Hey guys! This is the fourth installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page here!
With this new installment, Marcus followed Gloria’s advice. Thanks for commenting, Gloria!
He would buckle. He had to. There was no one more dependent than Marcus.
“Come on Marcus! Vivek knows more about this,” Julian threw his hands into the air, slicing through the tension filled atmosphere, “stupid place than we ever will. We’re lost without him!”
As he presented his case to Marcus, who stood with one foot precariously on the dark step, Julian felt like a thread between him and Vivek, turned into a triple corded rope.
Without Vivek, there was no survival.
His countless wrinkles held wisdom, and wisdom was a treasure. Wasn’t that from somewhere in the Bible?
“Julian, he’s not what he looks like,” Marcus stated strongly, dark eyebrows creased.
The surety in his tone was like a slap to Julian’s face. He chuckled nervously. What had come over the guy?
“What. Are. You. Talking about? He looks like our life line!”
Julian spared a glance at the man and caught a fleeting expression of regret on his face. It disappeared quicker than Julian’s parents had disowned him after learning he was an atheist.
What was that about? Gulping down the bile of nervousness that had collected in his throat, Julian turned firmly towards Marcus.
“Please don’t be stubborn!” Julian’s frustration grew as Marcus shook his head, almost like he was empathetic. “You need to follow Vivek and I! We need to get out of here!”
Marcus didn’t see their obvious circumstance. And he called Julian blind!
Marcus looked so torn. Time passed without words as both of their minds raced for a better option. His breath steadily turned into a slow pant. Vivek fidgeted nervously behind Julian.
A cascade of doubt ran from Julian’s feet all the way up to the tips of his ears.
A desperate plea escaped his lips that made his stomach churn and head swim.
“Don’t be a stupid Christian!”
Abruptly, Marcus’ amber gaze hardened, and his fists clenched violently. Julian involuntarily took a step forward towards his brother.
“No!” Spittle flew onto Julian’s collared shirt, “I am not disillusioned to the threats that are in this place,” Marcus backed away from Julian’s out turned palm, “Whatever undeniable confidence you have in him,” he threw a shaking finger out at a wide eyed Vivek, “I do not share in the least. He’s not… trustworthy.”
Julian clenched his teeth against a rebuke. Marcus would vent, and then he would see that his brother was actually right. Almost audible, Julian could sense all of Marcus’s vertebrae cracking as he straightened his back.
A small comment, no more than a word, had almost left Julian’s cracked lips.
Marcus left no question with his own, “I’m going up these stairs, and nothing can stop me.”
Julian knew it was coming. Against what seemed possible, Marcus had stood up to Julian. The younger man had proven Julian’s logic wrong, perhaps for the first time.
Marcus’s sandaled foot hesitated at the first step, and he glanced at his older brother harshly. Julian could feel anger and confusion radiating from his gaze.
It was the same gaze that had stared at him while he strode away from their childhood home, all his earthly belongings packed away in a duffel bag hanging from his right hand.
Before Julian could do anything to stop him, Marcus was gone. There was no echoing of footsteps as he climbed the stairs. Only an empty silence that was about as inviting as a graveyard.
Vivek’s breath rushed over his neck, “We need to go now!”
The phrase was cut abruptly short, as the man standing directly behind Julian bit his lip unsurely.
“I know! But…” Julian gaped and struggled for an answer.
There was no way he could just leave Marcus. They were family, no matter what was in between them.
Staring after where his brother had just stood, Julian felt a deep bleakness cloud his head. He ran his hands through his thick brown hair. Vivek’s cheek twitched jerkily, almost in synch with Julian’s conscience. His grey eyes seared above his wire rimmed glasses. An aggressive step forward from the stranger, he was a complete stranger after all, caused Julian to flinch.
“The door will close soon, and guess where it will land?” Vivek’s bony fingers suddenly wrapped around Julian’s wrist in a vise-like grip. He jerked Julian’s hand up, pointing with the thick book at his tan fingers. A fierce heat radiated from the tome. “Right. On. Your. Spindly. Little. Fingers.”
Julian forcefully shoved away from the man’s grip, heart racing. His fingers felt burnt. Vivek’s lips were pursed so tightly, they had turned white. His chest heaved, like the act of onset had taken more effort than he had expected.
“Fi- fine,” Julian’s throat constricted with every passing word, “Lead on.”
Some of the boldness faded from his eyes. He had expected more.
As Vivek briskly turned to the starkingly black, fancily designed door to unlock it, Julian promised himself that he would go back for Marcus in fifteen minutes. Maybe ten. Already, a deep loneliness had settled.
The locks to the entryway loudly snapped open. Julian didn’t even know it was locked. Would he be able to get back out?
A white light filtered from the room as the door opened silently, piercing the shadows on the cold floor.
It only opened a few inches before stopping, not even enough for Julian to see what was inside.
Vivek slipped in quickly, like a rat that needed to get away. His now-annoying voice soon floated in a loud whisper into Julian’s tired ears.
“Please, this is the best way.”
Taking a deep breath, Julian squeezed through the gap. He felt the heaviness of the dark door, which didn’t even move as he pressed against it, brush against his ribs uncomfortably.
“Remember that your fingers aren’t titanium, that door won’t stay open forever,” Vivek warned.
A memory of Marcus and him riding bikes through the empty cul de sac they had lived on, flitted across his racing mind. Even after Julian had fell off and scraped his finger to the bone, they still had faithfully rode their bikes together every afternoon, sun or rain.
It had been an escape from the strict atmosphere of their household. Freedom from the endless prayers of Salat, and the constant reminders to be a good Muslim boy. They had done everything together- inseparable.
Except… share their beliefs.
Julian tried to ignore the pull at his heart as he pushed his body through the final inches into the room.
He stopped abruptly.
Vivek’s desperate eyes stared at him. His fingers twitched against the book and his mouth gaped open in what seemed disbelief. His bony body covered all of Julian’s sight, but glimpses of the room showed gold.
“I can’t,” Julian uttered slowly, meeting Vivek’s stare, “Everything you say seems true, but you truly are twisted in some way.”
Vivek suddenly gasped, and his lip curled viciously. His eyebrows creased like paper. Julian could see a struggle happening inside.
Taking two steps backwards, the lanky man glanced around the room hesitantly. He stopped. One look at his precious book seemed to make up his decision.
“I need to be free,” his book suddenly transformed into a flaming torch, “And you’re the only way to become released.”
Vivek’s torch stretched towards Julian, and he felt the flames lick at his nose. Beyond the orange light, the phantom clenched his pearly white teeth.
There was a grinding that came from the door, and Julian felt another person’s coarse palm on his one hand that was still left out of the room. He held onto it for dear life.
Launching himself inside without a second thought, Julian felt a second body crash into his as he fell to the floor.
A tremendous blast of air whooshed over him as the door closed a split second after. The sheer force shook the room.
“Well that was close,” squeaked Marcus as he lay beside Julian.
A sigh and a laugh from Julian followed. He had actually made it. Reaching over, Julian hugged his brother tightly. When he pulled away, his brother’s eyes seemed troubled, a secret that could not be held any longer lingered underneath.
“You aren’t supposed to be here!” Vivek groaned.
The brothers leapt to their feet. They were in a golden walled room, with statues of the same hue lining the walls. Vivek stood in the middle, torch lifted high.
“Julian! Why didn’t you listen to me?” Vivek rubbed his brow like he was speaking to a toddler that had stolen another cookie, “I was so close…” His leathery tongue swept out of his mouth to moisten his lips, “Of all the times for you to ignore my insight! She will not be pleased.”
Julian caught Marcus’s eye as they watched the phantom talk to himself. They were both ready to pin down the man, and bombard him with questions.
But before they could, all the golden statues started moving. First slowly. Then more quickly, surrounding the brothers. It was like watching water flow across stone, their actions were so fluid. Each had a scowl on their chiseled features. Mindless obedience was their only preference.
Before either could react, Vivek ran down an unseen hallway to their right.
Run as fast as they can after Vivek? Stay and figure out who the statues are? Or something else?
Comment below and join the adventure!