Hey guys! This is the fifth 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, Julian and Marcus followed Gloria’s advice. Thanks for commenting, Gloria!
Vivek raced down the hall, turning back every few moments at the two boys. Where he was running to he had no clue. Arianna would kill him, but she couldn’t, could she? The boys were running his way. He had to get away from them. He couldn’t handle them until he knew what to do.
He put his back against the wall and tried to make himself look invisible. Tried not to breathe.
But they didn’t make it into the halls. The golden idols were surrounding them. He couldn’t stay to watch. Vivek raced down the dark halls. Took a left turn. A right. Another left. The thought shook him that he might be walking right into a trap, but he had to keep going. If he couldn’t lure Julian, then he might as well. . .but he should be able to control his mind.
He stood in the middle of a dark hall, completely winded. The walls and carpet were a dark shade of green and on the far wall was a family portrait. Julian, age nine. Marcus, five. The youngest brother had not yet been born. The parents stood over their two boys protectively.
Vivek gasped. This was the painting. His subconscious had taken him straight to this painting, assuming he had a subconscious.
He wouldn’t tell Arianna. Not yet. But this was so daring! He’d never rebelled against her before. Why should working with Sophia be rebellion? If Julian’s only human connection at the moment was Marcus, then what better tool to use than Sophia.
But he knew it was more than that. He wanted freedom, and this was his chance.
Each step towards that painting felt like it was in slow-motion. The green carpet made contact with his toes. He lifted his leg. Took a step. Made contact with the carpet again. And still the painting looked so far away.
He could see the father’s face glaring at him. The mother, with the same deep, peaceful eyes as Marcus daring him to come one step closer. She wore a black hijab and dress. Marcus smiled up at him.
But already, a battle waged in Julian’s mind. Even in those years. Vivek had had a desire to understand. Had had a desire for freedom, but it had only led him to further bondage.
He stared at the painting now, each step bringing him closer and closer, and he knew that somewhere deep inside of him, he loved Julian.
The candle trembled in his hand. This was a daring move. Communications had been caught off with the father, though Vivek knew there was still at least one gateway to the mother. He hadn’t tried Marcus. Not for years. Not since Arianna had come. Could he do it now? Should he do it?
He was finally at the painting. He put the candle down.
Quietly, he put a hand on Julian’s boy face. So soft. So scared. He hadn’t changed that much.
He moved the candle away, close to the left wall and as far from the portrait as possible. He heard his heart pound in his chest. What if someone found him? What if Arianna found him?
His hands shook. He forced them to stop and slowly, cautiously grabbed the painting and lowered it to the floor.
He breathed hard. What if they caught him? What if the communications were tapped? He narrowed his eyes and spoke to himself now.
“Do this. For Julian’s sake. You live for Julian. Now die for Julian if you have to.”
He looked at the wall now. Underneath the painting, just as he had expected, now open for the world to see was the small microphone connected straight to the wall. It was still there, and from the light on the side of the microphone, he knew it was still on and in operation.
“Sophia,” his voice quaked. “Can you hear me?”
The other end was static.
“I’m here,” she said. “What do you want?”
Her voice was cold. She didn’t trust him. Just like Marcus didn’t trust him. Of course. What should he expect. He pressed on.
“Marcus and Julian are here. I think it’s time. I want to be free. Can you help me?”
Vivek could imagine her, rolling her eyes deep in their wrinkled sockets.
“Only a miracle could rescue you, but I’m coming. Does Ariana know?”
Vivek glared at the mic.
“You fool! Of course, she doesn’t know,” he hissed. “Can you imagine what she’d do to me if she knew?”
“Good,” Sophia whispered. “I’ll be there soon. I think it’s the only way.” She paused, cleared her throat, and then spoke, more loudly now but somehow, also more gently. “I want you to know you’re not the only one who loves Julian. We’ve been praying for him.”
Vivek breathed slowly at those words. Marcus was praying for him? Really? And he loved him.
“Over and. . .” Sophie started to whisper, but she was cut off with a buzz.
A voice hissed from behind him.
“Oh no. Of course, she doesn’t know. Can you imagine what she’d do to me if she knew?”
The voice sent a chill through Vivek’s spine. He felt like vomiting. Slowly, he turned around.
Arianna was walking towards him, donned with a golden sleeveless dress and shiney silver slippers.
Vivek stood frozen.
Arianna smiled at him, and her finger smoothed his beard.
“Oh Vivek, what have we here?” She looked down at the painting and candle on the floor. “Has someone lost their marbles.”
Her face was inches from his own, and she kept brushing his chin with her smooth fingers. She looked about ready to bite him and near enough to do it too.
“Come with me, Viv. I have something to show you.”
She laughed and turned around, her golden hair falling over her shoulders as she rocked her head back with each eruption of laughter.
Vivek didn’t move.
She turned her head back to glare at Vivek and screamed.
“I said, ‘Come with me!’”
Should Vivek. . .
Follow Ariana to try to stop her? Run away? Or something else?
Comment below and join the adventure!