Backlight chapter 8

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Chapter 8: Everything changes

After the android, another week passes before Nigel contacts me again.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: I have a huge thing today. You up for it?

LightEnvelopingDark: You know I am! What is it?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: I need to pick up something that a friend made for me from the university.

LightEnvelopingDark: Isn’t the uni closed for the summer?

xxEndOfAnEraxx: There’s no lectures, but the doors are open for summer courses and shit.

LightEnvelopingDark: Oh.

xxEndOfAnEraxx: Yeah. Meet me at entrance X3

LightEvelopingDark: Where’s that?

Nigel sends me a screenshot of google maps in response.

LightEnvelopingDark: Alright. I’ll be there in 30.

I get out of my flat and head out to the university. I’ve been here like maybe once before. I had a vague idea of how big the building is, but I wasn’t prepared.

I arrive at the university, but the entrance in front of me isn’t the one Nigel told me to meet him at. Should I go in from this entrance and find Nigel or try to find the right entrance?

> Go in here > Look for the right entrance
It’s slightly cooler inside. I start walking and it takes me about 45 minutes to find the entrance Nigel was waiting at. It takes me 15 minutes to find the entrance Nigel told me to come to. The android is with him.

Nigel: Was about fucking time you got here.

Valo: Sorry. Got lost.

Nigel: I sent you a screenshot of google maps! How did you g- nevermind.

He sighs, shrugs and smiles.

Nigel: Nevermind. The most important thing is that you’re here now.

Nigel: You are vital for this mission.

My heart skips a beat. Vital?

Valo: Oh? What am I doing, then?

Nigel: You’ll know when the time comes.

Wow, he trusts me that much. I can’t let him down.

Nigel: Let’s go.

He leads me and the android inside the building, which is slightly cooler than the outside. There is absolutely nobody here.

Nigel: Now, I’m not exactly sure where the places are here, so we might have to walk around a bit.

Valo: Which lecture hall are we looking for?

Nigel: Not a lecture hall, it’s more of a laboratory.

I nod. I wish I could help, but I’ve never been in this part of the campus.

Nigel: But the lab we’re looking for is near a lecture hall.

Valo: Which one?

Nigel: There it is. The lecture hall.

Oh. That was easy.

Nigel: So the lab should be here nearby…

We look around, and Nigel eventually finds the lab and strides in.

Nigel: Alright. Now, where is the bottle…

Nigel rummages around the cupboards and drawers. He pulls out quite a few bottles before he finds the right one with a soft “aha!”.

Nigel: Found it. Let’s go.

Oh shit. That was fast. Nigel starts marching out and I follow him. It seems that he had everything under control all along. Why did he need me here?

>Ask him > Don’t ask him.
Valo: It seems that everything is going according to the plan. He did say I would know what to do when the time comes. I can trust him.
Nigel: Sure are.
Valo: Yeah, it’s like you didn’t even need me.
Nigel’s stride slows down slightly. He grins at me.
Nigel: Your part hasn’t come up yet.
Oh. Alright. I nod.

We make it back outside and the hot air hits us in the face like jello. Even if it’s early evening, the sun is nowhere near setting.

Nigel chuckles, a deep, rolling sound deep from his chest.

Nigel: Do you want to know what’s in the bottle?

Valo: Yeah.

Nigel grins at me like he always does, all teeth and gleaming eyes. He’s very excited about this, I can tell.

Nigel: It’s something I asked a friend to cook up. It’s going to be something huge. Something phenomenal. It’s going to bring humanity to a new age.

Valo: But what is it?

Nigel: It’s a virus.

I stare at him.

Nigel: Now, what it does? It will bring humanity back to simpler, more pure mindset. These days, we’re too… restrained. I want to remove those inhibitions from people and usher us to a new age.

Valo: …How, exactly?

Nigel: I'm glad you asked! This beauty here spreads through previously unseen means. It infects the brain and makes the host more aggressive and eager to violence. The way it spreads is when a host brutalizes a non host in a way that doesn’t kill the non host.

I stared at him, confused. I’m not an expert, but I’m sure that’s not how viruses work.

Nigel: Now I know what you’re thinking. That’s not how viruses work! That’s impossible! But what if I told you that this here…

He brandishes the tiny bottle that we had gotten earlier.

Nigel: Is something anomalous, something supernatural, something… magical.

His grin widens at my dumbfounded expression.

Nigel: You must’ve felt it in the air, right? Like something’s changing in the world.

The jelly-air. Yeah, I’ve felt it. I nod.

Nigel spreads his arms and twirls around, his coat flaring around him.

Nigel: Right?! Do you know what that is?

I shake my head.

Nigel: Time moves in cycles. Have you noticed that? After summer, it’s autumn, after that, winter, then spring. Then summer again. History repeats itself. Old fashions come back every so often. Have you noticed?

That’s the way it goes, yes. I nod.

Nigel: You know, thousands of years ago, the age of myths and shit. We think that people back then justified everything they didn’t understand with magic. Still with me?

I nod. That’s how it goes, yes.

Nigel: Okay. Consider this. What if magic did really exist, back then? But as humanity got more savvy with technology, it slowly disappeared.

I frown a little. Sounds a little fantastical, but I’ll roll with it. Nigel knows what he’s talking about most of the time.

Nigel: Now back to the cyclical nature of time.

He pauses and huffs a laugh, lifting his palms up.

Nigel: Okay I know this might sound a little insane, but stay with me. The change in the air we’ve been feeling? It’s magic coming back.

I nod slowly, skeptical.

Nigel: Now, okay, you don’t believe me. I get that. But you haven’t seen the proof I have.

He shakes the bottle.

Nigel: It’s right here. I have this friend who’s into this kind of shit. Like, witchcraft and shit. When I asked her, she confirmed what I was thinking. She told me that spells are easier to do these days and when I asked her to make this for me.

Nigel’s shoulders shudder with chuckles.

Nigel: And she did! I can’t wait to test it!

His voice quiets down to a soft whisper.

Nigel: All we need is a patient zero.

I suppress a shiver. Something about the way he said that made my blood shudder.

Nigel stares at me, eyes wide and wild.

I step back and Nigel’s smile widens.

Nigel: And I thought that there’s only one person I trust enough to bestow the honour upon.

He steps towards me and I step back.

Nigel: You.

I step back and my back hits something solid. Nigel’s android firmly grips my arms.

Nigel: Nice one, bot. Now, be a dear and rough them up for me.

Android: Understood.

Android: I’m sorry, Valo.

Before I have time to register the words, a metal fist makes impact with my stomach. It knocks the wind out of me immediately. I bend over. Trying to gasp for breath. Before I have the time to recover, the android’s knee rams into my chest.

I groan and fall to the ground. My phone slips from my hands.

Nigel: No, it’s gotta be more than that.

The android steadies its feet and kicks me in the stomach. Another groan escapes me. I curl into a ball. Another kick hits me in the arm, sending a sharp pain through the bone. I hear a scream and realize it’s me.

Nigel: Alright, I think that’s enough. Open their mouth.

The android yanks me to a somewhat sitting position. I try to struggle. Pain in my arm makes me weak. The android wrenches my mouth open. Nigel unscrews the lid of the tiny bottle, flicks it off. The lid sails through the air.

The bottle approaches my face like in slow-motion. I try to move away, but the android’s grip is too strong.

The air is thick.

Nigel: Stay still, I don’t want to spill this.

> If “Go in here” > If “Look for the right entrance”
Don’t do this, Nigel.
I silently beg Nigel to stop.
But to no avail. Nigel pours the contents of the bottle into my mouth. I try to spit it out. Nigel and the android force my mouth shut.
Nigel, please…
The liquid doesn’t taste like anything. It quickly mixes with my saliva.

BWEEO! BWEEO!

Nigel: Shit.

Cop: Alright, put your hands in the air and kneel down slowly.

The android lets go of me. I flop on the ground. The movement jostles my arm. I whimper.

Nigel: Shit!

There is two sets of footsteps. A jingle of a chain.

Nigel runs off. One of the cops runs after him. The other speaks to his walkie-talkie.

Cop: Send an ambulance here. We have an assault.

The cop walks to the android, draws out a pair of handcuffs.

Cop: What the fu… is this a costume?

The android doesn’t answer. The cop locks the handcuffs. Then he kneels in front of me.

Cop: Hey, you okay?

I shake my head. I can’t talk.

Cop: It’s going to be fine. The ambulance will be here soon.

Where’s my phone?

My vision is fading out. I feel tears on my cheeks.

Cop: Hey, stay with me, kid!

I hear ambulance sirens before I pass out.

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