her decision, but he said nothing on the matter. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way Charlie did. Better them than us.

I calculated this possibility the moment we became aware of the true nature of our powers. Logical. It was only a matter of time before Charlie would be forced to use her power offensively, especially if it meant saving lives. Obvious. Boring.

What Charlie has yet to understand is the effect her decision will have on our future. She only sees what is right in front of her. Improvidence. She only makes the choices that must be made now. I see beyond that. I see the choices she has now forced us to make in the future.

While I miscalculated my strength and unintentionally ended a life, that error in judgment will never repeat itself. I am in full control, whereas my sister…

Charlie stirs beside me, moaning inarticulately. It pleases me to know that she is not sleeping as peacefully she appears to be. Legs thrash violently; mind throbs painfully. I allow her to suffer another moment before I shake her awake. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven— I do not have the energy to put out a fire and help Charlie heal herself.

Open mind: Charlie.

Charlie. Wake up. You’re having a nightmare.

My sister jerks awake, nearly slamming her forehead into mine as she jolts upwards. Not the nightmare. I can never reach her mind there.

“Wha-” Tirigan? I- Oh. “Thanks,” Charlie sighs and falls back to the backpack she is using for a pillow. “Sorry.”

Close mind.

I don’t answer. Nothing to say. Settling back onto my own backpack, I place my hands over my chest and, once again, try to sleep. Fruitlessly. Charlie tries to enter my mind. Deny her access. Petulance. I am unbothered.

After a moment she gives up, rises from her sandy bed, and joins Oleander around the fire. Their conversation is close enough to overhear, but it does not interest me. Oleander sips leisurely from the bottle of Krasi he brought from home. He offers it to Charlie. She accepts. She drinks. She coughs. She laughs. Foolishly.

Footsteps in the distance signal Avias and Calor’s return from their gallivant. Despite being closed, my eyes roll slightly.

“You’re being unfair,” Calor says. Weakly. Speak up. “Please, Ave, I’m only trying to…”

“I’m sorry, I just—” Avias stops. My eyelids lift of their own volition. The young men stand just beyond the fire, the flames flickering around their legs as if they are standing within them.

“I can’t do this right now,” Avias finally finishes. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” The Aérasian moves around the fire and joins his father and sister in the sand by the vehicle, leaving Calor to look on after him. He lies down. Does not stir again.

Avias’ mood nettles, tempting me to breech his mind and see what bothers him, but Calor’s movement towards Charlie and Oleander distracts me. He swipes the bottle of Krasi from Oleander’s grasp. Drinks insatiably. His gluttonous gulps grow rather impressive after a few moments.

“You’re going to hate yourself when the sun rises, mate,” Oleander says kindly, once Calor sits beside him in the sand.

Through the squint of my eyes, I see the large Gyan grin at the blonde boy, but Oleander’s smile does not reach his eyes. Trepidation. Concern. It seems to be physically impossible for Calor’s eyes to make it up to Oleander’s face, though they do continue to try.

“Doesn’t matter,” Calor mumbles around another ridiculously long sip of alcohol. “I’m going to hate myself regardless.” The Fotián stares straight ahead, no longer attempting to make eye contact. He looks empty.

I should be trying to sleep. In the event that I cannot fall asleep, I should be ignoring this conversation and thinking only of our plan for tomorrow. I shouldn’t be so distracted by this Fotián with an undisclosed drinking problem. However, Calor’s statement is loaded with information.

Hating oneself is something I am unfamiliar with personally, but aware of on a physiological level. The human brain is a nest of potential abnormalities and complications; full of tiny particles that dictate how one will feel about any given circumstance. Neurotransmitters that control your mood, your responses, your life. It is possible to overwrite the body’s natural chemical responses through alternative methods of emotional processing, but few choose to explore such avenues. Apparently, it is far easier and more satisfying to wallow in one’s own depression. Humans are exceedingly tedious.

To hear Calor emotionally succumb to that which is not out of his control does not soften me to him. It aggravates me further. If he is unhappy with who he is, why not change? Laziness. Fear. Incompetence. The brain is malleable; it is capable of taking orders. Simple chemistry. Mathematics. Problem, solution. Why must everyone be so emotional? Human error. So easily controlled? Slaves to their emotions. Don’t they see how vulnerable it makes them? Maybe that’s the point.

My argument with myself pushes me back to my original problem. I’ve been floundering, trying to sleep, trying to understand why I can’t sleep, and the solution is obvious.

I’m emotionally compromised.

These people, our circumstances, my growing attachment, it’s all making it difficult for me to separate my feelings as I’ve always done. I’m no longer just interpreting and processing information. I care. I have a vested interest. Charlie’s decision to kill those Téssera wasn’t just shortsighted; it was heartbreaking. Avias and Calor’s relationship isn’t just distracting; it aches with irritation.

I refuse to fall victim to the very issues that plague those who are now going out of their way to comfort the brooding blonde boy. Charlie asks him to tell her what's wrong. Oleander puts his arm around Calor’s shoulders. Calor makes a sound that I can compare only to that of an infant feline. It’s grating. I turn over in a sweeping motion that I’m sure looks rather dramatic from Charlie’s perspective. As expected, my sister presses at my mind. I open it to her just enough to communicate.


What’s with you?

The weeping drunk hasn’t filled your emotional outreach quota for the evening?

My emotional outreach—? Man, sometimes I really regret teaching you sarcasm.


Seriously, what’s wrong? You’re all huffy and—

Huffy? Do you think that made it into the original Oxford dictionary? I feel her irritation rising. It satisfies me.

Avias’ sass is really rubbing off on you, Tir. Why don’t you do us both a favor and just go to sleep.

I was in the process of doing just that when I was interrupted by what I can only assume is some sort of dying animal.

Close mind.

My sister attempts to open communication again, but I keep my mind closed and my back to her. She eventually begins to comfort Calor again while Oleander hums something unintelligible. It’s repulsive.

I won’t become them. I won’t allow my mind to grow hazy with the weight of everything I have so artfully filtered before. I don’t care that Calor is drunk and crying for any reason other than what it will mean for our travel time in the morning. Charlie killed people, but I am only concerned with what that will mean for future battles. I have no emotional investment in Avias’ happiness. I do not care. None of it is important. The mission is what matters. The mission is the only thing I care about. Guilt. Shame. Fea—Focus.

The mission. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Concentrate on the mission.

Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John. Find Calla. Protect Charlie. Return to John.

I sleep.