1. Biding time
ATHENA wasn’t lying. They were found, caught and issued to separate cells.
The last Tara ever saw of her sibling was a storm of rage and regret clouding Terrence’s eyes as he struggled against the guards.
“TARA, I’m sorry... I’LL get you OUT. I swear.” His strained voice echo down the hallway as they took him away.
I’m sorry too, Terry. She thought as the guards forced her in the opposite direction.
They nudged her all the way to a lonely basement, lined with huge glass tanks, each peppered with tiny holes. The only source of light came through a window in the corner, washing the glass panels in a frosty hue. Everything else was drowned in black.
One of her escorters reached for the nearest glass cell. Luminous, aquamarine keypads drifted into view and the guard typed a long string of characters. A tiny hiss escaped and one side of the box swung open.
It couldn’t be an eerier place to spend the night. Tara would’ve kicked and screamed if ATHENA hadn’t warned her.
You’re exactly where you must be. The girl recalled her words.
It was her last lifeline. Everything was staked on those simple words. It was what stopped Tara from fidgeting they set her in the box and sealed her away. She only stared at the guards sauntering off, muttering of “juvenile delinquents” under their breaths.
Tara was intruding the inhabitanting silence. But she didn’t like the way it rested in the room like an tyrant.
She whispered ATHENA’s words to evict the ghostly quietness.
“You’re exactly where you must be.”
Was she though?
It was too late to do anything anyway.
She pulled her green cotton jacket closer to guard her from the icy walls of her jail. When that didn’t work, the jacket became a blanket. Her choice of entertainment alternated between singing 2010s hits and poking her fingers through the huge pores in the glass.
Tara didn’t care if anyone wandered in to see her singing ‘Real Friends’ by Camila Cabello.
Or, her slipping two fingers out of the box, idly trying to make their tips touch.
Really, the girl cared for anything but sleep.
But she knew she was tired.
Her eyes were closing.
The blue window morphed into Carlton’s cobalt blue eyes. A foreign quality of frigidity lingered in them.
“Rough day, huh.” Dream Carlton smirked. He scooted over to huddle next to her, outside the tank.
“Go away. You’re not real.” Tara muttered dismissively.
“But don’t you like me better?” He paused for her to consider.
“A hikikomori-free friend? The old me?”
Tara avoided the question. She missed Old Carlton. The one that pulled pranks, sassed and cheered people up with timely, idiotic jokes.
“Times changed, Carl. But not even Terrence has moved on. How could you?”
Dream Carlton’s smile sank into a tiny pout.
“Okay, I’ll go.” He sulked.
When this wasn’t met with any pity, Carlton whirled to look at Tara.
“Any last words?” He searched for some reason to stay.
She ignored him.
The boy faded out.
Tara opened her eyes feeling rotten. She reached for Terrence to hold his hand and squeeze it till the feeling subsided.
Then, she remembered.
They were separated...
The captive cleared her head of any illusions and returned to her singing and poking, awaiting Carlton’s return.
″I’m just looking for some real friends...All they ever do is let me down...”
It’s melancholy echoed the space.