Zero Excerpt

Things seemed normal for Julian considering the circumstance of being an orphan, until a bitter jealousy and the turbulence of teen love and heartbreak. Julian had always had a crush on a Golian refugee girl named Sirri. She was about five foot tall and her frame was petite though hour glass in shape, her hair was long and a dark shade of purple which went elegantly with her golden hued eyes. Her skin was a very soft light blue and she typically wore a dress that clung to her frame though appropriately covered. She was considered the most popular girl in the orphanage and Julian was considered the most awkward. Yet the two had been friends since she arrived at the orphanage two years later then Julian.
During her lunch break he thought bringing her a sketch he made of her would be a nice way to initiate the conversation he had wanted to ask since earlier in the semester. He was making his way through the halls to meet Sirri outside of her class, sketch in hand. His hands were getting clammy and his forehead began to form a shine from where the pores had been producing sweat. As he stood in wait his chest shot with different sensations. Sharp tiny stings jotting there imposing the frivolous nervous feeling that echoed in every shake of his hands that eventually made its way to his jaw causing it to convulse like he were standing in the brisk cold. He would space out looking to the clock as the final moments ticked away until the bell rung, rehearsing the lines he would say if words could formulate into coherent thought:

“Sirri…we’ve known eachother for a long time now I was wondering…..”
“No, not good enough…”
“Hey Sirri, how about you and I go do lunch sometime?”
“Is this a business venture…damn it Julian get it together!”
“Hey Sirri, I was wondering….”

Just then the bell rang and he was forced back to reality and out of his comfort zone, completely unprepared and vulnerable. He swallowed in air and expelled it in a heavy audible sigh, his grip on the sketch tightened as he watched the students filter out from the class. He could smell her perfume emitting from the classroom, filling the hall way and intoxicating his senses. It was within that moment Julian felt the most confident he had felt in his entire life not waiting for her to file out of the classroom and walking in to meet her.

“Hey Sirri…”

He was interrupted by the sound of lips clashing against one another. His eyes became affixed to the image of his would be beloved in the arms of a Targion boy. His eyes widened, his mouth dropped, as did the sketch from his hand landing abrupt against the ground. The vessels in his eyes began to swell as wave after wave of adrenaline pumped throughout his blood stream. His breathing deepened causing his chest to collapse and expand faster, fists clenched as anger filled his mind, blinding him to everything else around him except the image of his friend whom he had come to love in the arm of some unintelligible warrior reject.

Sirri turned to see Julian standing there, eyes widening breaking the kiss with a gasping sigh.

“Oh hey Julian…”

It was no use. Julian’s frustration grew even graver, his chest began to erupt like his heart had become a volcano pushing magma through his veins. His eyes locked onto the Targion boy, his veins in his wrist began to illuminate, resembling a tree’s branches. His eyes become full of blood and the iris itself lit up like the veins of his wrist. The skin around his arm and hands, as well as under the eyes began to burn, but his anger sent endorphins to block the pain, though he winced and screamed in agony. Though the agony came at the thought Sirri would do this too him. He wanted to kill, no, desired to kill the boy and her at that very instance. The boy looked in horror leaving his desk and cowering in a corner. Sirri began to cry from fear. She tried pleading with Julian.

“Julian, please…I’m sorry I didn’t know you liked me like that.”
“Julian…please, you’re scaring me!”
“Someone help us! What are you!”

His body couldn’t sustain the pain any longer or the expanding of this light source reaching the middle of his palms. His eyes began to blur in and out, his legs began to buckle, body began to sweat and swell from the blistering heat. He fell to a knee staring at Sirri and just before leaving consciousness he replied with such sadness carried in every letter spoken.

“I wish you the best, Sirri.”

His body went limp; the illuminated veins returned to normal, though the burns around them remained. His eyes slowly began to clear. In his mind he began to travel through distant lands. He found himself in the middle of Zero’s deserted streets, being greated to a man engulfed in black satin. He wasn’t much older than Julian, but he seemed to hold much wisdom of things and the ‘three brothers’. The man in black began to speak to him in earnest.

“You’re not yet ready to do what must be done.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not prepared to die.”

The world around him became encased in shadow. The stench of death permunated the air, he could feel the hands of those enslaved by umbra tug and pull at his legs, screaming for help. He turned to look at all of the lifeless faces begging for a hero, begging for salvation, with the hungriest desire and the most apathetic regret boiled across their darkened eyes. Julian outstretched his arms and looked to the boy who had become a demon made of the shadow he caused to erupt amongst the land. His skin began to crack and an eruption of life burst from his chest. That same moment Julian woke from unconsciousness. His arms bandaged and his eyes treated with an elixir meant to reduce swelling from burning. He recognized the room after his eyes refocused around the surroundings. He thought to himself

“Did Sirri bring me here, did she bring me home?”

Beside his bed, on top of his table there was a letter addressed to him with a doodle of a cloud containing a couple snuggled together and the Goddess in the background watching on. He reached gingerly to pick it up, each movement hurt, but he managed by reminding himself it ‘wasn’t real’. He opened the letter, his eyes scanning every word for a hope, a chance, that Sirri might have considered him in spite of all that transpired. His eyes soon sunk, his anticipating smile turned into a heart broken frown. The page was dry, cluttered with neatly written sentences, soon to be blemished from a tear that welled up in his eyes dropping like a single rain drop before the storm, splashing across the letter smearing a crossed ‘T’ in the aftermath. In all its contingencies the letter summed up to say one thing in consensus.:
“Julian, Stay away from me “

He contemplated what he should do. He was crossed with feelings of dread and a relief he at least knew before embarrassing himself in class in front of his peers. The thought of running away would haunt him day and night as his body continued to heal from the odd occurrence that left his arms and eyes burned and his life forever changed but he could never seem to muster up the strength to say goodbye to the orphanage he knew as a home. Even as other children were given a new home with new lives, he didn’t find jealousy that he was never chosen, instead he’d find a small glimpse of happiness at the fact there were decent people in the world, all Julian ever needed resided right there in the orphanage; however, he couldn’t help but wonder what was just over the walls and awaiting him. The combination of curiosity and the embarrassment of becoming a freak-show attraction riddled his sleep in night terrors of being hunted down and made to be a monster, something not of the mother goddesses’ creation.

Zero Excerpt

Ross Baraga

Mayfield Heights, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

This is an excerpt from a sci-fi story I’m writing called zero. In this chapter the protagonist is coming of age and trying to live a normal life; however, he soon discovers nothing about him is ‘normal’ and his happy life was about to become a hellish nightmare.

This part encounters his realization.

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