Eli is sat huddled in his brown leather chair with a book in hands when the intercom buzzes at his front door. He takes a moment, trying to decide whether to ignore it, but eventually, he decides to get up. Unfortunately for Eli the intercom for his flat doesn't have a live video feed and every time lately, when someone called round, he'd remind himself just how useful that might prove to be. He'd tell himself then he'd be able to sneak up to the intercom, take a look at who it was and if it wasn't anyone in dire need of his help he'd creep away again, back into the shadows of his life; he had been feeling slightly dramatic and quite pretentious for over a week now.
"Yes?" He calls into the speaker.
"Eli? Its Aeryn. Let me in."
The breath dies in his throat; his first thought goes out to the state of his apartment. He looks around at the discarded papers littered over the floor and coffee table; the drawn curtains, dusty furniture and sporadic piles of rubbish. He had definitely lost track of the house cleaning recently.
"Eli?" She calls again.
There isn't time to hesitate any longer; he either had to be extremely rude and tell her no or ignore her, or he'd have to say yes, but that seemingly easy decision wasn't one at all.
"Yes... alright, but I'll meet you at Byrons... in thirty minutes." He says glancing at his wrist watch.
He doesn't wait for an answer, he knew she'd be there; he felt very certain of this as his long finger released the 'talk' button, cutting Aeryn off. For a moment it feels as if he had sliced a knife through an imperceptible connection between Aeryn and him; for just a moment, he had felt real again.
Eli walks into Byron's Bar & Bistre a few minutes late; even so, he knew she'd be waiting. Her deep red hair glints in the soft glow of the overhead lights and draws his attention instantly. He weaves through many tables, blind to everyone else, until he reaches her.
"I know... I know," she says raising her hands, "Don't call you that. Sorry. Guess I have too many memories of Jake calling you that."
She notices the pained look on his face at the mention of his absent best friend and rushes on, "Please, sit. What would you like to drink?"
Eli hesitates for a moment or more, leaning against the small round table. Nearly every impulse in his body urges him to sit; 'if we sit, we can see her'
his body seems to urge him, yet somehow, that felt like a lie. Every part of his life recently seemed strangely detached, as if he moved within the same space as others, but was absent at the same precise moment. He'd touch something physical, feel the solid weight of it in his hands, yet, it was hallow. Just like now; Eli knew how much of a bad idea this was... seeing Aeryn; he knew that very familiar itch inside would reappear as soon as he sat and locked eyes with hers - an inch he'd never been able to explain or cure. He knew just how weary and depleted he would seem sat amongst so many vibrate colours and the energy of this crowded room. He felt like a spark of ice cutting through the fire of life.
Why had he left the quiet, dark and impermeable layers of his apartment?
Eli realises he was bringing far too much attention to himself by just standing there; he knew people had begun to whisper and look, but his legs were still utterly unable to move for him. Aeryn slowly gets up from her chair, her hands outstretched, with pity and warmth painting her beautiful face in radiance. She carefully takes hold of Eli around the upper arms and slowly urges him down into the seat in front of him.
All Eli notices before he somehow finds his backside pressing into the cool softness of the seat is the red leather covering, as red as Aeryn's hair, but not nearly as glowing.
Aeryn lets out a sigh and resumes looking through the menu in her hands. Eli felt like there was something different about her today. His eyes sweep over her face, searching for some secret or detail he may have missed, there is nothing; she is as youthful and radiant as he has ever seen her. Aeryn hadn't aged a year since the day he met her ten years ago. This thought makes him frown deeply, so much so, Aeryn catches it.
"What have you just thought of Eliji... Eli?
He brings himself back into focus again and drops his head, shaking it.
"Why did you come, Aeryn?" He whispers.
Her face is disappointed for a moment and perhaps a little angry; she does well to swallow it away. She straightens her back, settles her face and manages to eventually look serene; this takes some effort and her clenched mottled fingers gripping the menu tell just how much effort this took her.
Eli doesn't notice this of course, he is far too engrossed in trying to remain calm himself. They sit in the very centre of a noisy room, surrounded by warm bodies like an utterly silent tornado; hovering, violent; its danger or destruction inevitable, yet remains simply unnoticed.
"No one has seen anything of you for weeks. I even called your work and they told me you have taken a month sick leave. Are you sick?"
Eli thinks about this for a moment, 'am I sick?'
, what an unbelievably loaded question. Eli barks with laughter before he can stop himself and Aeryn jumps in her chair.
"Perhaps, Aeryn... perhaps." He says with bearably contained laughter.
Aeryn frowns with words resting unspoken on her cherry red lips, when a tall waiter approaches their table, shattering the intense moment.
"What would you like, Sir, Madame?" He says over their heads, pen poised over the small pad in his hand.
Aeryn seemed to struggle to gather herself and Eli hesitates in embarrassment. The waiter is thankfully patient and he manages to sigh at the pair only once throughout the duration of the pairs confusion and indecisiveness. Eventually they both order light meals and fresh drinks and then they are left alone again.
That itch had returned to Eli, as a dagger in his back this time. But it's not only this; there is an added sense of trepidation for him now. A weighted sense of urgency he can explain no better than his torturous dreams.
"I came because you need me."
Eli back stiffens. "I don't need anyone... there is nothing you can do."
Aeryn's hand reaches across the table towards Eli, her bright red nails just missing his fingers as he pulls away from her.
"Eli, please. I know... I can sense..." she pauses and looks up as if seeking inspiration, "Eli, I can help. We can help."
This grabs Eli's attention like a smack around the face.
"What do you mean, we?"
"I can't talk about it here, that's why I came to your apartment. Please Elijah... for your own good. I have things you need to hear."
Eli begins to withdraw; his shoulders draw back, his face chills, his eyes darken with anger.
"Oh, you do like being the centre of all problems, don't you?" He leans forward across the table and whispers, "you... have... no... idea!"
He starts to get up from the table but Aeryn catches his arm.
"Please, please listen to me. Please!"
Again he leans in to her, his breath moving the fine hairs around her face, "This has nothing to do with you. Stop trying to make this about you!"
Aeryn shows nothing at this. Just takes his words, settles back in her chair a little, does that strange glance to the ceiling and is silent for a moment. She smooth's her hair on one side, presses her lips together and that's when Eli realises she's trying to make her mind up over something. It's a look he hasn't seen on her face for some time, but now it's there, he recognises it with great surety.
Eli watches with curiosity as she seems to fight with an internal decision, entirely captivated by the depth of her concentration and mystery. Then like a veil lifting her indecision, her face clears and her attention sharpens.
She leans over the table a little; her eyes now hold weight which seems confusing to Eli. It was not pity, regret or fear in her eyes now, more... unfamiliarity. She didn't seem herself. Her hand rises slowly in the air and Eli watches it like it's a cat waiting to pounce, yet he does not move. Her fingers meet with the soft skin of his upper cheek and then slide across until her palm cups the side of his face. All her actions are done at a normal rate but it seems a life time for Eli.
All Eli can think is, 'They are so cold; like ice'.
She looks up into his eyes and whispers, "I'm sorry Elijah. We have to make you remember. We've run out of time."
"Don't call..." is all he has time to say. Then there's light; so much light it's blinding and painful. It engulfs his thoughts, captures his body and seems to catapult him to somewhere new.
Slowly, ounce by ounce, he fills his physical self again. Then simply, his awareness is as sharp as it ever has been, like waking from a nightmare with all of your senses firing at a phenomenal rate from the sheer fear of it. First all he can see is the familiar glint of stars in the dark sky, and then he remembers he can move and breathe; he does so for a few moments, in long gulping rhythm until his body stills. And as his mind catches up and recognition and understanding rings through him, he realises he's stood at the top of a sand dune, facing a glorious expanse of a sparkling black ocean. For a moment, all he can do is stare and let the chilly breeze wrap itself around his body. For a moment, all Eli can do is nothing.
'Water again; what a surprise.'
He thinks to himself.
"Elijah... you need to remember..." whispers Aeryn's voice.
Eli instinctively looks around, wishing to see something that makes sense. To see anything that might feel like home, or a sanctuary. He see's nothing of the kind. A growing sense of trepidation and danger fills Eli; he's just about to bolt, to run across the sand and escape when a hand grips his shoulder.
He spins around, loses his footing in the deep sand and falls to his backside. He falls in what feels like slow motion; Aeryn's eyes filling all of his view and stealing all of his sense. He lies back on the sand for a moment, breathing violently, willing himself to wake up.
"It's just a dream... you had too much wine at the restaurant and you've fallen asleep on the table... no, perhaps it's food poisoning, or... Aeryn drugged me!"
He abruptly sits up and comes face to face with a pair of red high heels. He looks at them confused, tilting his head to the side, brows furrowing; then it dawns on him. Her feet are hovering on the sand... she is hovering.
He jumps to his feet with a yelp of surprise and for the second time that night he is just about to run when he glimpses out across the expanse of dry sand. Others had joined them.
Eli's feet stop for him, without any direction of his own. He counts in his head, 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... at least 50... at least 50!