Short Story 29

Billie

“Don’t even get me started on that tricky little bastard called anxiety,” was the joke Billie used to tell people to make her insecurities feel less serious. It was one of those things where her day was completely fine, hell, it was one of the best she’d had in a long time, and then for no apparent reason, her mind was sent into overdrive.

Always the type of person who would sit and think about how she could have handled a situation six years prior differently, Billie felt as though her heart was a black hole. Why could one completely normal interaction have her second-guessing her entire existence? How could it be, that logically, she knew that nothing happened and everything was fine, but she couldn’t shake that feeling of impending doom, of future ramifications that surely would never see the light of day?

All she had done was read through a report for a colleague, Ethan. But, he was a friend more than a colleague, they had clicked since the moment they met, and it was a report that she had been working on from the start. So, when he had asked her if she had a spare hour to look through it, she of course, didn’t hesitate. At this point, everything was fine, she was honestly happy to help and even enjoyed this kind of work. She felt her stomach drop when Ethan knocked on her office door just half an hour after she had been given the report, and genuinely and nonchalantly said, “Billie, you’re taking this way too seriously, it just needed a quick look through.”

Now, normally, this would have been fine, but today was just one of those days where her anxiety came out of nowhere, like a pop-up computer virus your grandparents accidently click when they think they could win a $50 grocery voucher. To top it off, Billie was trying to socialise at an office party. The façade was getting too much, and as much as she wanted to crawl into bed and let sleep soothe her weary soul, she couldn’t make her escape just yet. Instead, she found temporary relief in the quiet, cool bathroom, and even managed to smile at the prospect of being able to calm her racing heart.

Did you hear that?

Billie looked around the room. She was alone…she was definitely alone. She knew she was, because she was trying to get away from her colleagues celebrating down the hall. So where did the voice come from? She looked at herself in the mirror and thought she might actually be losing it.

There it is again! It shouldn’t be possible!

Although her opinion on the existence of ghosts was undecided, Billie thought it was best not to test the theory, so she quickly stood up and got in the elevator to take her to her office a few floors up. Billie frantically pressed the ‘door close’ button, and as soon as they did she laughed to herself at how silly it was to think there was a ghost in the fifth-floor bathroom.

Obviously, I’m not a ghost, you’re the ghost…Well kind of, metaphorically speaking.

Billie’s eyes widened and to be honest, she wasn’t overly surprised that the phrase, ‘oh, God’ was on repeat in her head while trying not to freak out to the point of hyperventilation.

Wrong again, Billie. I’m not God either, although the existence is a debate for another time.

Hoping with every fibre of her body that this would stop and that the voice would get out of her head, Billie felt out of control.

You’re in my head too, so calm down, we’re in this together.

When the elevator doors opened she saw Ethan and realised she had never pressed her office floor. He smiled when he saw her, “Hey! It’s getting so loud in there. I think we’re on the same wavelength – if they expect us here at 6AM before the bus leaves, I need sleep and those guys will feel it in the morning.”

Billie found her anxiety was gone, managed a laugh and said, “I know, it’s been such a long day. I don’t think my brain is working properly anymore and if I’m going to be of any use to my team tomorrow…”

“Sleep. Sleep is the word you’re looking for,” Ethan finished for her. She could tell he couldn’t sense anything had been wrong earlier because nothing had been wrong about that situation, just as logic foretold.

He continued through a grin that put all his teeth on display, “The problem is, this is your first department Olympics trip, and we take this seriously. We can’t have those cocky guys on level 10 winning again…That reminds me, you need to put on your team bracelet. Arm, please.”

She complied, handing him her right wrist so he could clip a silver and black bracelet that read, ‘Vagary’ and was a copy of the one around his own wrist. Before Billie could joke about them really pulling out all the stops for this competition and how she didn’t really understand how karaoke and shooting ducks on the NES were events, Ethan kept speaking, “Oh, I sent off the report, too. Thanks for the feedback. Ben is really happy with it and positive something good will come from it.”

“That’s great! I’m happy to help, let me know how everything pans out and whether you need me to do anything else,” Billie said as the elevator stopped and opened to the foyer. Ethan and Billie said goodbye and went their separate ways. As she walked towards the train station, she noticed the voice was gone, and somehow the silence scared her far more. For the rest of her journey, home she kept her mind on anything but the little voice in her head.

Once she arrived, and without eating, because she couldn’t stomach anything at that moment, she lay her head down, completely unaware of the magic dreams really could do. She took three deep breaths in and exhaled, and as she felt herself drifting off after the third, her eyes opened to a view of a city skyline from the roof of a building.

For a second, the beauty of the setting sun reflecting on the skyscrapers was exactly what Billie needed to feel grounded and calm…until a rumbling in the distance behind her drew attention. Two aircraft that looked suspiciously alien were shooting down a fighter jet. It wasn’t the first time Billie had adventures in her dreams, but today she stood frozen in disbelief as she felt the heat from the explosion of the fighter jet on her skin. This had to be a dream, but at the same time, she knew it could be real. Debris was hurtling towards her, and at the last moment, someone tackled her to safety.

After all of the times she would stare at her reflection in some attempt to understand who she was, Billie knew all too well exactly what her own face looked like. That’s why when she looked up from the gash on her arm, she saw herself staring back at her. Reading the look on Billie’s face, the girl was quick to explain with no-nonsense, “Yes, we have the same face, that’s because we’re twin sisters. No, this isn’t a dream. Yes, this is crazy. No, we can’t discuss this further right now because we need to jet. Just trust me, okay? Oh, my name is Amelia by the way. Nice to finally meet you, Billie. It’s been, what, twenty years?”

At this point, the sisters had walked to the edge of the building. Amelia hooked her arm around Billie and then dove off the building. If there was ever a moment that someone would wake up from a dream, Billie thought this was it. But instead of waking up with a pit in her stomach, she and Amelia just kept plummeting towards the ground. Closer, and closer, to the hard asphalt below and with their speed increasing until suddenly glowing purple lightening wrapped around them. She felt an invigorating electric charge through her body, and when the feeling ended, Billie found herself drowning. She was disoriented and couldn’t see Amelia anymore. Searching for light, for the surface, but she couldn’t find it. Just deep blue water in every direction.

The purple electricity returned, and Billie found herself gasping for air, soaking wet in the middle of what appeared to be a boxing gym. She heard movement and turned to see her sister standing up and swearing at the fact that her entire body was dripping wet as she squeezed water from her hair.

“That’s the second time this week! You could try a little bit harder to, you know, not kill us,” Amelia was laughing as she spoke to…nobody. Directing her attention to her sister, Amelia smiled and said, “Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Come on, Billie, they would be tracking us already.”

“Wha…” Billie could barely get the words out, “Did I just nearly die? Three times?!”

Billie’s train of thought had moved on from thinking this was a dream, to thinking this was a full-blown psychotic break. It had to be a delusion and Amelia was a manifestation of herself in some way.

Amelia was just staring at Billie until finally, she said, “You’re not having a psychotic break, stop being so melodramatic. I’m not a delusion. I’m not a ghost. This is real and I am real.”

Either way, right now might not be the best time to decide. Billie had always trusted herself and she knew that if something was really wrong, she would feel it in her gut. She pushed the questions of why her sister used the exact word she was thinking out of her head as she watched her Amelia scan the room while saying, “Speak to me guys, how are we getting out of here?”

Billie realised she had an earpiece and thought now was just as good a time as any to ask, “Who is that in your ear?”

Gunfire and broken glass rained into the gym from the skylight of windows above. Moving as one, Amelia and Billie sprinted through the complex, down some stairs, and into an alley.

Pulling Billie aside while shooting down a camera drone, Amelia answered her question, “I get it, but right now we need to survive. We need to get to the cemetery. It’s two blocks west, but the quickest route is also the most dangerous. Here, take these,” she handed Billie two guns.

When she took them, Billie didn’t like how familiar the weapons felt in her hands. They started running again, and apart from a few drones and one armoured man who moved somewhat stiffly, they didn’t have many things getting in their way. That is, of course, until they ran into a trap of sentry guns and found themselves trapped behind a dumpster to protect themselves from the gunfire.

“Shit!” Amelia was visibly worried, “Those shouldn’t be there…they must know we travel this route. You can only disarm those from behind, and there is no way one of us can make it clear without being shot.”

Billie suggested trying to get help from whoever was on the other side of Amelia’s ears but something was interfering with the signal and she had been out of contact since they were in the alley. They were on their own and trying to think of something other than dying or being sitting ducks when, out of nowhere, a male voice called out Billie’s name.

She recognised it instantly, “Ethan?!”

They heard a small explosion and then one of the turrets stopped firing. A few minutes later, the same for the other two. Amelia and Billie cautiously left the safety of the dumpster and quickly moved around the block where they were met by Ethan. It was definitely him, and Billie was so relieved to see him.

Ethan ran to Billie and hugged her as tight as he could. Cupping her face and then noticing her arm he said, “Are you okay? You’re bleeding. Come on we’re not far from an entrance to the Underground.”

“You know Ethan, I have a distinct feeling you wouldn’t have come out here if it was just me,” Amelia was sizing them up, “But don’t worry, I would have been able to figure something out eventually.”

All three moved quickly to the cemetery, Ethan tightly gripping Billie’s hand as he took the lead. They reached the entrance to the Underground which was hidden behind a false stone wall in one of the crypts. When they started moving deeper below the surface, Billie felt the distinct feeling of déjà vu.

It was like a maze down there, but Billie didn’t expect their destination to look the way it did. Instead of the ancient tomb they had just walked through, they were now in something that was so technologically advanced, it should be in a sci-fi film. She had stopped in her tracks but with a knowing tug from Ethan, they went further into the facility that was bustling like a small city.

A few hours later, after meeting the leaders, being stared at by many of the people there, and after getting the gash on her arm bandaged, Billie was trying to process everything she had just been told. It was one thing, to understand that she was separated at birth from her sister…but it was a completely different story to comprehend that she was then put in an alternate reality, with both just as real as the other. To top it all off, she was expected to get her head around the fact that the reason they were separated was because one day, the universe would need them to be together in order to save it.

There were legends and prophecies of ancient powers…it all seemed like a cliché. Billie had come to terms pretty quickly with it all, including that Ethan was sent to the alternate reality to watch over her after her location was compromised. The bracelet was actually a technology to help them cross back to this reality. They knew it was time for her to return because Amelia and Billie were telekinetically connected. At the end of the day, it all felt right.

Ethan and Amelia were explaining all of this to Billie when suddenly she collapsed and started convulsing. They were both calling her name, scared that they couldn’t do anything to help because they didn’t know what was happening. Amelia called for a medical team as Ethan gently held her and kept speaking to her. As soon as it had started, it was over.

Ethan’s voice was familiar and acted as an anchor. Billie opened her eyes and found herself in his arms which made her smile. He moved hair from her face and spoke softly , “Hey. Are you alright? You can’t scare me like that.”

Without thinking, she whispered, “Vision. I think I just had a vision…”

She stopped herself from speaking any further because had it just been Ethan in the room, it would have been fine…but there was no way she was about the tell Amelia that she just saw her betraying everyone as she tried to gain the ancient powers for herself, including sacrificing Billie with a dagger straight to the heart.

By Naomi Eleanor

One thought on “Short Story 29

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  1. This is such a beautifully written piece. This is the first time I have come across your blog but I am so glad that I have! Thank you for sharing this with us. I can relate to it. I am following you so that I can read more.

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