“So, my dear, you finally came to face me?” the smoky Tiga asked, tilting its head sideways.
“It was you!” Tiga growled, clenching her fist.
Tiga’s memory of her nightmare was still vivid in her memory and her heart pumped in her chest. She moved a step forward, gritting her teeth. This…creature…must have been the one who was causing it all. But why would it be doing this to her?
The smoky figure’s smile disappeared and she raised her eyebrows, as if she was surprised by the outburst. Obvious confusion appeared on her smoke features and she shrugged.
“I can’t say I understand what you mean. What exactly did I do?” the smoke asked.
“You caused me to have that nightmare! Why don’t you want me to be happy? Why couldn’t I leave? Why-” Tiga yelled, getting louder every question.
“Quiet!” the smoke hissed, cutting her off. “I have some knowledge of what you are speaking, however I am not the one you should be getting angry at.”
“Of course you are! Stop playing around! I don’t see any other suspicious, smoky figure around here,” Tiga said, breathing heavily.
“Calm down, Tiga,” the smoke said. “I’ve come to speak with you, and just speak. There is no threat to you.”
“Like hell you are!” Tiga retorted. “If you were just here to speak with me, you wouldn’t be destroying half the countryside and frightening everyone stiff.”
“Well…technically that’s not my fault. Besides, this place was a little off from the start,” the smoke said, shrugging once again. “You must have already noticed that.”
Tiga paused and looked over the smoky clone. Tiga’s leg was fine, despite its large stab wound. The sudden teleportation to this place, however had been a surprise. The clone had a point, however if it thought Tiga was about to trust its words, it was going to be sorely disappointed.
“You know denial won’t help the situation,” the smoke said, watching her with dark, hazy orbs.
“I’d rather listen to a bunch of squawking sea birds than to you,” Tiga snapped.
“I really thought you had gotten over the teenage phase,” the smoke mused aloud.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I thought you said you’d rather listen to a bunch of-“
“I get the point, but you keep saying such cryptic, confusing things,” Tiga said with a sigh.
The smoky clone smile once again, her hair wafting around her head as she gave a chuckle. Tiga raised an eyebrow, but hooked another arrow on her string. The clone didn’t seem to notice the movement and continued to chuckle at some personal joke.
“Well, don’t teenagers go through a time of ‘self-discovery’?” the clone asked, tilting her head.
“From what I’ve heard, yes,” Tiga replied shortly.
“Okay, you don’t have to search for ‘yourself’, because here I am,” the smoke said.
Tiga just blinked at the clone and the clone looked slightly annoyed.
“I’m a part of you,” the smoke continued. “Your other half.”
Tiga blinked again and tilted her head, just like the clone had just done.
“I’m married to you? That seems a little weird,” Tiga replied after a moment’s silence. “And if this is supposed to be a proposal it’s a terrible one.”
The smoky clone let out a long sigh, a trail of mist drifting from its nose. It looked up to the sky, as if praying for patience in the situation.
Tiga cautiously lifted her bow, taking a moment to aim, and pulled back the string. She exhaled slowly, calming her nerves and released the arrow. The bow let out a hum as it shot the arrow through the air towards the clone. The clone looked down just as the arrow reached its body.
Tiga screamed as a sharp pain hammered into her forehead and the clone made the exact same sound. The arrow turned into ash, as they both doubled over. Tiga clutched at her head and the clone at the spot where the arrow had hit. The clone looked up angrily and within a second was in front of Tiga.
“Do you intend to destroy me, the one slip of memory from the real world?” the clone asked, hissing as she grabbed onto the bow.
The bow disintegrated into ash and fell to the ground. Tiga looked as it floated around her feet and she felt anger well up. The clone looked at the ash and the anger that had caused the outburst slowly faded from her features.
“I’m sorry,” the clone said, looking up.
“What do you mean by one slip of memory from the real world?” Tiga asked, through gritted teeth.
“This world around you, the people in it aren’t real,” the clone explained.
“What do you mean? They all seem very real to me,” Tiga retorted.
“Yuna and Jay are a wonderful couple, but you must’ve realized who they are?” the shadow said softly.
“What do you mean by ‘Who they are’? They are a kind couple who are about to have a child and you’re threatening them,” Tiga said angrily. “Just seeing Yuna trying to conceal the fear she’s hiding is slightly heartbreaking.”
“Does the initials J.A and Y.E mean nothing to you?” the shadow asked.
“Should it?” Tiga replied questioningly.
“I don’t know, you’re the one who’s seen the initials in the baby’s room.”
“How do you know that?”
The shadow sighed, a stream of smoke streaming into the air and swirling upwards.
“Let’s just assume I have psychic powers, when involving your past.”
“You know what? You are getting pretty annoying,” Tiga stated bluntly.
The clone’s smoky lips twisted into an amused smile.
“I’m a stubborn, reckless street urchin. I wasn’t taught manners.”
As they spoke another smoke creature joined them, this time in the form of a wolf. It sidled up beside the smoke Tiga and sniffed at the hand hanging by her side. The clone moved its hand to pat it and then looked down and smiled almost sadly.
“Remember that wolf pup you saved when you were younger,” the figure spoke softly. “You found it caught in a rabbit trap in the forest. With an injured leg it was unlikely that it would survive long on its own. You cared for it and spent happy days, while it healed. However there came a day, when you let the wolf go. A creature like that deserves freedom, and you knew it would die if it remained with you in town. Just as it wouldn’t have survived if you hadn’t taken it in from the forest, it wouldn’t survive if it relied on food scraps in town. You lost your one friend for the sake of its own life. Freedom often has a price, and it’s not a pleasant one.”
“You’re being cryptic again,” Tiga said, crossing her arms
“You cannot live a lie, in a world that isn’t real. Like your old wolf, you need someone to force you to take your freedom despite how attached you’ve become to this place,” the smoke said softly. “I’m the last scrap of reality in this place. I’m a part of you. Can’t you see the truth, the mourning, the struggles, they can’t disappear just like that.”
“Why would I be mourning?” Tiga asked.
The smoke sighed sadly, kneeling to pat the wolf with her hand. As if suddenly getting an idea, the clone began to write something into the blackened earth at her feet. Tiga watched as she wrote the words, Jay & Yuna A
“Now do you remember anything?” the smoke asked.
“Nope,” Tiga replied shortly.
The clone continued to write, glancing up at Tiga, waiting for the response she was looking for.
A-T-H-A… Tiga’s heart began to beat, her chest aching. Tiga didn’t want to see the rest, she didn’t need to know their last name. N-A…
“Stop!” Tiga said, kicking at the clone’s hand. “Just stop.”
“You remember then?” the clone asked, tilting her head. “Their names are Jay and Yuna Athanar.”
“You’re trying to tell me my parents aren’t dead!” Tiga yelled, kicking at the clone.
“Unfortunately, you know the truth. They died together in a house fire.”
“I don’t remember anything I was only roughly three years old when my parents died.”
“Even a three year old can remember a significant event like that, even if it is just patches. For you, you just remember the smoke. The swirling, suffocating smoke, that seemed to swallow everything.”
Tiga felt her pulse quicken and her stomach churned.
“In this world, you haven’t yet been born. In this alternate version, they own a shop and have their dream life. They are having their first child, that child is you,” the clone spoke, watching her carefully.
“Why is everything happening like this?” Tiga asked, exhausted.
“You have only just met them in the real world, but there is someone who knows your past. He was there when your parents died and he’s created this world to avoid the reality of their death.”
Tiga frowned, surely Colvan couldn’t have been the one causing it all. The caged man seemed the only option, but she hadn’t seen him since crawling into the cage. Well, she’d never really seen him full stop, a mere hand had been all she had seen.
“Miss, time is running out,” a male voice suddenly spoke.
The voice sounded oddly familiar though deeper than Tiga remembered. Tiga spotted another smoke figure who was taller than herself and had a dark beard. The smoke that made up his body was lighter than the ‘smoke Tiga’ and if he hadn’t spoken Tiga wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have noticed he was even there.
“Tiga, you must find the man who knows about the past. If you don’t hurry there will be serious consequences,” the smoky Tiga spoke, interrupting Tiga’s thoughts. “It’s up to you now.”