Ryan rode in Crystal’s nanoverse to go to his sister’s. He wanted Crystal to be able to find him, if she got done before Ryan, and he wanted to see what it was like. When they first stepped in, the universe above them looked same as Ryan remembered. He’d given Crystal an inquisitive look. She’d shrugged.
“Sorry, love. I didn’t like looking at it, and…well, I mean I was hiding it, yeah?”
“Makes sense. Can I see it?”
She walked over to the command console, then stopped, shaking her head as if remembering something. “Return to normal view.”
The illusion dropped, and Ryan gasped. The impossibly colored stars, with a few dark red ones mixed, really did look like a diseased mass. The stellar gas that stretched between stars – an unnatural construct in and of itself – was the color of pus and looked like ephemeral scar tissue. It made Ryan feel nauseous just looking at it, the same way…
…well, the same way he’d felt about Enki’s double nanoverse.
“Jesus, Crystal.” It wasn’t that he’d doubted her, but during the conversation he’d been focused on worrying about her – and focused on how they could help. Seeing it really brought home the enormity of what she had been dealing with.
“I never met the guy. Wasn’t in the area during that time period.” Crystal wasn’t looking up, instead focusing on her console, “Where’s your sister again, love?”
Ryan told her the address. “You can…you can change it back if you want.”
“Enable simulated view,” Crystal said, almost before he finished the sentence.
“You sure you don’t want me to come with you in there?” Ryan asked.
Crystal looked up from her console, her eyes narrowed. “Are you seriously offering, after seeing it?”
Ryan shrugged. “I mean…maybe you could use the help?” As soon as it was out of mouth, he realized how weak it sounded.
“You really don’t want to see your sister, do you?” Crystal tilted her head slightly.
Ryan sighed. “No, it’s not that I don’t want to see her – I’m just realizing how hard it’s going to be to explain why I haven’t talked to her this entire time.”
Crystal nodded sympathetically. “Ryan, love, I completely understand your desire to avoid facing the music there. I also don’t care.” She went back to working on her console.
“I had a family once.” Ryan shut his mouth as Crystal continued, “back in Lemuria.”
“That’s the thing, Ryan. It’s been a million years. I don’t know anymore. I don’t remember my brother’s name, my parents faces, my sister’s laugh…I don’t even remember if I had more than one of each.”
Ryan looked at her face, but couldn’t quite read what was going on behind her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said after a moment.
Crystal shrugged again. “I realized I couldn’t remember them around seven hundred BC. I tried for a while to recall anything, any detail…but after awhile, I realized I was mourning the idea of them. I’d mourned them hundreds of thousands of years before. But if I had a chance to go back and see them again, to remember them? I’d do anything for that.”
Ryan didn’t know what to say, but Crystal didn’t seem interested in his opinions. She kept talking. “So go see your sister, Ryan. Hold on to the memories, as long as they last. Because they don’t last forever, and neither will she.”
They sat in silence for a couple minutes, Ryan desperately trying to come up with something to say. Before he could figure it out, Crystal spoke again. “We’re here.”
Ryan stood up, glancing at her again. “Last chance for help.”
She gave him a smile and waved him towards the do. “Go, Ryan. I’ll come back after I’m done. And if I finish first, I’ll wait till you are.”
“Okay.” Ryan took a deep breath. “Take care, Crystal. And thanks.”
“You too,” The smile widened as she made her waves firmer. “Now go! I’ll see you afterwards.”
Ryan stepped onto the street.
Ryan hadn’t seen his sister’s apartment complex in over a year, but it wasn’t much to write home about. A generic twelve story building spotted with balconies, it was the kind of building that was all too common on the outer edges of urban America. Entrance was granted by hitting a buzzer. Ryan walked up to it and found “Isabel Smith” on there. He reached out to hit the button…but knowing his sister, if he hit the buzzer, she’d come down, and he didn’t want to have this discussion in the street.
Instead, he reached out and twisted a quick equation. The magnetic lock that held the door shut found its polarity reversed and flew open as two identical poles pushed against each other. He stepped in, setting the magnet right behind himself. He stepped into the elevator and headed up to the eleventh floor.
He took another deep breath before knocking on the door, bracing himself as best as possible before reaching out and rapping his knuckles on it.
For a moment, he didn’t hear anything, and he wondered if she was even home. It was a weekend, so she shouldn’t be at work, but maybe she had gone out with friends?
After a little bit, he reached out again, but then heard a voice coming from inside. “I swear to god, if it’s you government assholes again, I still don’t know where the hell-” The door opened. “-my good for nothing brother-” she saw his face, and blinked for a moment. The angry shouting turned into a questioning tone. “…Is? Ryan?”
“Heya Izzy.” He grinned at her. His sister was four years younger than him, and unlike her perpetually paranoid brother, had been one of the cool kids in high school. She’d dyed her hair, he noted, going from her natural blond to black with dark blue streaks.
She reached out, hesitantly, and touched his shoulder. It looked like she was testing him, making sure he was real.
Once she confirmed his reality, she balled up her hand and punched him in the chest as hard as she could. Whoever had coined the phrase “hit like a girl,” had never been punched by his sister. After gaining godhood and getting his ass beat by Enki, they didn’t hurt as much as it once had.
The fury in her eyes did plenty of that. “You asshole!” She hit him again. “No call, no text, nothing!” Again, and tears were starting to well in her eyes as she pulled back to hit him again. “The news is calling you the Antichrist! I have reporters and government goon breathing down my neck twenty four seven! I had to take a leave from work! And the whole time the only reason I know you’re alive is because I keep seeing you on the news! You. Prick!”
The punches were actually hurting now, but she was winding down. “So? Got anything to say for yourself?”
Ryan took a deep breath. “You’re right, there’s no excuse. Best I can say is I’m sorry, and I’m here to make up for it.”
She regarded him for a moment, and then jumped up, giving him a fierce hug. “Don’t think this means we’re okay, jerkwad. But I’m glad you’re alright.”
He hugged her back, and realized he owed Anansi a major thanks. He felt his own eyes begin to sting, and he hugged her tighter. “I know. I’m going to tell you everything. Can I come in?”
They broke the hug and she wiped her face, and he did the same. “Yeah, yeah. Come in.” She stood aside to let him do so.
He did, and she gave him another light punch. “Still?” he said, although he was grinning through his own damp eyes.
“I think I have rights to hit you whenever I want for the rest of our lives. So what the hell happened to you?”
“I became a god. With, like, actual powers and stuff,” he said, shrugging in embarrassment at how pretentious it sounded. It hadn’t before, but saying “I’m a god” to his sister felt…wrong.
She stared at him, her mouth hanging open. “You know, if it wasn’t for what I was seeing on the news, I’d think you’d finally lost your mind. I’m going to need a drink for this, aren’t I?”
Ryan nodded. “I’ll take one too.”
She motioned him into the kitchen. “You get water, jerkwad. I’ll decide if I’m going to share my booze with you. So. Where’d it start?”
He thought for a moment, and reminded himself that this was his sister, he could skip some steps. “So, remember that imaginary friend I had that never went away? Well, it turned out he was something called a Curator, and was named Nabu…”