The room was pitch-black when Cat awoke, and it took a minute for her to remember what had happened. Bolting upright, she searched the area around her for something to use as a weapon. The sofa was scratchy and firm, and there didn’t seem to be anything on it but an old blanket. Cat’s head throbbed as she gently stood up, noting the concrete floor, and began walking straight ahead. It took her seven steps to reach the wall, and she followed it around the room in search of a light switch or door. Finding nothing but smooth, concrete walls, she returned to the sofa and began weighing her options.
The symbols that Kane left in his room must have meant something, and Cat wondered if whoever had kidnapped her was responsible for Kane’s disappearance as well. If that were true, how would she escape? Would Sheryl know to look for her if she didn’t return?
Cat laughed in the darkness. There was no one to miss her if she vanished, and Cat almost enjoyed the idea of dying on the job like this. She could then stop messing up the lives of everyone around her.
As she thought this, a small beam of light shone down upon her and lit up the small, barren room. It was coming from a trap door in the ceiling some ten feet above her, and Cat squinted at the brightness of it. A male voice cut through the silence.
“Are you awake?”
Cat saw his head silhouetted against the light, but she couldn’t make out his features. She shrugged. “Depends. Are you God?”
The man sighed. “No, Catori. I’m not God, and I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.”
“Wait, how do you know my name? Who are you?”
She was beginning to panic now. Here she was, trapped in what must be a basement, with a stranger who knows her most intimate secret.
Things were getting weird.
“I’ve always known your name, Catori, and I’m sorry that I’ve had to resort to this, but time is of the essence. Mother has returned, and I need you to wake up.”
It was the mention of “Mother” that caught Cat’s attention, and she finally realized who her captor was. The rest of it, however, was still a mystery that Cat was determined to solve.
“Look, I don’t know what you want from me, Mr. Walker, but I would appreciate it if you’d let me out of this hole and discuss it with me on equal grounds.”
“You remembered my name? Good. What else have you remembered?”
Cat went quiet for a moment as a particularly strange nightmare came flooding back to her, but she pushed it down as she replied.
“I haven’t remembered anything. Now, can you let me up? I need to pee.”
Kane sighed and lowered a metal ladder through the hatch. Cat slowly climbed into the light and found herself in a small sitting area behind the hotel lobby. There was one exit, through which she could see Jeremy stealing glances at them from his post, but the thing that interested her the most was Kane Walker.
He was a large man in his thirties, with a scowl that could scare the toughest of men into submission. But his mahogany eyes were kind, and Cat felt a strange sense of familiarity about him.
“Do…Do I know you?”
Kane smiled at her. “Better than I know myself, and I hate to awaken you like this, but when we failed to defeat Mother in our last battle, it set certain things into motion that need to be fixed before we confront Mother again. That’s why I need you.”
Cat sat in the sofa across from him as her head reeled. “I have no idea what any of this means, but I feel like I’ve been in this situation before.”
Kane nodded. “That’s because you have. You’ve been in this same situation more times than I can count, but it’s never exactly alike. Mother changes things to suit her mood,” he pointed to the mug between them. “If you drink this tea, it will help you remember. I need you to remember, Catori. I can’t fight her on my own.”
Cat looked at the mug for a solid minute before turning back to her host.
“Why should I believe any of this? You’ve kidnapped me in the middle of my investigation, held me in the basement of a shabby hotel, and now you’re telling me that we’re practically family?” Cat crossed her arms. “No. I’m not drinking any magical memory tea until you explain what’s going on.”
Kane sighed. “It’s not that simple, Catori. My explanations are a pale comparison to your memories and would take up valuable time. Please, drink the tea.”
“You’re not helping your case, Kane. If you need a narrower topic, tell me what you know about Charlie Berkley.”
“Fine. Charley Berkley was an accident. Mother had planted the evidence against him and many others, as you’ve seen from the clippings I’ve gathered. That’s how she works. She takes the desires of men and twists them into something unrecognizable.”
Kane leaned towards her. “Have you ever wondered why the world seems to be growing more and more unstable? Or why the corrupt flourish while the pure live in poverty? That’s Mother. She’s shifting the balance, and I need you to help me stop it.”
As he spoke, Cat flashed back to her latest nightmare. She was standing on the top of a skyscraper as the world burned below her, and it prickled at the back of Cat’s mind like a far-off memory. Maybe, Kane had the answer.
“If I drink this tea, what guarantee do I have that it’s not drugged or poisoned?”
Kane laughed. “Like I could poison you. You are pretty resistant to human ailments, or hadn’t you noticed?”
It’s true that Cat hadn’t been to the doctor in ages, and her hangover the other morning was the result of six full bottles of tequila, so maybe she was something special?
There was one way to find out.
Cat sighed as she took the mug in her hands. “It’s not like I have anything to lose. Fuck it. Cheers.”
She drank the warm liquid, noting the combined flavors of rosemary and turmeric, and set the empty mug back on the table.
Kane leaned back against the sofa. “Now, we wait.”
Within minutes, Cat’s eyes began to glaze over as memory after memory invaded her mind. She remembered how she and Kane were created to keep Mother in check, and how they fought for generations to keep humanity safe from her control.
Cat also remembered who Mother was. Mother represented order within disorder and life within darkness. The Earth was her child, and humanity was a plague upon it. However, the Others protected the idea of humanity, so Kane and Cat were born to fight and die in an endless cycle of futility. Cat couldn’t count the number of lifetimes she and Kane had experienced, and it was becoming intolerable.
When the memories began to slow as they approached Cat’s current reality, something felt different. Usually, she’d feel a great sense of relief when she regained her memories, but now, all she felt was exhaustion. However, she hid this fact from Kane as she blinked her eyes and looked at him for the first time. He was smiling.
“Welcome back, Catori.”
“Hello, Kane. What do we know about Mother’s current whereabouts?”
“Not much, I’m afraid, but I’m getting close.” He stood and offered her a hand. “Let me show you what I’ve gathered thus far.”
They went back to his room and began going through the evidence. With each new article, Catori’s exhaustion grew into depression, and a plan formed in her heart.
“If my calculations are correct, Mother should be in the Midwest by November,” Kane continued, seemingly unaware of Catori’s inattention. “Now, I know of an old training facility in the area that’s well hidden from the public eye. If you can fortify it, we can lure Mother there and use it to push her back. What do you think?”
“Hmm?” Catori brought her thoughts back to the present, “Sounds like a good plan, and it’ll give me plenty of time to prepare.”
“Good. Now, you need to rest and get acclimated to your memories. I’ll have Jeremy send up some food, and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Catori thanked him as she returned to her room. Once Jeremy had made his delivery, Catori bolted the door and reveled in the privacy. She stripped off her clothes and sat on a towel that was on the floor by the closed window. Taking a deep breath, Catori began a deep meditation routine that always replenished her energy. Her spirit left the physical realm as she connected with the universe, and she was soon soaring through her many lifetimes as she tried to find the cause of her negativity.
As she approached the memories of their last battle with Mother, Catori felt a dark stain upon her soul. She approached it cautiously, shivering with fear as a deep female voice entered her mind.
Catori, my child. I’m glad to see you are awake.
Hello, Mother, Cat replied softly, I should have known that you were behind this.
Of course, I am, child. I needed to talk to you.
A vision of an older woman appeared from the darkness and floated before Catori. She had long, jet-black hair, violet eyes, and wore shadows around her thin body. She smiled at Catori.
Our last encounter was…complicated. I could feel your exhaustion, so I attached myself to your dying soul and waited for this opportunity. You and Kane have always been protectors of humanity, but times have changed, and I’m working towards a larger goal. Surely you can see that now.
Catori was silent. Her feelings were a jumbled mess, and talking with Mother only confirmed what she suspected.
Catori was tired of fighting.
What do I do?
It was the cry of a lonely child, and Mother’s image smiled as she raised a hand to Catori’s cheek.
You know what to do, child. Listen to your spirit. It will guide you.
Catori closed her eyes and floated back to her own body, which shivered in the coolness of the room. Emotions tumbled from her eyes as she realized that times had changed. The humanity that she and Kane fought for was gone, replaced by something ugly and destructive. They needed Mother’s chaos to reset humanity.
Catori then thought about Kane. How would he react? Would she be able to convince him? Or would he be her enemy?
Catori dressed for bed as she weighed her options. She knew that Kane’s straightforward nature would make him resist, so she had to be subtle about it. Somehow, Catori would make him believe.
Part 3 will be posted soon!