This story was inspired by To Be Human by EibonVirgo, one of my closest friends, motivation, and trusted ally. Without you, I would not have ventured into this wonderful path I now call home.
Thank you, everyone. You are my irreplaceable friends that I cannot live without.
I hope you enjoy every second of what I give as I enjoy every second I spend with you.
I feel like I'm falling, yet I can't see where I'm going. I can't move. Everything hurts; I don't know what's going on.
Do I know that voice? It doesn't sound familiar. I try to reach out but find myself unable. Yet…
"I'll find you!"
Gods, it's bright. Too bright. I open my eyes briefly, only to close them again because of the pain. I realize that there's a hand holding mine. I have to try to open my eyes. It takes too long for the world to focus in view, but a girl is sitting next to me. I see blonde hair. Her hand tightens on mine once she sees my eyes land on her.
"You're awake!" The girl breathes out, her light blue eyes widening in shock. She stands up, her blonde hair falling into her face, but she doesn't care. Her focus is only on me. "I-I'm so sorry! It's kind of confusing waking up in a strange place. I'll try to explain! My name- it's Rise Rikiya; I was just walking by when I-I, well, I saw you crashed your D-Wheel. I didn't have a name to give you, and-" She cut herself off.
Her voice drops to a whisper. "They don't let people from the Satellite here. I think you're from the Satellite. The clothes you were wearing, and where you crashed… I-I didn't want to get you in trouble, and you were hurt, so I gave you a fake name, but if you have a name, I can tell the doctors! A-and I won't tell them what I saw!" She bit her lip, seemingly ending her ramble. I opened my mouth to speak but ended up coughing instead. How long had I been out? What was the Satellite?
"Oh, I'm so sorry; you can't speak right now. I'm an idiot. You just woke up," Rise lets go of my hand to reach for water on the side table. She helped me into a sitting position before helping me hold a cup of water. The water felt refreshing against my dry throat. "You've been out for a week," Rise quietly informed me as she rubbed my back with her free hand.
"A week…" I echo. My voice is raspy.
"Do you have a name I can tell them?" Rise's hand found mine again.
I sat still. The room felt cold. Without looking, I could tell it was dark outside. The white walls felt suffocating, with the only color in the room being Rise's presence. I shake my head. Dark black hair, almost blue, falls in front of my eyes. This is the first glimpse of myself I've had.
I didn't even know I had black hair.
Why didn't I know my hair?
"I don't know," I answer in a small voice. Rise takes in a breath, letting out a quiet "Oh." I look up at Rise, meeting her eyes. She seemed to realize what was wrong.
"You don't…remember anything," Rise looked heartbroken. She looked at me and squeezed my hand.
"What…what name did you give me?" My words are low. Unsure. I don't know who I am.
"Kallen," Rise answers with a small smile. "I named you Kallen Rikiya. Please…" She let go of my hand and bowed. "Let me take care of you!"
"I'm coming; wait for me! I hear the walls repeating.
The falling of my feet and it sounds like drumming.
And I am not alone.
I hear the rocks and stones echoing my song.
PART 1—HEY LITTLE SONGBIRD—LINK START
There's no better way to start a day than by being hungover and barely existing on this plane. So here we are.
It's too bright outside. I forgot to shut my curtains last night, so the light is pouring in. Specifically, it's right onto my face. I don't want to move to close the curtain. Fuck, my body hurts. I don't even remember what I did to deserve this headache.
I lift the covers of my blanket to cover my head. Despite knowing there was no point, I want to block out the sun. My alarm goes off for a second later.
You have one voicemail.
The machine beeps. "Kallen! I hope you still remember me. I didn't hear from you at all last night! Well, I did, but-" A giggle sounds from the machine.
Right. Rise must have tried to call me last night. Something tells me I was gone by that point. But she would understand. She's been there for me since the beginning.
I woke up more than a year ago with no memories and a wrecked body.
Apparently, I crashed my D-Wheel, but shit, if I remember. My helmet was crap—made from foam and plastic—which led to my 'traumatic brain injury.' Something went wrong, and I wasn't getting oxygen to my brain or something related to that. Now I can't remember the first however many years of my life. Adding burns, scrapes, and scars I can't eliminate, and you have Kallen Rikiya.
But Rise…that girl went out for me- someone she didn't know. She gave me a name. She thinks I came from the Satellite. She didn't know how I got there but gave me a name to protect me. A week later, she had a letter in the mail. Neither of us understood how, but someone had given me documentation to prove I was Kallen, a member of Neo Domino City. I had an ID card, a D-Wheel License, and a student ID for Neo Domino City's Duel Academia. I joined that week.
I owe Rise everything I have, from offering me her place to crash for the first few months to helping me find a job.
But for the love of the gods, did Rise have to pick to go to a party tonight? Rise may have just gotten her footing in launching her singing career, but I deserve a break, too, dammit.
"You promised you'd go tonight. Remember? It's the after-party for the Friendship Tournament. I'll be there to pick you up at six. I'll treat you to dinner! Love you!"
I groaned, my lips forming a word that maybe wasn't nice to say, but they made me feel better. I reach to pull the blanket off of me, my dark hair in my face. I need to sit up. My body moves on its own, albeit sluggish, as I force myself into a sitting position. I'm wearing one of Ike's shirts—which, when did I get one of Ike's shirts? Why am I wearing it? Why the hell do I have it? I know I gave back all of his shit when we broke up. Why is it here—on my body?
Why has this become another event in a sea of things I don't remember?
"Show me today," My hand goes towards my cards, AKA one of the few things they found that belonged to me after my accident. A tarot deck. I know I've used it in the past, but recently all I've been using it for is daily horoscopes and shifty street duels. I pull—my eyes closing as I move the card towards me. I know which one it is without looking. The card whispers, its voice clear.
0. The Fool. A card that stands for new beginnings, a new path, a new adventure. It's also a warning. Watch where you put your foot or fall in a ditch.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
"Fun," I force myself out of bed to do the usual routine. Shower, eat, work on my D-Wheel, no. I can't do that today. I have work. Could I upgrade it while at work? The poor thing has come a long way since our entrance into Neo Domino City, but things could always be better.
I could be better. My fortune said new beginnings, right? A smile hits the edge of my lips. My body turns on instinct, my hand reaching for a glass of water. I concentrate.
The glass starts to tremble. It slides off the desk, its form floating in the air. A bubble of laughter escapes my lips. For the last few months, my powers have been erratic at best. Ike was wrong. He could shove his opinions up his-
The glass shatters. It takes me a second to register what happened.
"Shit," I sigh.
No, nothing has changed. I'm still me. I'm still Kallen: the Psychic girl with no memories and no way to control her powers.
A knock sounds at the door. "Yeah, come in," I know who it is already. There's one other person who knows me well. Elodie Morgan peeks in the door, her almond-shaped black eyes rolling when she sees me.
"Just as I thought," Elodie closes the door behind her. Her magenta hair was pulled out of her face. She was dressed for work as an intern at the Public Maintenance Bureau. "Hungover. Do you ever learn?"
"Where's the fun in that?" I muse back. I wasn't the first Psychic to be outed there. Elodie Morgan, who came from a family of Public Maintenance Officers, was my best friend back at Duel Academia.
When we found out I was a Psychic, she was the one who covered for me by saying the duel disks were malfunctioning after I accidentally knocked her back with my powers. I don't know how she did it, but she convinced them. She's been my friend ever since and probably why I wasn't persecuted (or expelled) on the spot.
"You're ridiculous," Elodie let out a sigh.
"Here," Elodie reached for her bag and took out a take-out box.
"My hero," I reach for the box and sit it on the table. I begin to dig in as I ask, "So, how did you know I'd want this?"
"You called me last night," Elodie replies dryly. She sips some iced coffee in her hands. "You know, it's illegal-"
"Not if you have the right ID," I remind her with a hum.
"That I made for you to get that bar piercing in your ear, not to sneak into some bar-"
"Psycho. The bar's called Psycho. I said I wanted it to get a bar, didn't I?"
"… not the point, Kal," Elodie twirls some of her hair between her fingers- a nervous habit she's always had when uncomfortable.
"What'd I say?" I can barely speak between the mouthful of food.
"On the voicemail?" Elodie frowns. Her cheeks flushed as she let out a tiny laugh. This makes me set down my food, my eyebrow raised. I' m not sure if it was more embarrassing for her, or me. "You said you were out with some guy, but not to worry because it wasn't like you were going to sleep with him. Then you went off until the voicemail cut you off about how you were over Ike and not going to do anything with him again."
"Wild. Drunk me is a psycho. A psycho in Psycho."
"I think it's the first time I've ever agreed with drunk you," Elodie chuckles. I roll my eyes. "Speaking of," Elodie shoots me that innocent, wide-eyed look, and I know I won't like the following words that will come out of her mouth.
"No," I reply automatically.
"You don't even know what I was going to say!" Elodie looks at me, but her doe eyes make it hard to take her seriously as a threat.
"Whoever it is, I don't care," I shrug my shoulders, my eyes meeting hers. "Lemme guess. Some up-and-comin' duelist just arrived, and you think we'd be a great match." I stab my food with my chopstick. "It's a no."
Elodie puffs up her cheeks, then slowly deflates. "I just want you to be happy," Elodie speaks softly. I stop. Without Elodie, I…would probably be in the Detention Center. It's where Ike should be. I exhaled, my gaze moving up to look at Elodie. Dammit, I can't look at her when she's upset. Her eyes start to water.
"Who is he," My voice is flat and unenthusiastic. Elodie perks up, a radiant smile crossing her features, a swift change from a moment prior.
"His name is Jack Atlas. My brother is his bodyguard until they get him set up in his new suite in the Tops, but Godwin seems to like him. That's what my Dad said," Elodie's eyes are lit with positive energy. Something bothers me about the name. "I think you'd like him. He's just starting, but he's already won some tournaments-"
"Atlas," I murmur, not entirely listening to Elodie. She means well. "Isn't that the new King of Games?"
"So you have heard of him!"
"Doesn't make me interested."
"Come on, Kal, give him a chance. " Elodie raised an eyebrow towards me. "I bet you'd like him if you gave him a chance."
"Yeah?" I reach for my deck and pull a card but grab the empty air. That means it's a card I still need. A full tarot deck contained twenty-two major arcana, but I was missing two: X. the Wheel of Fortune and XVII. The Star. I pull back my hand, a smirk crossing my features. "Guess we'll never know. I can't predict what's not there."
Elodie's face falls. "Do you think…" Her voice trails off. I finish the last of the food.
"Dunno," I know what she's asking. Will I ever find my missing cards?
"Do you think they're-"
"In Satellite?" I toss my empty box into the trash can, successfully landing it. "Maybe. It's not like I plan on going back there and lookin'."
"I don't know…perhaps it's worth a shot," Elodie reaches for one of my hands and holds it in hers. Her dark eyes beam at me, a soft smile on her lips. "Maybe you'll find someone waiting for you there."
"Sure," I stand up, letting her hand drop from mine. "Too bad it's illegal for us to go there, yeah?" I swallow. I reach for my jacket, a dark blue fitted cropped jacket with black shoulder pads, and throw it over my dark red tank top.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the small mirror on the wall. I look at myself and see black hair that's almost blue, gold eyes, and both the pentacles and star charm necklaces around my neck. The piercings in my ear are what I got after I came to Satellite, but the two necklaces are items I arrived with.
My fingers fiddle with the last thing of my past life, a sigma ring on my right-hand index. These were clues to who I should be, but none added up. The thing that gave the most story was my D-Wheel, a heap of trash built together to create a working motor that landed me in Neo Domino City.
But beyond that? Nothing. Everything else is Kallen's. Everything else I own is what I built myself, starting from when I crash-landed.
This is what I tell myself, anyway.
"Are you heading to work?" Elodie stands up from the chair while slinging her messenger bag over her shoulder. "Do you need a ride? It's on my way."
"Thanks, but," I grab my helmet from its position on the floor and hold it up. "Have fun working as the government's lapdog."
Elodie puffed up her cheeks in fake annoyance. It's a joke between us. She'd been working lately as an intern for the Public Maintenance Bureau. "Have fun at the party," Elodie stuck out her tongue with a wave and a playful grin. "I hope you meet someone nice there!" I wave back as she closes the door. The click echoes off the walls, the only noise in my now empty apartment.
"There she is!" These are the first words I hear as I enter the garage. Mateo, my coworker, spews some words I don't understand, but I know it's something in Spanish that would irritate me. Tanned skin, green eyes, and an egotistical face are how I would describe him. He thinks he's hot shit because he's the only one in the garage without a mark on his face. Or was, until I came along. "Mi Amor, and here I thought you wouldn't come. The last I saw you, I held your hair back in the women's bathroom."
"Mateo," Devyn, a majestic beauty with dark skin and dirty blonde hair, hisses at him. "Get back to work."
"Not after I check up on our rookie," Mateo slings his arm over my shoulder. I swipe at his arm, throwing it off. Mateo's smirk never fades from his face. I want to punch him. "So?"
"What do you want me to say?" I shrug off my jacket, placing it on top of my D-Wheel. "I kept up with you all night, jackass. Don't forget that. I can handle a few drinks."
"A few drinks. Right." Mateo snorted. "And yet I didn't score a single thank you for keeping you alive," Mateo dramatically sighed. "There's no appreciation for a savior."
"It must be surprising that women don't want to have sex with you," I replied in a deadpan tone. I hear Driss chuckle from the corner where he's working on a broken engine. Driss, who came in around the same time I did, was a quiet man with dark skin and dark green hair. He was my favorite to work with. He just knew machines.
"Oh come on, don't be like that-" Mateo was cut off when a remote came flying through the air. Mateo only barely caught it. He fumbled with the tiny device before safely securing it in his hands. Devyn was standing, a scowl across her perfect features.
"Put something on if you're going to talk," Devyn pushed her bangs out of her face, revealing the mark on the outside corner of her left eye. "It's easier to work if I can't hear you."
"No one appreciates me!" Mateo cried but obliged.
I chuckled. I sat down beside Driss. He handed me the torque wrench silently, and with a nod, I set out to work. We moved in perfect unison, all without speaking. It was bliss.
I don't hear at first what Mateo put on. I can hear him talking, but I don't listen. I put my focus on my work.
"— And we're standing here with the King himself: Jack Atlas!"
You have to be FUCKING kidding me.
"King, what are your thoughts?"
"I've known that I was meant for the best."
A deep voice blared through the TV. I don't hear anything else.
I… I know that voice. Why do I know that voice? It's in the back of my mind. It's so familiar but so…wrong. How would I know him? It was impossible. I've never met him before. He's just some rich asshole born and raised to step on people like us to stay rich.
My head hurts.
"Kallen?" Driss stares at me in concern. I come back to reality with a shake of my head. The way he was staring at me, I knew he called my name a few times before I finally heard him. Devyn shoots me a look, but I give her a thumbs up.
"See, I knew it! Our girl can't keep up with-" Mateo starts his way over, but I hold up my wrench.
"One step, and this flies towards your head." My words are half-joking but half-serious. It's a gamble on which side will win, and he knows it, but the smirk never fades.
He's won this round, and he knows it.
"You didn't tell me this was a party for the new King of Games," I grumble beside Rise. I've resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't escape Jack Atlas, but I could do my best to avoid him out of sheer spite.
Rise has a death grip on my arm but a joyful smile on her lips. She's radiating, but she always has been. Today she's wearing her pink wig, a glittery gold dress, and light pink heels. Beside her, I'm wearing a black lace dress with a long flowing sheer skirt and wine-red heels. The top has a deep v-cut, exposing my pentacles' necklace.
"You didn't ask," Rise cheerfully replies. "Wait until you hear about our conversation last night," Rise has a mischievous grin. I let out a groan.
"I don't wanna know," I'm laughing. Rise lets go of my arm to grab two champagne glasses from a passing waiter, her charm in full swing as she thanks the man and blows him a kiss. He looks as if he might fall over on the spot.
"Careful," I tease. Rise winks at me as she hands me the glass.
"Not too much," She warns in a lovely hum. "After all, could we really have two nights in a row where you tell me about you stood on top of the bar and-"
"Alright, alright, I get it!" Yet I take the glass from her and sweep it down in one go. Rise laughs, her free hand covering her mouth before she lets out a pig-like snort. Gods forbid some reporters catch their idol acting like a dorky teenager. I swipe my chin with the back of my hand, thankfully avoiding smearing my lipstick. "You performin' tonight?" I ask.
"Nope," She pops the p. "Just invited. Although!" Her eyes light up. "Guess who got asked to perform at some new tournament?"
"Who?" I ask dryly, my eyebrow raised.
"You know already!" Rise grabs my arm to stop herself from jumping up and down in excitement. "It's not just singing either. It's-!" Her face drops.
"What?" I tense. "What's wrong? Rise-"
"Someone's looking at you," She gets closer to me. I suck in a breath, my mind going all over the place. Then, just as quickly, she's grinning ear to ear. "You'll NEVER guess who it is!" She doesn't allow me to guess. I should have known she was just being melodramatic. "It's Jack Atlas! Jack freaking Atlas, the King, is staring at you! Kallen, I think he's interested!"
"Wild," My voice is monotonous.
"Oh, stop it," Rise rolls her eyes. "I bet you'd love talking to him. He's successful, popular, handsome-"
"And not Ike?"
"And you'd love his D-Wheel. He calls it the Wheel of Fortune. Ring a bell? It's like your deck!"
Now that is interesting. And curious. The Wheel of Fortune is one of the cards I'm missing.
"You win," I laugh, my head spinning to stare at this mysterious King of Games. "Fine, I'll take a look-"
My breath hitches. I stare back at blonde hair, purple eyes, and, yeah, a handsome face.
But that's not what gets me. If I thought his voice sounded familiar, his face? I see it somewhere in the back of my mind.
I know without a doubt that I know him.
And judging the way his eyes settle on me, the way he looks at my face, then down at my necklace, before sucking in a breath, I know he knows me too. I see him whisper a name, but I don't know what he says. I can't understand from this far away.
It feels like we're the only two in the room, just staring at each other. No one else at this party matters. I feel him, no- I know I feel a memory- but I can feel his hands pushing my hair behind my ear. I feel his hand around mine. We were running together, our voices melting together, laughing-
I can't breathe. It's too much. Too much is happening.
I see him start to make his way over. I don't know what comes over me, but I don't want to see him. I don't want to meet him. My mind is screaming at me to run, to get away, to-
The champagne glass cracks. I've lost control.
"I have to go," I say quickly, taking Rise by the arm and beginning to speed walk away.
"W-wait!" Rise is trying to follow at my pace. "I don't want to leave yet!"
"Then stay, but I'm going," I let go of her arm and start to walk. Rise reaches to take my hand.
I stop. I close my eyes. I have to go. I can't be in this room anymore.
"Kal…" Rise's voice is soft. Caring. "Kal, what's wrong? What happened?"
"I…" I'm trying to figure out what happened, is happening, or… I don't know what's coming over me. I'm confused too. "I don't know," My voice is shaky. Rise's hand on mine tightens. I look up, turning to meet her eyes. I know my eyes are watering. "I want to go," I repeat. "I need to go," This time, my voice breaks. It's when I notice the surrounding pressure. I shake. I lost control. I keep telling myself that. I've lost control. My emotions are all over the place, but I don't understand any of them. I don't know why I'm so upset. Rise's eyes widen. I force myself to take deep breaths, but I know I won't be able to concentrate until we leave.
"Then we're going." Rise is the one who takes the lead this time to the exit. "We'll drink wine and watch a movie at my place. You'll spend the night, just the two of us. Okay?" Rise looks back at me, her smile assuring me everything is okay. That I was okay. And I know I'm okay. I have Rise. She'll always be there for me.
But I look back one more time.
I see him. He sees me. He reaches out as if he could stop me, but the crowd converges around him. I can see him try to push through, to find me, but I'm already one step out of the exit.
I'm frightened. It's a feeling I'm used to, along with confusion.
It's because the past I want so badly to know is the same thing I'm terrified of.
"Let's go," Rise, the up-and-coming pop idol, smiles at me, her best friend. I don't deserve her. I never deserved her.
I don't deserve to know anything.