Diving, by TheBloodEdge
The elevator was taking its time. Ethan and Casey waited on the ground floor, awaiting the number to reduce from thirty-three. Taking the stairs may have been the better alternative, though both of them lacked the physique to survive that long trek upstairs.
"Ethan, I have an idea." Casey's face brightened as the dim lightbulbs flickered overhead. "Maybe we should track all the tea purchases throughout America and find the stores where the sales spiked. If I recall, this Deus person likes tea, so we should be able to find him if we find his tea."
Ethan found it unconceivable. But he also found that it made perfect sense. "Ingenious, dear Casey, but also full of hogwash. I'd be daft to search every store which puts tea on the aile, far too many, I say. If I could find Deus that way, why, this ordeal would be over in three chapters' worth of pages!"
With each floor the elevator passed, an irritating beep would sound. Any normal man would be driven insane from its obnoxiousness.
"Then? There aren't just five people throughout America, and so far, we've been making zero progress in finding this Deus."
"Which is why we're having a meeting with our dear friend, Evillordmwahaha. I haven't a sliver of doubt that he's connected in this maze of relationships. Certainly, he may be the key to finding Deus."
Casey found it strange that the troll suddenly apologized after that session of flaming, evil has standards, it seems.
"By the way, I want you to act like you're Starfall."
She cringed. "You tell me NOW? Why?"
"He thinks Starfall is some 14 year old girl who lives in Australia, writing embarrassing stories about bondage. I'll pretend to be your friend, or brother. Something to that affect. So, just act all depressed and mopey, you're an actress, no?"
"I am NOT!"
"Then awaken your inner actress! Ears open! Your name is Pearl, your parents are lesbians, you are sensitive about the topic of homosexuality, and I am your brother who has entered the thug life." He gestured at her. "Yo, yo , dawg, man."
"Just as fake as his British accent..." She rolled her eyes. "So, what do I say to him?"
"Don't think, act. Pretend it's an offline meeting, yo. And I be tearing his shit apart for pissing over muh imouto, yo!"
"Imouto...?" She cleared her throat. "Anyway, I don't really have faith in this. I mean, it's probably a major coincidence that this guy suddenly tried to troll you. I get trolled on my blog a lot. People keep deriding the stories I post..." She pouted in frustration.
"Well, suppose you posted that mess of a dream as a story, I wouldn't blame everyone for criticizing you. It's chaotic, even as an experience. One would be daft to enjoy that." As if forgetting his gang persona, he quickly added, "Yo."
The bell chime marked the arrival of the elevator. The two stepped in as the doors slid open.
"Well, I had eleven thousand subscribers for that! Looks like everyone's daft!"
Running his fingers above the pad, Ethan pushed the button marked 24. "Supposedly, yo. But with these adversaries of ours..." The doors slowly closed. "It won't be easy to get what we want, yo."
Being forced to constantly be on the move was troublesome. Deus liked to stay at one place rather than be forced to cover... her... tracks. But certainly, even whilst in an escape or crisis, one thing was held more importance than the rest.
"That will be two dollars." The clerk smiled, handing a can of iced tea to the customer.
"Here." She slid the two notes across the counter. Eagerly, she snapped the can open, taking a moment to enjoy the two second scent that seeped through the ice cold steel. She pivoted to the right, and took five steps out the door.
"Please come again!"
Ah, Queens, the citizens try ever so hard to have a personal identity. Under the blanket of the night, it felt like a trek through a parade. Zaniness abound under colourful neon lights, it was an amusing sight. Though, there were far more important things at hand.
The phone in her pocket started to ring. She had her hands full, having to carry a luggage and her tea. Which one was more important? A question she didn't take a second to consider.
She dropped the luggage and reached into the phone, picking up the call.
"I trust you've set the preparations, as I've instructed? Rachel?"
She took another sip of the drink. "All's as planned. Alex will be meeting with Ethan Wright. The rest, I suppose will run as you predict."
"Excellent. I'll contact you soon enough once the third phase of this project begins."
With that, the caller hung up. Deus puffed out calmly, pocketing it into her jacket. Taking another sip, a cold wind blew past her.
Pulling her lips away from the tin, she smirked. "Quite naive of you have faith in me, Mr. Mechanic... Certainly, this game you're playing isn't only against Ethan Wright. I wouldn't disregard myself as a piece on this chess board..."
"Mom, who is that weird lady talking to?"
"Shhh, don't point!"
"Certainly, a man who hides beneath the shadows and operates within the world of dreams has no place as a player. A game should only be played by those who are worthy, after all. Now, how will William throw a spanner into these works? I'm livid."
"Walk away, honey, walk away."
"A dream is a dream, but never reality. Reality is influenced by dreams. And dreams are influenced by reality. But never once can they coexist." She took the next sip, finishing the can of tea. "A dreamer can dream, but so long as reality stands against him, his life will stay hollow." Tossing the can aside, she successfully managed to land it in a trash can.
She reached for her luggage, only to find it missing. Frozen, she merely shook the surprise off and smiled.
"Now, where shall I begin my part in the game?"
The door creaked open, and the person behind the door was nothing like Ethan nor Casey expected. He was at least 400 pounds lighter than their expectations. However, he certainly looked like someone who could use a little more sun.
William felt butterflies flutter in his stomach when he saw the blonde girl. His virgin senses were tingling. "You are... Starfall?"
"Evilloverlordmwahaha. You're..." She gripped her arm, trying to imitate the posture of a depressed girl. "Much younger than I expected."
"And you're..." He gulped. He was an internet troll. Spreading chaos was his trick of the trade. Meeting a real girl shouldn't actually put a block in his head, right? "You're..." His eyes rolled to the wooden floor. "Uh..."
"Yo, man, you the one messin' with muh lil' sis?!" Ethan, almost quite convincingly like a gangster, shoved the door open and grabbed William by the collar. "You gonna pay, dawg! You gonna pay!"
Casey could only twitch. "He's really getting into this..."
It was the norm. Getting people angry like this was just another day in his life. Rarely has it happened that someone got physical in his anger. But even then, he always had the upper hand. But today... he was completely defenceless.
Why did he leave himself like that? Why would he leave himself like that? It was a question he hopelessly pondered with his feet two inches above ground.
"Heh... do what you want." He uttered coldly.
"Stop it!" Casey tugged at Ethan's hand, trying to pull him away. "I didn't bring you here to fight, let go of him Keith!"
"Blimey, of all the rotten names, she chose the most unattractive of them all." Ethan let go. "Sorry, sis, I just can't forgive anyone who would insult our mommas and tell you to kill yourself."
"It's in the past." There was a rotten smirk on Casey's face when she could just feel how disappointed he was in the name 'Keith'. "Uhm, anyway, I am..." She plundered her mind for the most attractive female name that would come to mind. Serena? Alice? No, too generic. Miki? Too foreign. Ophelia? No one names their daughter that anymore... "Tiffany."
"What was with that long dramatic pause?" William wondered.
"This is my brother, Keith and..." She pretended to be socially awkward, avoiding eye contact and twiddling her thumbs.
"My name's Alex, but if you want to keep calling me Eviloverlordmwahaha, go ahead. I..." He hated the feeling when 'Alex' rolled off his tongue. "Prefer it that way. Uh..." He bit his lip. "You wanna come inside or something?"
"Bet yo bitch ass that you be forkin' over yer food!" Ethan shoved William in. "Now get to it!"
Irritated, William tried to reign in his frustrations. There were more important things to think of at the moment. He'd get his dues soon, patience was the key. He waited for them to take their seats before he offered a drink, as per the proper mannerisms one should take when having guests.
"So, uh, tea or coffee?" He glanced at the countertops. Much to his dismay, not a single sachet of coffee existed. That Deus person was truly the tea fetishist among tea fetishists. "Not that you have a choice in the matter."
"Tea." Casey requested.
"Coffee." Ethan ordered.
"Coffee is the beverage that wishes it was tea, there's only tea here." William glanced over to a teapot near the edge of a table. "Though, I had a batch made just now. It's a bit tepid now, you okay with it?"
Ethan smirked. Everything seemed to be as he suspected. "Whatevs."
William lifted the lid and, with his back turned against them, quietly spat into the tea. Pouring its contents into cups, he placed them on a coffee table in front of the two. "Enjoy."
With a sip, Ethan could tell just by the amazingly integrated flavours that it was brewed by one who knows his way with tea. Certainly, a young squire who trolls internet forums would not have the capability to fathom the elegance of a perfect brew. There was only one person...
"So, Alex, what did you want to talk about?" Casey asked.
"You asked us to come over to talk about something."
William drew blanks. He couldn't remember what conversation he had. Nevertheless, he had to play along. That was his part in the project.
"R-Right, I was wondering..." He rolled his eyes. "Were you really going to off yourself?"
Ethan snapped at him. "She was, fool!"
"Keith, settle down!" Casey demanded. "Y-Yeah, I was... I mean, when I was in middle school..." She hastily put together a sappy backstory. "I was always bullied by the other kids because my parents were both women. I still haven't really moved on and when this happened..." She gritted her teeth, faking tears. "It dug out the past."
William closed his eyes. "Well, I never really thought about the person on the other side of the screen. They always just got mad and went on and on... When you just said, 'fine', it really struck me, for some reason." He reached for his cup and sipped, only to find a lack of beverage in it. "I didn't feel a thrill, just emptiness."
"Maybe it's because your actions never have consequences? You seem to be the type that does as he pleases."
He grinned for a moment, reliving his days. It was like he was a God. Untouchable. "Maybe. I don't know what's with me, I loved all of that. But right now, it feels bittersweet."
"Alex... I think you're starting to understand." Casey put her cup down. "Our actions can be like a domino, you push one, and the others fall with it. A chain of events. I didn't go through with but... maybe you should be careful with what you say, online and off."
"And what makes you think I want that? Personally, I like this life of mine. I'm just unsure about it now."
"Lemme ask you a far more important question, punk." Ethan stood up, holding his bag. "Have you seen a young redhead somewhere?"
"Red—" He realized they must be talking about Deus. He kept his lid shut. "No. There are a lot of redheads to go by, so I don't think I know which one you're looking for."
"Then lemme ask you another question, punk. How did you brew this tea?"
He shrugged. "I just threw the sachet in and stirred, easy peasy."
Ethan held the bag over his shoulder. "A'ight then, how about this? How heavy do you think this bag is?"
William raised an eyebrow. "Wha—"
Before he could even digest the question, the bag was flung directly at his face. The virgin fell to the floor, knocked out cold, as the contents of the bags spilled out from a tear, the many books burying over the boy.
"Keith!" Casey shook her head. "Ethan, why did you do that?!"
He coughed, trying to get his British accent back. "Well, I'll be damned if that was quite a messy way handle it." He beamed at her. "You didn't believe these books were for exercise, did you? Casey, I need your help with something else."
"What is it this time?"
"Do you want to witness the world of dreams?"
The question struck a chord in her. She knew the dangers, her sister was a victim of the dream. But, at the same time, what she learned about it was tempting. She thought it would be interesting to explore it for herself. However...
"Say that again?"
"Dreams. Do you want to witness it with your own eyes instead of learning of it through your ears?"
"Hell no! My sister's body got hijacked because of you! There's no way I'd take the risk!"
"What would you risk to save your sister?" Ethan questioned coldly. "Marie isn't dead. She's still in there. Trapped. Screaming. Who knows? But I give you my word that she's still there. You don't want her to stay that way, no? Blood is thicker than water, is it not?"
Casey felt that thick blood running to her head. "Stop trying to talk me into it! You're the 'God Of Fantasy', why don't you do it yourself?!"
"No, no, I can't." Ethan turned to the unconscious William and started to arrange the books, books which Casey recognized very well. "Every dream needs a base, else one would get lost in it. I like to call it, 'aided dreaming'. I lay the foundations of the dream and through those, a partner would have to explore those foundations to plant or steal whatever we look for. It's impossible for me to explore a world of my own creation."
"So these books are...?"
"Reference. In the grand scheme of things, it won't prove to be essential, however, by creating a world by my own creativity, I cannot guarantee its sustainability."
"Marie's dream broke down."
Ethan froze. "I wouldn't point fingers at the gay man, if I were you. That world was stable. Was. That was till the third party dreamer interfered."
"What if he interferes again?"
"I believe he will. But you know he will, so you're prepared."
"I'm still not satisfied."
"I want to know why." Casey crossed her arms. "Why did you bring Marie into the dream?"
He bit his lip. "That would be... to turn her into a Goddess of Fantasy."
"..." He stood up, brushing on his chest. "Casey, your thirst for knowledge is commendable. An inquiry equal to that of the renaissance. However..." He looked over his shoulder, eyes dimming. "There are some things that you shouldn't need to know till the time is right. And I must tell you that you need to have faith in me."
He turned around, arms spread out. "This is the only way we can save Marie! So long as we can't track Deus down, we will be twiddling our thumbs, pondering over nothing."
"How is going into his dream going to help us find Deus in the first place?"
"Allow me to ask, how do you suppose the third party dreamer managed to enter Marie's dream? If there is a way in, there is a way out. We just have to find it. This man is without a doubt connected to that man, and it's through him that we may find our entrance to Marie's dream. Who knows, we may even be able to save her from here." He held his hand against his chest. "I don't expect you to believe me, but I want you to believe in Marie."
"..." Casey cringed. "Fine. I'll go in."
He clapped his hands. "Superb! I forewarn you, this man here doesn't seem to have a stable mentality. Insanity lurks ahead in this path you walk. Do you presume yourself to be ready?"
"I already said I'll go in. I won't make second thoughts."
Ethan closed his eyes, grinning. The rhythmic grumbles of the air-conditioning was somewhat hypnotizing, almost relaxing. It was worse than his paradise, but it should be a decent makeshift base.
"Work fast, Casey, we only have so much time." He opened his eyes, the weight of the world fallen upon his shoulders. "Sleep tight."