1 Month Before Impact Day
XO sat on the edge of the balcony, their legs dangling over the edge, enjoying the lights of the city below them. Genesis City was the closest they had to a home, and it did feel nice to be back, away from the danger and cruelty of the world below. Their time in the city was peaceful, and it almost allowed them to feel normal.
“The view is nice here, huh?” a familiar voice behind them said. They turned slightly, and smiled at Alice, her lilac hair fluttering in the breeze.
“You come here to think?” she asked, placing a hand on their shoulder.
“Just to get away from everything,” they confessed. Had it been anyone else, they might have asked to be left alone, but not Alice. She was always welcome.
“How’s everything going?”
“I…” XO sighed. “Same as always, I suppose.”
Alice frowned, placing her hands on her hips. It was such a childlike gesture, it almost made XO laugh. She had such youthful mannerisms, and such a young appearance, it was easy to forget she was significantly older than they were. At least, so far as they knew.
“That’s not true,” she said. “You’re a terrible liar, Exxo. What’s going on?”
“Understand?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Believe me,” XO implored her.
XO hesitated for a moment, then nodded. They glanced over to the building opposite the balcony, a massive tower on the other side of a large park.
“Look over there,” they said. “Do you see that?”
“See what? The tower?”
“On the tower,” XO said, shaking their head. They already knew Alice wouldn’t be able to see it.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” she said.
She narrowed her eyes at them, searching their face.
“What do you see?” she asked.
“Cracks,” they said.
“Are you…” She looked back over at the building, staring, then shrugged. “My vision is better than yours, isn’t it? I really don’t see anything.”
“Neither does Haylie,” XO said. “But I can see them.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Are you feeling okay?” she asked, gently stroking XO’s arm.
“No,” they admitted.
“I don’t know,” they said. “I can’t help but feel like… something is happening. Something-” They hesitated, suddenly filled with an uncomfortably familiar feeling they couldn’t quite place. A feeling centred around Alice. “You need to go,” they insisted, suddenly and urgently.
“I can’t explain it, but…”
She looked concerned, but nodded.
“Okay, but we’ll continue this later, okay?”
“Thank you,” XO said.
“I love you, Exxo,” she said.
“I know. I love you too, Alice.”
With that, she left. XO watched her go, wondering why they needed her gone so urgently. There was some memory, some sensation, just on the tip of their…
“You know, I never get used to seeing her,” someone said, moments before appearing out of the air. For just a second, XO thought that Alice had returned, but they knew instinctively this wasn’t Alice, no matter how much she looked like her. She was someone else entirely.
“Who are you?” they demanded, despite feeling like they knew the answer, somehow.
“The original,” she said. “You don’t remember me, huh.”
“Sort of. I’ve met some of your other shells. I thought maybe some of the memories would be preserved. I guess not.”
“What are you talking about?” XO asked, beginning to feel a strong sense of panic. Whoever this was, she suddenly seemed dangerous.
“Don’t worry about it,” the girl said, waving away their concerns.
“What do you want?” XO demanded. “What are you?”
“I want…” She stopped herself, shaking her head. “No, I’m talking to the wrong person. I’m not here for you.”
“I’m here to talk to your reflection,” she said.
“I don’t have one,” XO muttered. “What are you-”
The girl rolled her eyes, pressing her fingers against XO’s head. With a gentle shove, she pushed them backwards, into a dark space filled with glittering shards of light. It was cold, and felt massive. XO had no idea what was happening.
In the distance, they could hear muffled voices. Frightened but determined, they made their way towards the voices, scrambling over shattered glass until they found the piece the sounds were coming from.
Through a window, they watched their body continue to speak to the girl.
“Hello, Reflection,” the girl said.
“Call me Glory,” their body replied.
“Whatever you say.”
“What do you want, Child?” their body demanded, dripping with superiority and impatience.
“I have an opportunity for you,” she said.
“A new world, full of new faces.”
Their body tilted their head, considering it. Curiosity sparked on their face, though they quickly tried to hide it. Had the girl noticed?
“Weakened prey,” she added.
“Divide and conquer,” she said.
“What do I have to do?” their body asked.
“Nothing, yet. I’m taking care of it.”
“Then why talk to me at all?”
“A simple piece of advice,” the girl said.
“I’m all ears.”
“You’ll be in Melbourne in about a month. When you’re there, Exxo needs to be hurt. Badly.”
“They’ll heal,” their body pointed out.
“Doesn’t matter,” the girl said. “It’s all about the freshness of the body.”
“What are you up to?”
“More than you’ll ever know.”
“Alright. I can probably pull some strings,” their body said.
“I know you can.”
“What’ll happen to this shell?” their body asked.
“It’ll probably die.”
The girl smiled, but there was no joy in her eyes. Only exhaustion.
“It’s time to go back inside, now,” she said.
She touched their body’s head again, and in an instant, everything was back to normal. They were looking out of their own eyes, at a girl who looked a lot like Alice.
“What was that?” they demanded. “Who was that?”
“Nothing, Exxo,” she said. “You need to forget this now.”
“Forget… what…?” they said, the memories already slipping from their mind.
“Good enby,” she said, moments before disappearing.
Next Week: Sort Of A Girl Problem