The Kidnapping of Delya Gayo

It’s come to the point that I don’t even want to wake up in the morning. Nothing seems to give me purpose. As far as I’m concerned, my heart might as well stop beating. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? As if being alive is always the better alternative. Part of me wishes it had killed me. I don’t feel any stronger. In fact, I feel weaker. Maybe I’m not in control anymore. Honestly, I don’t think any of this is helping.

I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not even sure if I can allow myself to think about it.

No, I don’t talk about my feeli-

I c a n n o t f a c e i t.

You don’t understand. Every time I close my eyes I see her face. The way she looked on that summer afternoon. The image haunts me. I think, maybe if I’d paid more attention… In hindsight, everything seems like a blaring warning sign but I didn’t see it. I should have. After all, she is my sister. Was. I mean. I don’t know.

When did it begin? There’s never a clear beginning to anything. Everything is cyclical.

Every day to Delya was a party. Even the day of the semblance ceremony. She didn’t come because she was still high from snorting Starzz. Not that I had expected her to come. Still, she had promised and I stood in the inner sanctum at the foot of the altar with my eyes focused on the door. But maybe she didn’t come because she didn’t want me to become a judge. She hated how I had to get my wings clipped. She said it was a sign of “bondage” that the Pela were a proud people. Not that anyone knows anything about our original culture. We are vagabonds and blend what little culture we do have with whatever culture surrounds us; in our case, the Rumidians, who have always been a medley of different species and cultures. I never used my wings; besides, Delya and I were the only Pelas in Deide city at the time. I’d always seen my wings as a curse, something to hide. Ironic isn’t it? The Pela are known as such a quiet, unassuming race, yet we have these big ass white feathery wings like we’ve just come out of some archaic mythology. Delya, however, loved to fly. She told me to try it. She told me a lot of things but I never listened and maybe if I did…maybe I’d be talking to her instead of you.

After the head judge clipped my wings during the semblance ceremony, the other inductees and I were split into groups of two lining either side of the nave standing shoulder to shoulder. We faced each other as the head judge pronounced over us in the sacred language of the Ancients. Then the head judge pulled out the hat of the first. (The first judge of Rumidia that is.) It has some serious historical value and great monetary value as well, the latter reason probably being why Delya tried to steal it. She isn’t exactly a history buff. So right in the middle of the announcement, it’s a part of the ceremony that’s rather lengthy and no one pays attention to, like the speech the dean of a college gives at commencement, I felt something brush against my legs under my long robes. They had us in ceremonial judges’ garments, which are long red robes with a stupid looking pointed hood that we wore up during the ceremony. The robes are held together with this ridiculously gaudy gold belt. Seriously retro like Rumidia’s fifth dynasty retro- I am a history buff.

I dared a glance downward. This was actually a risky move considering they are incredibly strict about the whole “standing in pious reverence” thing. “Don’t move a muscle, not even a twitch. Eyes facing front.” As the head judge had told us over and over again. Mostly, the head judge liked things to look good. So I look down, and there was Delya crawling on the ground behind us inductees, weaving in and out of our legs on all fours like some kind of an animal. She looked ridiculous with her wings tucked into her pants like that. Not to mention that must have hurt to contort them in that way. I had to stop her. Of course I did but how? If I got out of formation, I’d disrupt the ceremony but if I let Delya disrupt the ceremony, I’d be disrupting the ceremony by not stopping her. Besides the fact, as her brother, I feel responsible for her.

I did somehow stop her. I broke formation and grabbed her by the ankles pulling her behind one of the pillars. I put my hand over her mouth as she tried to let out a squeal in protest. No one noticed I had left, mostly because of our general rule of stoicism. I’m not a stoic. Delya always said she didn’t understand how I could stand hanging around the other aspiring judges, or “judgees” as they liked to call us. I quit after…well. I guess she always knew me better than I knew her. She tried to get away from me after that and the crown rolled out from her backpack. I didn’t even know how to react I just stared wide eyed at it as it rolled under Getlin’s robe. Of course it had to be Getlin. The guy who’s got a stick so far up his ass he probably has splitters stuck in his teeth. The guy who once tried to get me kicked out of the judge’s order because I sneeze too loudly. The guy who thinks his official mission in life is to ruin things for everyone. That guy.

“How did you-“ I asked in a furious whisper.

She only looked at me for a second and shoved me away. “Detlan, you’re such a loser.”

(She’s right. I was never very cool but for some reason when she said it that day it stung me. Maybe it was because I wanted her to be proud of me for doing something. I did it for her. I did it so we wouldn’t have to worry about eviction every day of our lives. And here she was trying to ruin everything I had worked so hard doing for her and she has the audacity to call me a loser? I had been so focused on me and how she hurt me that I didn’t even see. I didn’t see that look of terror in the back of her eyes. It had been there even then.)

We crawl raced each other to Getlin. Getlin stood in the front closest to the head judge, of course. He looked down at us quickly, giving us a look that might have been capable of petrifying. Delya grabbed the crown first then ducked behind the altar where we wrestled for it as discretely as possible. I had gotten so into the fight that I didn’t even notice that we were now half standing in front of a congregation of, thankfully, devout religious followers who had their eyes closed and heads bowed as was custom. Delya fumbled the crown and it flew through the air towards the head judge and I stumbled after it catching it right above the head judge. It was such a perfect catch that I was standing directly over him as if about to place the crown on his head. Getlin gave me that look again. As luck would have it, I saw the praetor approach the stage and realized it was the part of the ceremony where the praetor places the crown on the head judge’s head. So, I improvised and did it instead. The praetor stood behind me confused but smiled at me placidly when I looked at him. I shrugged. What else was I supposed to do?

I was the first to be inducted, I mean I was already there. Delya and Getlin scowled at me. She could have been Getlin’s twin instead of mine. After the ceremony, we walked out into the hall where I screamed at her, asking her to explain to me what she was trying to accomplish. She never said but it had to have been sabotage because it wouldn’t make sense to steal the crown in broad daylight during the ceremony where it’s disappearance would be noticed right away. After much discussion, I was able to clear the charges brought against Delya, which wasn’t an easy task. She kept insisting that she shouldn’t receive special treatment because she was a judge’s sister and that she should have to face a prison sentence just like anyone else.

Her eyes were full of fear when we were leaving the temple, the kind of fear you see in the eyes of prey in those nature documentaries and I turned to see a cyborg standing in the doorway looking at us but I turned to Delya then back at the doorway and the cyborg was gone. At the time, I didn’t think too much of it. Cyborgs are a common sight in Deide city. Most cyborgs take out work as bounty hunters and often came to the judge’s order in search of information. We judges know everyone in the city. It’s our point to know their business. On the way home, she didn’t say a word to me. I noticed she was wearing a long sleeve shirt. She never wore long sleeves. I noticed this but I didn’t ask her about it. Why would I? That sort of thing didn’t occur to me. Could have been a fashion statement but it’s so clear to me now.

Another time we’d been eating breakfast like any other day. (This could have been before or after the incident at the ceremony.) Delya told me that she had this party to go to later that night. Or she didn’t really tell me, she snapped at me when I asked if she was going to do her chores that night. Party, as if that meant she had work that was far too important to miss in order to do her share of the housework. (We had this system of alternating chores. Worked great when we first moved in and then it just became me. I did everything for her.) Being as self-important as I am, I went on to lecture her on her responsibilities and how I couldn’t be here to wipe her ass all the time. Of course she put her ear buds in and cranked up some Teldeyon jam music. (It’s that really distasteful kind that’s horribly racist against Selbians. Selbians are actually an intelligent race and should have the same rights as everyone else. I think the way the Telacian government treats them is just awful. Anyway…) At some point, I lost patience with her and grabbed her by the wrist, not hard but firm. A horrid ear shattering shriek came out of her. I relinquished my grip quickly but she played it off as if it had been a joke or something, her eyes focused just behind me. For a split second, I think I saw a bruise hidden beneath her sleeves. When I looked back at Delya, through the window behind her, I saw a shadow move past the house.

We had started to eat our breakfast when Bralex, our landlord, flings open our door. He had a frenzied look on his face. He is a native Rumidian. (That folklore about you Rumidians…about your “other worldly beauty”, is completely true because I don’t think any other culture in the universe would find your “beauty” anything but “other worldly”. We have a cousin who lives on Terra Minor and there’s this folklore about this handsome prince who was so arrogant about his looks that this magic witch woman turned him into a frog. That’s because frogs are considered hideous in terran cultures but I guess to you guys the more froggy the look the better. Have you ever seen a terran frog? They are exactly like you guys except much smaller and they don’t stand on two legs. I’m sorry that was probably offensive.) But this guy, Bralex, our landlord, was ugly, even by Rumidian standards. His slimy green skin was the shade of vomit and he had more warts than the average Rumidian. I actually thought he might have some sort of condition. Maybe his ancestors descended from toads instead of frogs. What? You are descended from toads? My apologies.

Bralex came in shouting about how we were late with our rent again. (Not like that came as a big shock to any of us. This was something we went through every lunar month. But we always got him his rent.) He must have been especially angry because he came in and wacked everything off our kitchen table. Then he went at Delya. He threw her up against the counter and grabbed her by the neck. As you can imagine, I flipped shit and beat in his ugly little face. (His face really was little. Like his head was huge but his face was ridiculously tiny for the size of his head.) Sometimes, I let my temper get the best of me. I knocked him out cold, for a second I worried he might actually be dead. Delya became hysterical, which was uncharacteristic of her.

“What is wrong with you? You didn’t have to hit him! Why did you have to hit him? What is-” she started breathing really hard. I thought she might pass out.

“Delya, you need to calm down.”

“No, I can’t. Don’t you understand?”

She was out the door before I could say anything else. I never knew where she went during the day but unlike her I had to work. Someone had to pay Bralex his rent, even if he was a prick. I remember one day at work seeing Delya talking to Getlin, which enraged me but I never said anything about it. I knew that Getlin was probably hounding her for dealing Starzz. She’d been busted once or twice. Another reason Getlin had named to get me out of the judge’s order.

What happened next? I don’t think I’m capable of telling it. The party must have been the downhill spiral and the night after… That was the day. The last time I ever saw her. I keep thinking if I’d only done this or if I only did that maybe she’d still be here. I mean, it’s not like she’s dead, at least as far as we’re aware. I bet you’re wondering why I’m not out there hunting down her kidnappers. It’s not like I didn’t try. I’m just a person. Yeah, sure she’s my sister but this isn’t like some great epic and I’m not a hero. I don’t think I’ll ever see her again. I think she’s dead or at least she wishes she was. Thanks, I really needed some water. Oh, um those pills aren’t really helping, I don’t think I want to take another.

I got home late that night, the night of the party that is. Getlin made us all stay late for a trial because he wanted to make sure that he got every aspect of the story straight and it was a dispute between a Rumidian citizen and a foreign businessman, a Ginklian, about some business deal. Of course, Ginklian economics are the most complicated in the entire Omega Cluster and it took us the better half of a week trying to understand the basics of it in order to hear the case. Still, despite our limited knowledge of Ginklian economics, I still think we had enough information to make a ruling but not Getlin. No, of course he had to know every last law that even so much as hinted at being somewhat loosely connected to this case. Even after all that, we had to postpone our final judgment because self-important Getlin had a private meeting. Asshole. Sorry, I’m getting off topic. The point of the matter is, I was late coming home. Super late. When I came home, there were people in my house of at least a dozen different species. It smelled of vomit and sweat. The most nauseating thing though was that Teldeyon jam music, playing so loud that it shook the house. I weaseled my way through the throngs of drunk or stoned party goers as one after another tried to cop a feel. One woman stopped and threw up right in front of me. Her glittery puke nearly missing my shoes. Some guy I recognized from a previous party sitting in the back of my house nodded at me so I made my way over to him. I asked if he knew where my sister was, screaming over the music. He nodded his head in the direction of my bathroom. As I neared the bathroom, I heard a faint squeaking noise coming from behind the door, rhythmic. You understand what I’m getting at? Because I didn’t. Walked right in on Bralex and my sister. No one wants to see their sister like that, especially with someone as ugly as Bralex who was probably old enough to be our father. Well, Delya shrieked and Bralex pulled out, all red faced and fled. Delya was crying. I asked her why she let him do that to her.

“The money. I had to. I had to. I had no choice.” She choked out between tears.

I told her that she didn’t have to worry about anything that I would take care of our rent. She turned on me so fast, yelling at me about how I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I noticed she was trembling, shaking uncontrollably. I reached out for her but she recoiled then started to hit me, her wings flapping, creating a wind that knocked things off the shelf.

“Don’t touch me. Don’t you ever touch me. This is your fault. All your fault. Why can’t you understand?”

She ran out the door and I followed her into the woods. We kept running and I was screaming her name but she kept going. I had the strangest sensation that we were being watched. I blacked out just as I heard Delya scream. When I came to, we were back in my bedroom and Delya was lying in her bed in the other room, shaking. I turned quickly to see someone from the window walk past our house, a cyborg. I knew then that was the same man who had been in the church during the semblance ceremony too. He was following Delya. Getlin was there too, holding a wet washcloth over Delya’s face. It was then that I could see that she was crying. Ordinarily, I would have thrown him out of the house but I didn’t have the energy to do so and besides someone needed to look after us. If Getlin was willing to do the job, hey, who was I to stop him? When Getlin noticed I was awake, he offered me some water. It had a strange bitter taste, with a weird chalky residue. He said it would help with the headache.

“Thanks, Getlin. What happened out there?”

Getlin gave me a strange look. “It’s all over now. That’s all that matters.”

Something about the way he said that, sent shivers down my spine. I turned to leave the house, I had some words I needed to say to Bralex.

Getlin grabbed my shoulder as I tried to leave. “It’s best if you just lie down. I’ve already talked to your landlord and taken care of his fees.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “That’s uncharacteristically kind of you.”

“I make it my business to help those who are in trouble.”

Unsatisfied with the conversation but exhausted, I went back to my room and was out the second my head hit the pillow. I woke up at some point in the middle of the night. Heard Delya arguing with someone. Bralex, maybe? I guess I fell back asleep because the next moment I heard the front door close and there was sun coming through the window. I willed myself to get up but my body would not move. With every ounce of strength, I fought the sleep that threatened to pull me back in but despite my efforts, I fell back asleep. Fading in and out of sleep as voices came from the living room. Three voices: Delya. One other I recognized…I can’t- The other, one I’d never heard before.

When I awoke, Delya was gone. I threw on some pants that were on the floor and bolted out the door after her. I stood there in my bare feet, the leaves crunched beneath me. There was a ribbon on the ground, one that Delya often wore. I ran into the woods until I caught up with her and I tailed them as closely as I could without being spotted. Delya’s eyes, darting all around, stopping every once in a while, as Bralex grabbed her arm aggressively. He pulled her along for a while until we reached a clearing where a giant portal appeared. It swirled with purple and blue, mesmerizing. Hung between two trees like a spider web. In the distance the twin Deide Mountains. Delya’s face turned in my direction, her auburn hair flowing in the breeze and her face contorted in fear. That’s the image of her I always see when I close my eyes. Bralex gave her a shove toward the portal and that’s when I jumped out of hiding, shouting at him to stop. Bralex and Delya looked at me, with eyes wide as fear, her face pale. I turned around to see the cyborg behind me. He knocked me over onto the ground and I watched helplessly as he went towards Delya. She screamed, man could that girl scream as the cyborg took her by the arms and pulled her into the portal, I stared helplessly as I watched Delya disappear through the portal in swirls of red, her eyes filled with fear as she screamed:

“Detlan no, Please! Detlan! DETLAN! STOP STOP! Oh god, please.”

Her face contorted, her eyes dead as they disappeared into a swirling portal of crimson. I looked to Bralex sitting on the ground. He just sat there and watched as I walked towards him, his eyes wide with terror, shaking his head as he said, “no, Detlan. Please.”

That’s all I remember. Soon Getlin and the cops arrived and… God, I don’t even remember how I got here to be honest. I’d like to talk to Bralex, maybe he knew who that cyborg was. Maybe he knew where he took Delya. Bralex is dead? Shit…