Adrian looked at her watch for the third time in five minutes, hoping Harmony wasn't going to leave her to the wolves. The karaoke bar was nearing full capacity as the second day of the Aria competition was about to begin. Harmony had contacted her for the first time after three years of almost complete silence and told her all of the karaoke bars would be having a week dedicated to Aria's music. The entire road had been shut down in front of the bar and a large LCD billboard projecting the stage was on display above the building. Adrian wasn't sure Harmony hadn't finally lost her mind from grief when she purchased permits from the city to have several blocks cordoned off and hired a small army of security guards to manage traffic and police the event. Karaoke was popular in Seattle, but seriously? Even a week dedicated to singing her daughter's songs wasn't going to be enough to draw that many people.

"Everything ready?" Harmony's voice asked from right behind her.

With a small squeak of surprise, Adrian turned around and found Harmony watching her with a small smile. Yep, she'd lost it.

"Yeah, it's ready," Adrian nodded carefully. She always felt uncomfortable around people who seemed mentally unstable.

"Okay, just a small change of plans," Harmony told her with the same small smile, like there was a joke that only she knew about.

"A change of plans now?" Adrian asked in dismay.

"Let everyone know that there will only be one group performing tonight," Harmony instructed her firmly. "No buts!"

She must have seen the objection in Adrian's eyes. God, what a nightmare. This crowd was going to murder her.

"Fine," Adrian sighed resignedly. "Who's playing?"

"A special guest," Harmony replied, that crazy smile returning. "Everyone will recognize her when she starts singing."

Adrian scowled as she made her way to the stage. So much for a full house. The majority of the crowd would probably leave within five minutes of the announcement. They didn't come to just watch someone else sing; they came to participate. That's why it was a karaoke bar…duh.

"Can I have your attention everyone?" Adrian spoke into the mic tentatively.

All eyes turned to her as the room quieted. She had to swallow before continuing.

"Tonight is going to be hosted by a single group of singers for the evening," Adrian said nervously. She could feel sweat beading on her brow.

It took a moment for what she was saying to penetrate as the crowd stared at her uncertainly. They slowly realized the implications of what she was saying. The sound of angry muttering grew steadily louder as more people discovered they wouldn't get a chance on the stage tonight. Before they could begin questioning her further, she made a beeline off of the stage and over to the back of the room where Harmony was standing.

"They're going to riot, you know," Adrian told Harmony with a shake of her head.

"Let's give them a distraction then," Harmony replied with a sparkle in her dark eyes.

Harmony pulled on a feathered mask and walked toward the stage. Four other women in feathered masks joined her from the crowd as she climbed onto the stage.

"This is bullshit," Adrian heard a woman in front of her complain. "I'm out of here."

"Screw this," the person next to the woman growled as she turned to follow the first woman. "I want a damn refund."

It was a mass exodus as the majority of the crowd began moving toward the exit. As the crowd slowly pushed through the double-doors, Harmony and her group of masked women began playing a variety of acoustical instruments that had been set up on the stage earlier in the day. A few people in the crowd paused to watch them curiously as the unique composition captured their interest.

Adrian was impressed. She knew Harmony had been an amazing musician before her daughter's attack. The mixture of bongos, violin, recorder, guitar and piano was mesmerizing, with a subtle intensity that struck a chord inside of her.

Then the small dark-haired girl in the center of the stage began singing and it was like time suddenly stood still as the crowd froze. Everyone knew that voice. Adrian had to remind herself to breathe as she stared in shock at the small girl on the stage. It can't be Aria! She's in a coma!

But there was no mistaking that voice. It couldn't be imitated. There was something so pure and powerful in her voice that nobody could hope to match it. Adrian realized she was shivering, even though the room was uncomfortably warm with all of the heat from hundreds of people in such a small area.

It took her a moment to realize that words were appearing on the screen; words in English. Even though the melody line was completely familiar, it had never been sung in a language anyone on this planet understood. The accompaniment brought a depth to the well known melody that further enhanced its unearthly beauty as the other four masked women joined her voice with their own.

The crowd stood riveted, unable to move until the first song completed. As the final notes ended, the crowd surged back into the room with a roar as they realized the most revered person on earth was right in front of them. The cheering was so loud that Adrian had to cover her ears. The glasses on the bar trembled at the deafening sound as a wall of pure emotion poured out of every person's throat.

"My God, she's back," Adrian whispered as a tear slid down her cheek.

Brooke was in the middle of texting her friend as she exited the karaoke bar. 'Don't bother coming tonight. They have a single band playing for the whole night.'

"This is such crap," Brooke grumbled to the woman next to her as they stalked down the sidewalk like angry cats. "That's the last time I come to this place."

"That's for sure," the woman next to her muttered angrily. "This place has really gone downhill since Harmony stopped managing it."

"They've got some interesting music, I'll give them that," another woman noted as the outdoor speakers began broadcasting the unknown band to the streets.

"It takes a lot more than that to-" Brooke trailed off at the sound of Aria's voice.

"Is that Aria?" the woman next to her asked in astonishment.

"It can't be," Brooke gasped as the sound of that angelic voice proved her wrong. "She's in a coma!"

"Maybe she really did wake up last week…" the woman next to her said slowly.

The stream of discontented patrons had come to a halt as everyone turned to stare at the large LCD screen above the building. As the song finished, Brooke began feverishly texting her friend back.

'Get down here now! Aria is singing in person! OMFG!'

"This is Channel 5 news, and I'm Kiara Walkins," the news anchor announced. "We have breaking news tonight as reports are coming in from all over Seattle that Aria is singing live at the Karaoke Queen. Her mother, Harmony Kageki owns a chain of karaoke bars between San Francisco and Seattle, but she hasn't been seen in any of them since her daughter was left in a coma over three years ago. Initial reports claimed that the manager of the Karaoke Queen announced the performance of a single band for the entire evening. Most of the patrons began leaving the establishment until they heard Aria begin singing. The most riveting part of the event? Aria is singing the same melodies from her coma, but in English. It would seem that the answer of whether Aria would have any sort of recall after awakening has been answered. Aria and the four women accompanying her are all wearing masks to hide their identities, but most people are assuming that her sister, Melody, and her mother, Harmony, are behind two of the masks. Whether she is wearing a mask as a result of burn scars, or to hide a new face is unclear. What we do know for sure, is that it is most definitely Aria who is singing, as that is one voice that cannot be imitated."

"Get the keys!" Dianna shouted as she jumped out of her chair and ran for the door.

"Already ahead of you," Jeanette replied with a grin as she followed Dianna out the door at a dead run with the keys in her hand.

Jason watched the large LCD screen from the roof of his apartment, along with over fifty of his neighbors. He had only been vaguely aware that there was a karaoke bar a few buildings down from his apartment before tonight. The sound of Aria's voice blasting out of the large speakers on the roof of the Karaoke Queen had interrupted his latest killing spree during an online Call of Duty tournament. It wasn't the kind of voice a person could ignore. He had looked out his window to see the masked visage of a small blonde girl taking up most of the giant LCD screen on top of the Karaoke Queen. As the camera zoomed in on her face, the sight of brilliant lavender irises with tendrils swirling around the pupils like spiral arms of the galaxy suddenly filled the screen.

"What the hell are you doing, PlanetCommander?" GrimReaper's voice snapped through his communicator. "You just stood there and let that sniper put a slug through your fat head."

"Dude, Aria is singing at the karaoke bar down the street from me," Jason replied distractedly.

"Yeah, and I'm sleeping with your mom," GrimReaper retorted derisively. "Get your head back in the game, dude."

"Sorry, man, I'm going to the roof to watch this," Jason replied in the same distracted voice.

"Dude, what the hell are you on?" GrimReaper demanded angrily. "We've been practicing for this tournament for months!"

"Aria healed my brother man," Jason replied firmly. "I'm not kidding. She's really here. You should come check this out."

"Holy shit!" GrimReaper gasped. "I just got a text from my sister saying Aria is playing at the Karaoke Queen!"

"That's what I've been telling you man," Jason said patiently. "I live right down the street from that place. I can see her face on a giant LCD they have on the roof. She's got a mask on, but dude, you should see her freaking eyes! They're freaking awesome!"

"Where do you live?" GrimReaper asked quickly. "I want to check this out."

Jason had given him the address and immediately gone to the roof and joined the majority of other tenants in his building to watch the show.

"I guess she really did wake up last week," his next door neighbor, Aaron, said from right next to him.

"This is too freaking cool!" Jason breathed with a silly smile on his face as he stared at Aria's hypnotic eyes. "I can't believe she is finally awake!"

"What do you think the government's going to do about it?" Aaron asked thoughtfully.

Jason frowned, remembering Aaron was an avid conspiracy theorist. "What can they do about it? She's like a freaking messiah. They'll have a worldwide mutiny on their hands if they try to do anything to her."

"Since when has popular opinion ever stopped our government from doing stupid shit?" Aaron snorted. "It's not like they require IQ tests for elected officials to get into office."

They watched on in silence for hours as Aria sang dozens of her coma songs in English. Jason just shook his head as he tried to imagine what kind of places Aria could have been visiting that would inspire the words in her songs. Most of the lyrics were in a kind of story format, describing interactions with beings comprised purely of emotion. It was powerful stuff.

After nearly two hours of nonstop singing, she finally sat down on the edge of the stage and smiled at her audience radiantly.

"Thanks for coming to my homecoming party," Aria said softly. "I'm still trying to catch up on all of the events that have happened since my body went to sleep, but I wanted everyone to know that I am still alive. I know you all have a million questions, and I wanted to answer some of them tonight if I can."

Jason looked around the rooftop at all of his neighbors as they watched the LCD raptly. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence as everyone waited to hear what she would reveal about the other side.

"So, I thought I would just let you start asking questions, and answer as well as I can," Aria continued in her beautiful voice. "Just raise your hand if you have a question and I'll try to answer as many of you as I can in the next half an hour."

Every hand in the audience shot into the air instantly. Aria smiled and pointed to a woman near the front of the audience.

"How much do you remember from the other side?" the woman asked.

"More each day," Aria replied thoughtfully. "When I first woke up, I didn't even know I had been gone. The last thing I remembered was the night before my coma. After a few hours, small snippets of memory began surfacing, almost like a dream. Each day, the memories become clearer."

"What was it like on the other side?" the next person asked.

"Very different," Aria said, taking a deep breath. "It makes it very difficult to describe as a result of just how different it was. We are used to this physical realm, and our five senses that constantly feed our consciousness information about our environment. On the other side, there is no sense of spatial dimension. You don't move around from point A to point B on a geographic scale like you do in this physical realm. Instead, motion is experienced through a much wider array of emotions than we experience in the physical realm. Instead of the dichotomy of fear and happiness that is the root emotion for all of the derivative emotions we feel here in the physical realm, there are millions of other emotions that give depth and breadth to consciousness. The other intelligences you communicate with use this wide array of emotions to share experience and knowledge with each other. I would have to say that if you could feel even a fraction of the emotional bandwidth that your spirit is capable of experiencing, it would overwhelm and destroy your physical body."

"Is there a God on the other side?" the next person asked intently.

"Not as the religions of this world define God," Aria replied with a small frown. "This is another difficult concept to explain. In order for anything to grow, existence requires a constant state of acceleration and deceleration. If this oscillation ever stops, a void of nothingness would take its place. It wouldn't matter if it was a void of light or absence of light; in a void, no action can take place. As a result, all matter is in a constant state of flux as existence moves from a state of absoluteness to a state of nothingness. The period of absoluteness is what most would describe as God. It is the time when all of the intelligences in existence have united once more into a singular entity. If we remained in this singular entity, nothing new could be learned because all of the intelligences in existence are already united and everything is known. In order to avoid the state of immobility that would result from such unified knowledge, God fractures itself into a new cycle of ignorance, allowing the gradual buildup of intelligences as the process begins again."

"How were you able to communicate with your body from the other side?" the next person asked curiously. "Why aren't other coma patients able to do the same thing?"

"Melody is the reason I maintained such a strong connection to this world," Aria replied with a smile at one of the other masked women. "She is my twin sister, and in many cases twins share a linked consciousness. In some twins it is stronger than others. In my case, it was a very strong connection."

"Did time pass at all for you while you were on the other side?" the next person asked.

"It did," Aria nodded with a small smile. "I'm actually an old woman by most people's standards. While I was on the other side, I experienced nearly a hundred years of life. It is difficult to compare time between the two realms, but I am referring to the number of experiences I had while I was there. To live through so many experiences in this world, it would take at the very least a hundred years."

"You seemed capable of reacting to your environment to some extent while you were in a coma," the next person said thoughtfully. "How aware of this world were you during that time?"

"This world is like a film reel on a projector in many ways," Aria replied, blinking her hypnotic eyes slowly as she studied the people in the crowd. "I was able to look at any event in history, as well as the future. I spent a great deal of time learning about the true history of this world. It wasn't like watching a movie by any means, but more like being saturated in the experiences of the people whose lives I observed. I felt their pain, their hopes and their joys. I knew their innermost secrets and their darkest fears. Melody's link to my consciousness kept a steady stream of awareness flowing into me regarding the state of the world my body was in."

"How were you able to heal people through song?" a woman near the back of the audience asked.

"In order to understand the process, you would need to first realize how limited human knowledge really is at this stage," Aria replied, with just a hint of dryness in her voice. "In this age, humans have only been looking at reality objectively for a few hundred years. While humans are making amazing progress, they are trying to run before they have fully learned to walk. Much of the recklessness in science is driven by personal greed for money and power. This kind of carelessness results in the use of forces that are still beyond human understanding. Rather than continue studying these concepts patiently until they are fully understood, humans tend to begin utilizing these forces because they can, without questioning whether they should. With a more patient approach, the lifespan of this planet would not be in danger. In answer to your question, the reason my songs are capable of healing is because everything in existence conforms to what you might think of as a code. All finite matter can be arranged and manipulated by utilizing the proper sequence of frequencies that program this code. Human bodies have a very specific blue print, and when that design is tampered with through environmental factors, whether physical injuries or energy parasites that you call viruses, it becomes corrupted from its intended design. My songs are designed to guide the finite matter that defines human bodies back into the original healthy blueprint. The average human voice is unable to produce the subtle variations of frequencies required to restore the human design, but some people can be trained to utilize some of these tools. Computers can also be programmed to produce all of the necessary sequences to the same degree that I do, but the programmers would need to understand the human code before being able to induce the same effect."

"You said you could see the future while you were on the other side," the next person said with an excited gleam in his eyes. "Can you tell us what you saw?"

"Hope," Aria said simply. "I was allowed to return to this world to give humans another chance. The future I witnessed was a world without war and sickness; a world where humans overcame their prejudices and accepted each other as unique extensions of a single entity. I won't lie to you; there will be struggles in the coming years as the human race transitions to this higher state of understanding. I can promise you that the struggle will be worth it though."

"Are you still able to heal people with physical disabilities that your recorded songs can't heal?" a woman near the front asked.

"Yes," Aria smiled gently. "After tonight, I will be seeking out programmers who can help create applications capable of using the same method of healing I use. This will allow people to be healed without having to travel long distances."

"I know this is probably the stupidest question you'll hear tonight," a man said apologetically. "But why are your eyes so different now?"

"There are no stupid questions," Aria replied with a reassuring smile. "However, I will have to admit ignorance to some of the changes that occurred with this body. It's kind of a loner, so to speak. It doesn't require sustenance from the physical realm, and I no longer require sleep. I'm still learning new things about it as I go."

"Since stupid questions are allowed," a woman in the middle of the crowd said with a grin. "Why are you wearing a mask? I'm assuming you were able to heal your own body."

"Since I have a new face, I thought I would try and keep it hidden so that I can walk down the street without attracting everyone's attention," Aria replied with a musical laugh. "I look quite a bit different than I did before the coma."

"Do you harbor any kind of anger toward the man who attacked you?" a woman asked tentatively.

"He was not at fault," Aria said slowly. She took a deep breath before continuing. "I mentioned earlier that I had access to the true history of this world while I was on the other side. The man who attacked me had been programmed using mind control technology by the CIA. The Vice President of the United States wanted Americans to fear chemical weapons in order to galvanize support for their war ambitions in the Middle East. While he was unaware of Director Grier's actual plan, the Vice President knew it would be something horrific when he asked the director to fabricate an incident. Their plan did not work, because my sister and mother found me before they could set up the next phase of their plan."

There was dead silence as everyone absorbed the new information.

"I told you the government was involved," Aaron told Jason grimly.

Jason just stared, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that all of the conspiracy kooks had been right all along about how corrupt the government was.

"I'm afraid our time is up for now," Aria said regretfully. "Thanks for being so supportive of my family for the last three years."

As she finished speaking, the lights went out inside the karaoke bar, plunging everything into darkness. When the lights came back on a minute later, Aria and her masked companions were gone.