Twinfinity: The Arena (3-4)
Whitney and Tommy continue to battle in The Arena
A Noticeable Difference
“What were you two doing earlier?” Carol Anne asked as they all sat down for lunch. Carol had made potato soup and Whitney was shoveling it in as if it were her last meal. Her silver eyes stared at nothing as her spoon made repetitive round trips from the bowl to her mouth.
“Just messing around,” Tommy said.
“Messing around how?” Carol Anne inquired. “For a while there I thought Whitney was going to have a heat stroke! She was laying out there sweating and panting like she was running a marathon!”
“Well,” Tommy said trying to think of an excuse. He knew that he couldn’t be honest with her because she was very protective and would freak out over the truth. “In a way she was. Whitney’s out of shape mom and we were jogging together. She needs more exercise.”
“You mean you were jogging in your head then? I hardly think that’s any way to get her in shape Tommy! If she wants to exercise then I’ll talk to Blake when he gets home and we’ll get her a treadmill so she can work out for real.”
“This is better. Trust me. Look at the way she’s eating,” Tommy said pointing at Whitney. “She’s not going to want a treadmill and working out ‘in my head’ is just as effective as doing it for real.”
Whitney slid her bowl forward. “More please,” she said. “Bread and butter too!” she added with a smile. “It’s really good, Aunt Carol.”
Carol Anne got up from the table with a smile on her face. She grabbed Whitney’s bowl, refilled it and brought it back to Whitney. Then she buttered a slice of bread and brought that to her. “Well this is different,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard her compliment my cooking. How come she’s not with you right now, Tommy?” she asked.
Carol Anne was referring to the fact that Whitney wasn’t currently piggybacking with Tommy. Whitney almost always ‘rode along’ with Tommy when he was around. She didn’t need to in order to eat, or move around the house, because she didn’t have to. She knew the layout of the house so well that she could navigate it without much effort, and using a spoon in order to eat was no big deal. The reason she wasn’t piggybacking at that point was because Whitney was reveling in her victory over Tommy and she wanted to do it without rubbing it in Tommy’s nose. Tommy knew this even though Whitney didn’t say before she withdrew from him. She didn’t have to, however, because Tommy was reveling in her victory too. He was proud of her.
He couldn’t tell his aunt any of that, however, so he just shrugged. “I think she’s happy, mom. I think she liked working out.”
Whitney continued to slaughter her meal as intensely as a dog goes after her owner’s shoe when the owner isn’t looking. She dunked her buttered bread into her soup and tore into it, and it was almost as if Whitney was privy to the conversation, because she did it with a smile on her face. It was a rare sight lately and Carol Anne definitely noticed. So did Tommy.
“Well just be careful, Tommy. You know how delicate she is,” Carol Anne said.
We are being careful mom, Tommy thought to himself as he scooped his own bite. We’re using fake swords and everything!
Whitney finished her second bowl and got up from the table. She walked over to the sink, turned on the cold water, and began splashing her face. Carol Anne got back up, grabbed Whitney’s bowl and spoon, and waited for Whitney to finish so she could rinse them.
Whitney rejoined with Tommy as soon as she cooled off in the sink. We gonna finish our battle, Tommy? She asked him. We still didn’t do your round yet. I got up to twenty three, but I’m curious to see how far you can get.
Well actually, sis, your score was a lot higher than that, he thought back to her. If you want to figure your actual score then you count every block you made until I scored my point.
So seventy-three then! she announced proudly. I already recounted them in my head and I blocked you seventy-three times!
That sounds about right, Tommy thought to her with a laugh. But we do have to be careful. Mom got a little worried about you. I guess you were breathing pretty heavy on the lawn chair.
Careful! She responded. There’s no careful in sword fighting!
Tommy scooped the last of his soup and stood up from the table. Whitney was eager to continue their experiment, but she wasn’t the only one. He was too. “We’re going back out,” Tommy announced.
“Not before you rinse your bowl you’re not,” Carol Anne said.
Tommy grabbed his bowl and rinsed it. Whitney went to Carol Anne and gave her a hug. “Thanks for letting us have some fun Aunt Carol,” Whitney said as she wrapped her arms around her aunt.
Carol Anne hugged her back, but she didn’t take her eyes off of Tommy. “It’s no problem Whitney. I think it’s a good idea for you to get some exercise even if it is just jogging in your brother’s head.”
Whitney turned her head toward Tommy and smiled which was a pretty rare sight. Whitney almost never liked looking at herself through his eyes and, for the past couple of years, almost never smiled. The family was trying so hard to keep the talents of the twins a secret that Whitney was virtually never allowed to go anywhere. She had been fighting the caged rat feeling for so long that she was beginning to give up on the idea of having any kind of freedom. It was taking a toll on her and everyone in the family was starting to worry about her depressed state of mind.
“Yeah,” Whitney said giving Tommy a mental wink as she said it. “I think I like jogging. I even beat Tommy in a race,” she added as she pulled away from Carol Anne who seemed reluctant to let her niece go.
“Be prepared to suffer my wrath,” Whitney said to Tommy when they were back in the arena. The crowd jumped to their feet and roared their approval at her comment. Whitney drew both of her swords and planted her feet firmly in front of Tommy who drew his two swords.
“Now who’s the dork?” he asked her.
Whitney smiled at him eagerly, lowered her brow and said, “I’m only a dork if you beat me, so give it your best shot.”
This was a different version of Whitney than he was used to, but a part of him liked it. His dreams were horrifying, but his dreams were trying to tell him something that he thought was important. They weren’t just telling him that there was danger lying in wait for their future. That message was there in a very obvious way, but there was more to it than that. His dreams were also telling him that Whitney wasn’t who she was supposed to be. Whitney wasn’t supposed to be a naïve young girl who was coddled and protected. She wasn’t supposed to be simple, and she wasn’t supposed to be afraid. She was supposed to be fierce, and the one that struck fear, instead of the one who experienced it.
Whitney’s feline way of toying with him seemed to be over. She struck out without warning swinging both of her swords simultaneously, and then spinning backwards to deliver an elbow. Tommy reacted quickly enough to deflect both sword strikes, but he didn’t see the elbow coming.
“Uggh,” he called out as he was knocked backward. The crowd roared and stomped their feet in approval.
“Does that count?” Whitney asked. “Or is it just when I get you with my swords.”
“Just the swords,” he said through gritted teeth, “but that was pretty effective. I didn’t see it coming.”
“You liked that eh?” she asked as she went back to pacing in front of him. Tommy kept his peripheral vision on her feet. He knew that her strike would begin there. “So you’re at two then.”
Tommy nodded but he stayed focused. Whitney was surprisingly quick. She was way quicker than Jacob had been and he knew that he was going to have to stay on his toes. He was right. Her feet began to dance like a boxer as she spun for another strike. She didn’t spin just once. She used the momentum of a double spin to add extra force. Tommy took a step back as she began her second rotation and prepared for the double strike that he knew was coming. He blocked the first, but somehow Whitney was a step ahead of him. After delivering the first blow she reversed her momentum, changed direction and delivered and undercut blow that struck him in his inner-thigh.
“Point!” Whitney squealed in delight as the crowd hopped to their feet. The arena filled with a deafening roar and Whitney waited for the excitement to die down. “You only blocked three! Should I slow down for you?”
It was a good question and Tommy laughed at himself internally. The day before he had dominated Jacob as the two of them fought so he knew how Whitney felt. Sure it felt good to win decisively, but there was also the feeling that suggested you should slow down so that your opponent didn’t feel too overwhelmed.
“To be honest … maybe just simplify your attacks a little. I don’t know where you’re coming up with this skill Whitney, but somehow you’re ahead of me.”
“You mean I’m actually better than you at something?” she asked with a smile.
And she was. There was no doubt about that. Her movements were fluid and graceful, but most of all Whitney moved with a speed that was shocking. There was no doubt that this part of Whitney was the same part that he had been dreaming of. There were differences in tactic and execution for sure, but the speed was there. Her speed was even recognized by one of the tattoos that she had on her face in his dreams. One of the runes tattooed on her cheek was a lightning bolt.
That didn’t mean that Whitney’s skill was the same in the arena as it was in his dreams, however. In his dreams it was obvious that she had been trained to fight. Her movements, stance, and execution demonstrated that. When she fought in his dreams she fought like a soldier. In the arena she fought purely by gut and moved by instinct. Tommy didn’t know where she would end up getting that training. His dreams were as silent on that topic as they were on how and why she would end up getting the tattoos, and they were also silent on what the source of their enemy foes was.
“Somehow yes. You are better,” he admitted.
“Say it again,” she said. “I like hearing it.”
Tommy stood there and just looked at her.
“Say it!” she said again playfully. She raised her swords and smiled at him slyly. “Or I’ll make you say it.”
The crowd cheered at her playful threat.
“You are better,” he laughed. “Okay! Do it again, just keep it simple wouldja?” he added as he brought his swords to the ready.
“For now,” she said. “I’ll just pretend you’re Tom Tom Binks,” she quipped.
Tommy laughed at her stupid joke of comparing him to Jar Jar and waited for her to resume her strikes.
“I guess I should just start off with a repetitive one two pattern. I’ll start off slow so that you can see what I’m going to do and I’ll increase the speed until you can’t keep up. How’s that sound?”
He saw what she was getting at. It was her speed that he was having difficulty dealing with and she was offering him a way to increase his own speed to match. He nodded his acceptance.
“Now one thing that I see you doing wrong is that you start off looking at my eyes, but then your eyes move to my body. That’s never going to work. You’ll just end up getting lost. Stay focused here,” she said pointing to her eyes.
When the idea of creating the arena and practicing with swords came to him he had pictured himself teaching Whitney what he knew about fighting. Somehow it was turning out to be just the opposite. He was standing in front of her and she was offering her guidance and insights to him. It was a humbling experience, but he had no choice but to accept what she was offering, and for the most part, he didn’t want to. As humbling as it was, he was still proud of her. For the first time in her life she had found something that she was naturally good at.
Whitney began slinging her swords at him. The pattern that she was using was very similar to the pattern that a boxer would use on a speed ball. She started off slow so he could get the rhythm—bringing one sword across her body, followed by the other, then criss-crossing on the outside of her body, bringing the sword up and over, and then across again at a downward angle. Tommy matched her movements and began to deflect her blows.
At first she stood in one place and so did he. They simply continued the pattern, her delivering blows, and him deflecting them. She gradually increased the pace as they went and Tommy kept up with her. She began to slowly move forward so that he could get used to moving his feet as well as deflecting. He moved back to counter her forward movement and it almost felt like they were dancing.
“My eyes Tommy—lock in on them. Nothing else exists, but my eyes.”
It was harder to do then she made it sound. His eyes did seem to want to drift to her hands and it was almost as if he were watching a tennis match instead of fencing with her. He committed himself to looking directly at her eyes like she was telling him, and before long he could tell that doing that, was helping.
Each time that Tommy got used to the rhythm of her strikes she would increase the pace. It went from the slow melodic rhythm of a ticking clock, to the medium pace of a horse’s trot. Tommy’s confidence began to increase with the speed of her movements. When he was used to that she increased it further so that it was more like two horses pulling a wagon, then four horses. Within five minutes she was flinging her swords at him like a humming bird and Tommy’s confidence began to drain from him. Keeping up with her began to get more difficult and as hard as he tried he knew that if she found it within herself to go any faster he wouldn’t be able to.
Then the greedy look in her eyes returned and it was game over.
Carol Anne bent to Whitney’s body with a damp cold washrag and dabbed Whitney’s forehead with it. The twins had tried to convince them to go off into the woods while they ‘did their exercise’ but she wasn’t having it. They could do their ‘exercise’ right there in the living room where she could keep an eye on them—thank you very much.
And she was glad that she had insisted on it too. Both of them were panting excessively. Both of their temperatures were elevated, and both of them were very restless in their comatose states. They both needed to have an eye kept on them. She didn’t like this whole helm thing or whatever they called it, and she was going to make sure that nothing went wrong; as much as she could at least.
“Uggh,” Tommy uttered as his body lie on the couch next to Whitney’s. Carol Anne shot a nervous glance toward him, but continued to dab Whitney’s forehead.
She didn’t like this. She didn’t like it at all.
The Black City
The Eyes of her Killer
Tommy lay in his bed recounting what he considered to be a successful day. What? Whitney had thought to him after they retired from the second part of their session. I let you get to seventy-two! He couldn’t help but to laugh with her when she made that comment. She was finding a part of herself that neither of them previously knew had existed. It was that part of her that his baseball coach referred to as the ‘spirit of competition.’
He could relate to it because he had that himself. It was that part of you that drove you to be better than the person or people that you were up against. The part of you that wanted to win and the part that drove you to strive to become better at whatever it was that you were doing.
Whitney had it and he was glad that she did. Her last move had been so quick that there was no way he could match it. He didn’t think he would ever be able to match that kind of speed and she had told him why she did it right at that point. She had done it so that he wouldn’t get to seventy-three. She wanted to make sure that her score was still at least one better than his.
And the truth was her score was only that low because she was out of shape. Tommy was athletic and participated in sports. He worked out at school, and he followed up by working out at home too. He lifted weights, jogged, jumped rope, and played in sports every chance he got. He was in good shape. Whitney wasn’t. She never worked out at all because she had no reason to. He couldn’t help but wonder what she would be like when her body got used to it.
He had a feeling she was going to be pretty amazing.
Blake had noticed the change in Whitney too, and he had realized it almost as soon as he walked through the door.
“I see that someone’s in a chipper mood today,” he commented as Whitney gave him a hug. The fact that she greeted him that way was probably enough to clue him in. It wasn’t that Whitney never hugged either of them. She sometimes did, but it wasn’t very often. More often than not she would greet him with a simple “hi, Uncle Blake,” and leave it at that.
So it appeared that they were heading into a new chapter in their lives. Tommy’s only hope was that it would be enough. Lately sleeping had become something that he dreaded because every night was filled with dreams of his sister’s future death. This night, however, he was looking forward to going to sleep, because they had done something that might just have the potential to change that.
Tommy closed his eyes and quickly drifted off to the city of black.
When he opened his eyes again he wasn’t in Burnsville anymore. Burnsville was so far away that he would have no idea of how to get back home again—if he had to walk that is.
When Tommy’s eyes opened he was back in the Black City. That’s the way that he thought of it because that’s what it was. The entire city was black. Every wall, every tower, and every conical spire was made of the same black metallic material. It was a city, but the city existed as one humungous castle. The castle itself was as big as the entire town of Burnsville and was cut into a mountain that seemed to be made of the same thing that the city was.
Tommy didn’t have a body when he awoke. He never did. His existence in the city was just the perception of it. He had no control over where he went or what he saw. He saw whatever he dreamed of seeing and that was it.
At first all Tommy saw were the black walls of a hallway. He didn’t see any people, or hear any noises. It was just him hovering through the darkened walkway. He drifted down this walkway until he came to a room that he recognized very well. He had seen it plenty of times before. It was the room that his sister was supposed to die in.
The room itself wasn’t any ordinary room. It was more like a chamber. It was large, had no windows, and had only the one single door that he drifted through to enter. The only thing in the room was a chair that seemed to be made out of that same metal that the rest of the city was made of. It was as if the people that made the city only had one building material to work with. So everything was made from it.
The really unique thing about the chair was that it seemed to be a part of the room. It wasn’t as if the chair were sitting on top of the floor, but a part of it. Black chains stemmed from the floor on either side of the chair and more black chains stemmed from in front of the feet of it. As always, when he first entered the room, there was nobody in it. Then his perspective would change and Whitney would enter wearing her white tunic, her bandolier, and of course, the hilts of her swords could be seen poking up from either side of her head. Her silver eyes seemed to pierce through him as if he weren’t really there, but that was because he wasn’t really there. Whoever she was looking at was behind the place where his perspective began.
Whitney never came into the room alone, but Tommy had a difficult time putting a name to the animal that came in with her. In essence it was a dog, but it was no ordinary dog. The shoulders of the beast were as high as her waist and even though the head of it was dog-like, it was also not dog-like. It was as if the dog had been mixed with a lion, and then mixed with a bear, and then mixed with a dragon. It had all of these similarities combined. It had hair, but only on its shoulders, neck and the mane that it wore. The rest of its body had scales like a dragon’s. Its teeth and jaws were long and powerful and its paws had claws designed for tearing flesh.
“I suppose you are here to question me?” a male voice would always ask in his dream.
“There is that,” Whitney would always reply. “But I am also here to collect what is not yours to keep!”
“It’ll take more than one single Prim to get them from me! It would take an army to rip them from my soul”
“You know the King actually told me to do just that!” Whitney informs him. “But the Prim are busy people and one single Moog doesn’t deserve that much attention! I’ll deal with you myself!”
It’s her final mistake. Tommy doesn’t understand how it is that Whitney could ever believe that she could match this creature. At first he cannot see it because it is behind him, but the thing behind him informs her that he has a surprise for her. He tells her that he took something from someone she knows very well. She doesn’t believe him or if she does believe him she acts like she would love a challenge from him.
Tommy doesn’t know what that something is. All he knows it that the chains break, the dog is slung backward into the metal wall so hard that it loses consciousness and the next thing he knows a powerful grey tail is wrapped around her neck. There are finger-like appendages on the end of that tail that dig their way into her mouth and her silver eyes begin to fade to white. He has seen Whitney move so fast in his other dreams that he cannot believe that there is something out there that can move faster, but there is something faster. It wraps its tail around her in less than a blink of an eye and Whitney never stands a chance.
Tommy always screams out to her in his dreams, but she never hears him, and the next thing Tommy knows he sitting in his bed and he can barely hear himself screaming, but Carol Anne and Blake hear him and they come running into his bedroom to see what’s wrong with him.
Its eyes are the last thing he remembers from his dream. Just before it fades out he sees its eyes and they are as silver as Whitney’s, but they are slitted like a serpent’s.
The journey will continue …