Fragile Monuments

“Will you remember me?” The boy’s voice was light and airy, like pillows filled with feathers, and bright light blocked his face from view.

“Of course!” Relia said, eyes burning with certainty. There was no way she would ever forget him.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, silly. No matter how much time passes, I’ll always remember you.”

“Hmmm..” The boy contemplated for a moment then took off his glove and stuck out his left hand. He faced his palm upward and focused on it. The light teal skin was smooth and glossy in the sunlight. Soon a unique combination of geometric patterns and swirling lines lit up in a soft white glow on his palm. “If you mean it, then promise.”

Relia’s eyes widened, and she hesitated.

“I knew it. You were lying.” The boy’s voice broke, and he moved to retract his hand, but Relia caught it.

“I’m not! I’m not. Look, I’ll promise.” As she said so, she took off her glove, and her crest revealed itself on the blue skin of her palm. She remembered her mother’s words about never making careless promises but didn’t feel like she had a choice. She didn’t want the boy to doubt her, and she would never forget him, so it didn’t matter anyway.

She held her palm against his and looked into his eyes. All she saw was a bright light, but she knew he was smiling. She smiled back and said, without any further hesitation. “I promise I will never forget you.”

The soft glow of their crests grew brighter and harsher, filling the space in bright blinding light, and Relia opened her eyes.

She gripped her left hand tightly as pain shot through her veins. “Ah!”

She fumbled in the dark over the items on her side table until her hand felt the sleek cylinder she was looking for. Groaning through the pain, she grabbed the cylinder, activated it, then stabbed the small needle into the palm of her left hand. She gasped as the medication flowed into her arm, and the pain receded. Her body trembled, and her breaths were ragged as she slumped back onto her bed.

It was always the same dream. A boy with his face blocked by light and a foolish promise. If only she could remember his face or name. She inhaled deeply, then got off the bed. 

“Open the blinds,” she muttered, and the blinds slowly slid up. The dim blue light of early morning barely lifted the darkness in the room. Relia clenched her fists and stared out the window for a moment. The sun was just starting to rise, but most of its light was blocked by the thick bubble-rain clouds. They rolled like plump mist-filled sacks in the sky. Slow early morning hover-buses meandered between tall, bulbous buildings rising in ordered grids to pierce the clouds. She watched the dull scenery for a moment longer, then went into the bathroom.

She opened the faucet, and the sound of running water filled the apartment. She stared irritatedly at her reflection. Her short beige hair was a bird’s nest. Her cheeks were gaunt, her skin dull, and her green eyes were so sunken and eyebags so dark that she had stopped attempting to cover them with makeup. The last time she had woken up fully rested felt like it was in another life. The sleeping serums, in combination with her pain medication, had helped at first, but now, the pain was so much that it woke her up each night. 

As the saying goes, ‘There is no pain like that of a broken promise.’ It was a phrase often said to children, almost to the point of brainwashing. She had thought she knew what it meant, but it was only now, feeling the cost of her careless promise draining her life force each day, that she truly understood it, down to her bones. By all diagnoses, she would not last till the end of the year, and the pain medication was becoming less effective each day. Even now, she could already feel her left hand trembling again. She splashed cold water on her face, then brushed her teeth without looking into the mirror again.

Despite everything, life had to go on, which necessitated eating. She stood in front of the large glowing pink tube filled with algae and various small fishes the size of her palm. She flicked the glyphs on the base of the glass tube, instructing it to collect two grolis, the light blue fishes with pink swirls on their back. She only had four left, so she also made a note to order more. The holding tube hummed, and then a small pulse directed the fish toward the collection tray. Two fish were knocked out with another pulse, then deposited out. She picked them up, put them in a bowl, and then flicked another glyph. A couple of ounces of algae were collected into another tray. She added it to the bowl, then trudged into the living room, where two translucent purple egg-shaped chairs sat around a cube light pink glass table. She slumped in one of the soft cushions and turned on her holo-tube.

The tube came on on the news channel she watched before she went to bed, but just like then, she didn’t really watch it. She only needed the noise to distract her from her thoughts. She began eating plain fish and algae without bothering to prepare her meal with seasoning or garnishes. When she’d told her parent about her condition, they’d insisted that she move back home. Of course, she refused. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate their support, but the fact that she’d been foolish enough to make a crest-bound promise and then forget about it was so shameful that she couldn’t even face them. If she was home, she’d at least be guaranteed five decent meals a day. She chewed mechanically, and her crude meal tasted worse as she thought about her mom’s cooking. 

She finished her breakfast despondently, then focused on the holo-tube. She flipped through a few channels, finally settling on a movie she’d heard about from her co-pilots a couple of months before she’d taken an indefinite leave from work. She focused on the banal drama and allowed it to numb her mind. She was engrossed in the unraveling of an elaborate art heist when she heard the tune of her auto-comm. She hesitated for a second, then chose to ignore the call. The tune stopped, and she refocused on the movie, but it started again. She groaned, turned off the holo-tube, then trudged to her bedroom where the sound was coming from.

As expected, it was her mother. She glanced upwards, exhaled slowly, then answered, making sure it was in audio-only mode.

“Hi,” she said. Her voice came out cracked. “Hi,” she said again.

“Hi, love. How are you doing today?”

Relia grit her teeth and exhaled slowly. What was she supposed to say? That she was exhausted and in constant pain? That she ate tasteless food and had no motivation to carry on each day?

“I’m fine. You?” was what she settled on.

“I’m the same as always. You don’t sound good. Have you taken your medication?”

“Yeh.” As she answered, she watched small bubbles begin to rain down from the sky. They glistened and spun slowly as they floated down. She tried to remember if she’d brought her umbrella in. She walked back out into the living room and resumed her position on the chair. From there, she spotted the pink umbrella hanging on its usual hook near the front door. She leaned back into the chair and closed her eyes.

“Is it still effective? You know, if you need anything, just let me know, and I’ll tell Aunt Yilin. Her husband’s sister is a medic specializing in crest-related illnesses. I’m sure she’ll be able to get you a stronger medication if you need it.” Perhaps realizing she was rambling, her mom paused, then continued a bit slower. “Is your appointment today?”

Relia inhaled carefully to ease the stuffy feeling in her chest and absently tapped her fingers against the shell of the egg chair. “Yes.” Why did she always ask so many questions?

“What time?” 

“8 am.” She instinctively checked the time on her auto-comm. It was 6 am.

“Hmm, you’ve still got a bit of time. Did you sleep well?”

Relia’s tapping increased in force and speed. The frayed stands of patience snapped. “No. I did not sleep well.” She answered bluntly. “I haven’t slept well in 15 months, Mom.”

“Sorry, I did….”

“I have to go get ready for this appointment. I’ll call you later.”

“Right… Ok. I love you. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Yeh, ok…” She was about to end the call but barely held back a groan as a stab of pain shot through her fingers. She felt like throwing up and exhaled a shaky breath. 


“Sorry, I thought I saw a liran gecko… I hate those things.” Such a brazen lie didn’t fool her mother, but she continued before she could get called out on it. “Anyway. Love you too. I’ll talk to you later.”

Relia quickly ended the call, then gripped her left hand and held it close to her chest. The pain was already fading under the influence of the medication, but the trembling continued and spread throughout her whole body. When the pain was bad, it wasn’t limited to her left hand. It felt as if her entire being was breaking down. Like her body was cracking and her soul tearing. The force of the broken promise seemed to be ripping her existence apart.

She’d started seeing a memory specialist 12 months ago when the pain became intolerable. She didn’t want to believe it, but all the symptoms pointed to the fact that she must have made a promise she didn’t keep, so she’d searched through her Record of Promises, something all Oulpians kept, but looking through her short list of promises, each one was signed and dated on the day of their fulfillment by all parties. Eventually, she sought out the help of a memory specialist to see if she’d made a promise that she had forgotten or been induced to forget. It had taken a few sessions with Fina to dredge up the incomplete memory of when she’d first made the promise, and since then, she’d dreamt about the moment nearly every night. Unfortunately, the dream did not give her any useful information about the boy’s identity.

# # #

She arrived at her medic’s office right on the hour. The secretary, as always, looked at her with barely masked disdain. His lips were twisted in a sneer, which he maybe thought passed for a professional smile. It did not. He flicked through a few holo-screens in front of him and jotted some notes down, hardly sparing her a glance. After closing a few screens, he glanced up at her. 

“E.S. Fina will see you now. You know the way.”

Relia’s lips pressed together in a thin line. The man wrinkled his nose and glanced at her gloved left hand as though it were dripping with excrement. His tone when he spoke to her was always slow and exaggerated like he was speaking to an idiot. His thought about her had been clear from their first meeting. A dirty, foolish promise-breaker. It was understandable, to a degree. The stigma against people who had carelessly made and broken promises was deeply ingrained in all Oulpians, but if he couldn’t even control his expressions, he should have found a different line of work.

He raised a deep blue brow as she didn’t move, then scoffed. “Do you need something else?”

Her left hand began twitching, but it was manageable. “Why do you work here, Sof. Yeni?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why do you work here? Weren’t you able to get a job anywhere else?” She should have just walked away, but his attitude had been grating on her nerves for a while, and her tolerance was at its limit.

His eyes widened, and his cheeks turned purple. “I don’t see why I have to answer questions like that from someone like you.”

“Someone like me?” Relia’s voice dropped, and she leaned forward slightly. She saw a glint of fear in his eyes. After all, her wretched appearance must have been a sight to behold. He must have seen the light of pain-induced madness in her eyes, but despite his fear, instead of backing down, he straightened his back.

“You know what you are, secnia.” 

Relia gasped at the insult. Secra was the name given to the symptoms that happened as a result of breaking a crest-bound promise. To call someone a secnia, an insult derived from the word, was the most demeaning slur. Dirty, disgusting, untrustworthy, and not worthy of being in society. People who could no longer make promises, and as such, were not fully whole. In ancient times, people deemed secnia were thrown in pits with their limbs broken and left to die slowly.

“How dare you?!” Relia’s body shook for the first time in months from something other than pain. Her face turned purple with rage.

The man shrank back, but the defiant light hadn’t left his eyes. “Isn’t that what you are? A promise breaker?”

“That I may be, but who are you to judge me? You don’t even know how I came to be like this. Several things out of my control could have led me here… I….” Relia’s voice began to crack and shake uncontrollably. She looked away from the man’s face and stared at the pale blue walls. She exhaled. Then shook her head. What was she doing arguing with this twit? 

 “Well, think what you want, but if you are not qualified to find a different job, you should at least do this one properly.” Saying that, she turned away and walked to Fina’s office. The door slid open, and the woman at the desk looked up. Her navy skin glistened from the sunlight, and her light blue eyes lit up.

“Relia, I was just about to come out to see what the delay was.”

“You need to sack that secretary of yours.”

Fina’s light blue brows scrunched up, and she sighed as she made her way to the lounges set up for her sessions. Relia sat and reclined in one of them, and Fina sat across from her. 

“I’m already looking for a replacement. Unfortunately, you are not the first to complain. I’m sorry.”

Relia nodded and said nothing more about it. 

There was an awkward pause, but Fina moved on before it lingered too long. “Alright. Tell me how your condition has progressed since our last appointment.”

Relia closed her eyes and recalled her dream. “I still have the same dream, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember his face. As for the pain…” She raised her left hand, and they both watched the tremors. She clenched her fist and pushed the hand into the deep pockets of her dress. “The medication is still working, but it wares off much faster, and it’s not taking away all of the pain anymore. It just dulls it.”

“That’s to be expected as you enter stage three of secra,” Fina said, tapping her chin. “For today’s session, let’s not focus on the child’s face. Try to see his hair color, maybe eyes, and hopefully, the rest will come.” 

“Ok.” She had no expectations that it would work.

“Relia,” Fina said in a gentle tone. “you can’t give up.”

“I know.”

Fina nodded, then began. First, she pulled over a sanitizing light and put her hands under it, and then she picked up a vile from the tools that had been set up prior to the appointment. A neon blue liquid sloshed inside it. See inserted it into a syringe, then extended her hand. Relia glanced at the hand, covered in a long pale yellow glove. She sighed, took off her glove, then placed her hand in Fina’s.

“Thank you,” Fina said. She shined the sanitizing light on Relia’s hand, then after rubbing the center of her palm, injected the needle. 

The blue liquid drained into her body, and its effects were almost immediate. Relia felt the strength drain from her body. She gazed at the floating chandelier on the high ceiling with unfocused eyes. Her head rolled to the side, and Fina’s face was a splotch of navy on a blurred blue background. Fina squeezed her hand, and Relia barely felt it.

“Relia.” The voice came from the surface of the deep waters her mind was sinking into. “Relia, can you hear me?”

Her lips were heavy and took effort to open, but she managed it. “Yes.”

“Good. What is your name?

“Relia Jeran.”

“Thank you. When were you born?”

“Wion, Rokan prefecture, in the Tinal Tide pools.”

“Excellent. How old are you?”

“45 local, 15 standard.”

“Good. Relax, Relia. We are going on a short trip. Let’s go back 37 years. You were eight local years old.”

“Eight…” Relia murmured.

“Yes, eight. You lived on Hiowan Street. Across from a park.”

“I loved the park.”

“You did, and you had a special friend you would meet at the park.”

Relia’s heart clenched, and for a moment, her mind cleared. She felt Fina stroking her hand.

“Shhhh…. Relax, Relia. You are at the park, remember?”

The tension left her body, and she fell blissfully into a half-sleep state. “Yes, I love the park.”

“Yes, the park is always fun, especially when you are there with your friend. Is he there with you today?”

“He is…”

“How wonderful. What is he doing?”

The park was always fun. At eight, she was basically all grown up, and because she was all grown up, her parents let her go by herself. She squeezed the hand she was holding in her right hand. The boy looked down, then looked at her. She couldn’t see his face but could tell he was upset.

“Don’t worry ***** because I’m all grown up now. I can take care of you.”

The boy pouted. “You’re not grown up at all. You’re just a kid, and even Tufin, who’s seven, is bigger than you.”

Relia bristled and threw off his hand. “I am grown up! Size doesn’t matter. It’s about matuwity!”

“It’s maturity!” The boy yelled back. Then burst into tears. “No one cares about me! I’m all alone!”

Relia wanted to stay angry, but the moment his tears started falling, she held his small body in her arms.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry. My mom and dad said I’m all grown up, which means it’s true! So that means I’ll take care of you!”


“Not lies!” She almost got angry again, but to show how grown up she was, she calmed down. “It’s okay. I’ll take care of you forever. You’ll never be alone!”

“Really?” The boy looked up at her, and for a second, the light blocking his face disappeared around his eyes. Deep violet eyes stared up at her, with large teardrops dripping down. In the next second, the light coved them again. 

Relia gasped, clenched her chest with her right hand, then slumped and fell back into the dream.

“Really! We are family,” Relia said and stroked his hair. She loved stroking his hair. It was the perfect shade of pink. Not too bright, but also not dull or pastel. No one else she knew had hair that color. It was her favorite color.

 Very similar to the color of the glove she wore today

“I don’t have a family anymore.”

“Yes, you do! I just said it. We are family now. As a grown-up, I can decide those things.” She gave a smug smile, and despite the boy’s disbelief, she knew he was smiling back.

“Relia? I’m injecting the solution to bring you back now. Take deep breaths. You will slowly feel your body. I know it can be jarring to come back. Take deep breaths.”

Relia inhaled deeply as she heard the familiar word that always welcomed her from the depths of her memory. As the drug flowed through her body, her mind cleared, and her perception sharpened. She felt the sofa beneath her back, felt the weight of her body. Fina carefully put the glove back on Relia’s hand. Giving her one final reassuring squeeze, Fina folded the hand over Relia’s midsection.

“Take your time, and let me know when you are ready.”

Relia stared at the ceiling as her mind began to process what she’d seen. She raised her left hand up and saw the pink glove. She sucked in a sharp breath and sat up. A wave of vertigo hit, and she immediately slumped back down.

“Relia, no sudden movements. Let the drug fully take effect….”

Relia only stared at the glove, remembered stroking the boy’s hair, remembered the watery deep violet eyes. Her favorite colors were pink and violet. She remembered her childish mind was particularly fond of him because he was made up of all the colors she loved. Where did she meet him? How did they become friends? Who was he?



Reila gasped. Her head throbbed like it would split apart, and her left hand burned.

 “Ahh!” she doubled over. There was too much pain and too many different types of pain. Her body thrashed on the sofa. She heard pathetic whimpering sounds, and some lucid part of her mind realized she was the one making them. She couldn’t dwell on it for long as pain consumed her. Someone was saying her name repeatedly, and she wished they would shut up. She opened her mouth to tell them to get lost, but only moans came out. Just when she thought she would pass out, a cooling sensation staring at the base of her neck spread through her body, and the pain receded like a stung beast, retreating for now but with plans for vengeance. 


Tears streamed down her face, and sobs wracked her body. Fina stroked her back as Relia wept for the first time in her life. The last few months had brought her to a state of helplessness she’d never felt before. She had always prided herself on her willpower and determination. Everything she had in her life now was because of that. When she was younger, and at some point, she’d decided to become a space shuttle pilot. Given her lack of interest in any of her education up until that point, her parents had only cautiously supported her, but contrary to their beliefs, she excelled. 

Through the demanding schooling in physics, engineering, training in understanding and working with auto-servers and artificial brains, and then after that, through the difficult years of apprenticeship. She hadn’t thought about giving up once, and eventually got what she wanted, and had been piloting a Cajaran Fleet commercial shuttle until the pain made it impossible. She may not have been the best at a lot of things, but her effort was never lacking, and she always got results. But what was she supposed to do in this situation?

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She opened her eyes and saw her glove stained with blood. Fina reached over and wiped the rest of it dripping down from her nose.

“Thank you. I’ll do it myself.” She held out her hand, and Fina gave her the tissues. They both pretended not to notice the way her voice cracked. 

“Take as long as you need.” 

Relia nodded and did her best to become presentable again. When she felt more stable, she spoke in a modulated voice. “He has pink hair and violet eyes. Deep violet eyes, just shy of black. He had no family. I…” her voice broke, and she wiped away fresh tears. “I said I would be his family, but I can’t even remember who he is. In fact, if not for the promise, I would never have even known that I had forgotten him.” Maybe this was what she deserved.

“You were a child Relia. You can hardly be blamed for things you did back then.”

“Right,” Relia scoffed. “I won’t be blamed for my false promises. I’ll just die for them.” 

Fina sighed. “This is a more significant breakthrough than you think, Relia. With this, you can at least start to narrow the search, perhaps check orphanages near where you lived. I also believe your symptoms might start getting better. You not only remember some of his physical attributes, but the nature of your relationship is also becoming clearer. So please do not lose hope.”

“You think so? The promise was to never forget him. Even if I remember him now, the fact remains that I had already forgotten him. The promise remains broken. I can only hope to find him so we can nullify the promise.”

Fina nodded slowly as she smoothed down her dress. “Right, with such a vague promise not to forget him, it is impossible to tell how your individual brains processed what that meant. It could be to remember his face, or it could be to always remember your relationship with him or what he meant to you. It is tricky, but I still believe this is a big step forward.” 

Relia sighed. “Alright.” She was getting ready to stand, but Fina stopped her.

“There is one more thing I’m required to mention at this stage in the treatment. Please understand that this does not necessarily reflect my opinion of your condition, but I have to provide you with all the information you need to make informed choices.” She paused, then seemed to flip through her notes, but Relia saw that her eyes were unfocused. Her throat bobbed up and down, and she licked her dry lips. 

Relia clenched her fists tightly at Fina’s sudden change in behavior. Fina took a deep breath, then continued. “Well, at this point in the treatment, when it seems that you are progressing into the third stage of secra, I am required to tell you all the options that will be available to you once it progresses to the point where one loses the ability to… make sound decisions.”

“Ok?” Relia’s chest tightened.

“There are two options for what should be done once the Secra enters the third stage when medication no longer works. One is stasis. A coma is induced, and the patient is placed in a stasis field. The hope is that, at some point, a means to fulfill the promise will arise. The second option…is…” She clasped her hands together and wet her lips again. “Euthanasia… but Relia, I do not think it will get to that point….”

Relia didn’t hear a word Fina said after euthanasia. 

“Euthanasia?” Her voice was brittle. 

She couldn’t see Fina’s face anymore as her vision turned white. Relia felt her elbows lock and begin to tremble. Something hot bubbled up from her stomach and into her throat. She didn’t know if she was going to vomit or scream curses. It took all her willpower to prevent another breakdown. 

She had thought that she had let go of all expectations and was prepared for the end, but hearing it felt like a blow to the head. Relia closed her eyes and tried to calm her ragged breathing. Reality reasserted itself. She saw the slight tremble in Fina’s lips, and it helped her settle down. 

“Euthanasia.” She repeated.

“Relia, you don’t have to make the decision now, and as I said, I don’t believe it will come to that, but I need to be fully transparent.” 

Relia nodded and was in such a daze that she didn’t even remember how she left Fina’s office and ended up at the bus stop.

# # #

Pink hair. Relia glanced around at everyone that passed. Pink wasn’t a common hair color, but it wasn’t so rare that it greatly narrowed the search. Already, she’d passed two people with pink hair, though not quite the shade of what she’d seen. What were the chances that the boy still lived in Wion? What were the chances that he was still on the planet? Relia froze and felt her eyes heat up. What if he was dead? She let out an empty chuckle. It was over. Stasis or euthanasia. 

Fina didn’t say it, but she knew there was a third option for people who couldn’t afford long-term stasis and weren’t willing to give up until the end. They could check themselves into a holding institution, where their limbs would be bound, so they couldn’t hurt themselves when the pain became too overwhelming. They would be kept that way, living a life of torment until their inevitable death or the promise was somehow fulfilled. It wasn’t an option many people would consider. If that were her only option, she would rather choose euthanization. She groaned and grabbed her head. Don’t give up. She let out a self-deprecating scoff, she would have never guessed that she was the type of person to consider giving up, but then she’d never experienced a situation like this, or maybe she was weaker than she’d believed herself to be. 

In her stupor, she watched a bus drive off, leaving her alone at the bus stop, then clicked her tongue as she belatedly realized that was the bus she needed to get on. She sighed and walked toward the info-sever to check when the next one would arrive. Fortunately, the next bus was only two minutes away.

“Lucky.” She muttered.

Relia leaned against the wall and massaged her gloved left hand. Massaging did nothing to help with the pain, but the gesture comforted her. Exactly on time, two buses pulled to the stop. She was just about to step on when a flash of pink caught her eye. Now specifically sensitive to that color, she whipped her head around and saw a man walking out of the second bus. He turned to look at a sign, and as soon as she caught a glimpse of his profile, a heavy weight seemed to fall on her chest. She felt her throat closing up and unconsciously stepped toward him. 

People moved around her to enter the bus, the doors shut, and it drove away, but she didn’t notice. It’s him. It had to be him. But what were the chances of that? It was more likely that her brain was conjuring up a false feeling of familiarity as a defense mechanism against the fear of death. Every impulse insisted that she go up to him, but she hesitated. With her current state of mind, she wasn’t sure she could withstand the emotional blow of her being wrong, which would most likely be the case. In that moment of hesitation, she lost track of him, and her heart dropped.

“No, where did he go?” She started pushing past people, stumbling forward in a state of delirium. Her heart was pounding. She turned around, looking for that flash of pink, but it wasn’t him. She started running. 

“Hey! Watch out.”

She didn’t stop as she shoved someone out of her way. Her mind was blank. Her ears were deaf to all sounds. It felt like waves were rushing between her ears. The only sensation keeping her grounded was the occasional knife of pain running through her left hand. She ran down a block, turned a corner, and there he was at a traffic light, waiting to cross. Her eyes widened as she saw him. Already out of breath and potentially out of her mind, she sprinted towards him. He turned back at her approach.

“You!” Relia yelled and grabbed his collar. “It’s you!”

The man’s deep violet eyes widened in shock, then immediately grew cold. He jerked away from her. “Who are you?” he asked coldly. It was his voice. It had changed slightly with age, but there was no way she could mistake the voice she’d heard so in her dreams for every night. She couldn’t believe it. It really was him. She felt sure, but his tone and the hard look in his eyes did not match what she knew.

“I…” Relia became uncertain. Maybe it wasn’t him. The pain in her hand increased, and her thoughts became foggier. So many years had passed, and at this point, she was just latching on to a sliver of hope. There was no way it could be him. A cold hand gripped her heart, and each breath caused pain to race down her spine. She swallowed dryly and tried to even out her breathing. Tears began to pool in her eyes.

Perhaps noticing her mood, the man’s expression softened. “Are you ok?”

She opened her mouth to answer, but no words came out. Are you the one? Did I promise not to forget you? Am I already losing my mind? There were many questions she wanted to ask, but only a whimper left her lips. It hadn’t been long since Fina dosed her with medication, yet the pain had already returned. Cold sweat dripped down her face. Her whole body trembled, and her mind reeled from each flash of pain. The man was talking to her, but she could not process it. She groaned, and her knees buckled. White light was covering her sight.


The sound of her name from his lips was a jolt to the system. It felt like a blessed second of inhalation after suffocating. 

“Relia, come again tomorrow, ok?”

She gripped the hand supporting her. It was him. No matter how out of her mind she was, she couldn’t let him go.

“It’s you! It’s you….” She rattled out in pained moans. 

“What’s wrong? Can you stand?”

“What’s your name? Please just tell me your name?”

The hand holding her tightened painfully, but it was nothing compared to the pain from her crest.

“Please, your name,” She nearly screamed, looking into those distant eyes.

“Your eyes are so pretty ******* I wish I had purple eyes?” 

The man scoffed. “You really forgot about me,” he said in a whisper that she barely caught. Her heart dropped, thinking he wouldn’t tell her his name. His head drooped down, and his pink hair fell forward to cover his eyes. He always did that when he was sad.

With each second, memories buried in the mud of her mind were being revealed as if washed by a light drizzle.

“Please,” she begged. She needed to get her medication from her bag, but she didn’t have the will to do so. Her entire being hinged upon hearing his name. Nothing else mattered. 

“Tarion Grmol,” he said, eyes aglow with suppressed emotion as if to burn her soul. “You used to call me Rion.”

The name was her deliverance, and as soon as she heard it, she fainted.

# # #

 Relia lay on her back, staring up as bubble clouds rolled in the sky. The thin membranes around them glistened iridescently.

“Hey, Rion? What do you want to be when you’re older?”

“Hmm….” Rion contemplated and rolled over onto his back. “Hmmm… older?… hmmm.” Just then, a shuttle flew across the sky, leaving a blue trail in its wake. “Ah! I know. I want to work on a shuttle. I’ll be a navigator or something. Then I can go to all the planets in Nol for free! What about you?”

“Uhhh… well… If you’re the navigator, then I’ll be the pilot! I’ll fly you everywhere you want to go!”

“You’re the best, Relia! Where should we go first?”

The scene faded, washed in white light, then reasserted itself. They were in the park, standing between the trees. Tall grey branches seemed to stretch all the way up to the sky, and pale green leaves spread out in cone-shaped foliage.

“Rion? What are you doing?” The little boy’s pink hair shone vibrantly in the sunlight as he hacked into the tree with a knife he’d stolen from the lunch room.

“I’m building a monument.” His voice, as always, was feather light, almost like he was whispering, but the hand hacking into the tree moved with violence.

“A monument?” Relia tilted her head. “Why?”

“So that people will always remember me.” He hacked into the tree again, and a large piece of the grey bark fell off, revealing the smooth white inside.

Relia glanced around quickly to see that no one was looking, then slid next to Rion and grabbed his hand as he was about to make another slash.

“What?” He asked, purple eyes wide and pink eyebrows knit together.

“You can’t do that, Rion. Mom says it’s wrong to damage public proiority.”

Rion’s eyebrows scrunched further down, then as if realizing something, he sighed and nodded. “You mean public property.”

“That’s what I said.” Relia let go of his hand and put her hands on her waist in a commanding pose. “Also, little kids should not play with knives.”

Rion rolled his eyes, then, ignoring her, continued to hack into the tree.

“Hey! Rion, stop right now. You’ll be arrested.”

“Relia, if you won’t help, stop bothering me. I have to do this.”

“But I don’t want you to be arrested. If you get arrested, I’ll never see you again.”

That made him stop immediately. He turned around, and his lips trembled. “You’ll never see never see me again.”

“Yep, if you get arrested, so stop.”

Rion looked at the tree again but ultimately decided to stop. He crouched down on the ground.

“Are you crying?”



Relia sat on the grass beside him and waited for him to calm down.

“I don’t want to get arrested, but if I don’t do this, it’ll be like I don’t exist.”

“But you do exist.”

Rion groaned and then glared at her. “You wouldn’t get it.”


“You won’t! You have a family, and they’ll always remember you, even if you die. I remember my mom and dad, but there’s no one to remember me if I die.”

“I’ll remember you. I already told you we were family! Stop being stupid and talking about… d..dea….” Relia’s voice trembled. “Anyway, no one is dying, and I’ll remember you anyway.”

“Will you really remember me?” His voice trembled unsteadily, and more tears fell down his face. He tilted his head down so his fluffy pink hair covered his face.

“Of course!” Relia said. He was her best friend. There was no way she would ever forget him.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, silly. No matter how much time passes, I’ll always remember you.”

“Hmmm..” The boy contemplated for a moment then took off his glove and stuck out his left hand. He faced his palm upward and focused on it. The light teal skin was smooth and glossy in the sunlight. Soon a unique combination of geometric patterns and swirling lines lit up in a soft white glow on his palm. “If you mean it, then promise.”

Relia’s eyes widened, and she hesitated.

“I knew it. You were lying.” The boy’s voice broke, and he moved to retract his hand, but Relia caught.

“I’m not! I’m not. Look, I’ll promise.” As she said so, she took off her glove, and her crest revealed itself on the blue skin of her palm. She remembered her mother’s words about never making careless promises, but she didn’t feel like she had a choice. She didn’t want Rion to doubt her, and she would never forget him, so it didn’t matter anyway.

She held her palm against his and looked into his eyes. His eyes lit up in anticipation, and he could hardly control his grin. She smiled back and said, without any further hesitation. “I promise I will never forget you.”

The soft glow of their crests grew brighter, and the promise was sealed.

The boy’s eyes widened. “You really did it.”

“Of course!”

Rion smiled so brightly that Relia was stunned for a moment. The wind blew in his hair, and his eyes lit with a beautiful glow. “I love you, Relia!” he yelled, jumping up and down. “We are family, forever.”

“Hmm, silly kid, did you just realize that,” Relia said smugly and stood up. She felt something under her feet and saw the piece of bark Rion had peeled from the tree.

“Hey,” she said as she picked it up and snapped it in two. “This will be the symbol of our promise.” She handed him one of the pieces. “Our very own molument.”

Rion held the bark in both hands like it was some sacred object. “Yeh. Our very own monument.”

# # #

Relia exhaled and opened her eyes. It felt like she was coming out of one of Fina’s sessions, except that was the first time she’d felt fully rested in months. She glanced up at the bright white lights of an unfamiliar ceiling and felt like something was missing. Memories of everything that had happened slowly came to mind, but there was still a nagging feeling that something was missing. Her hands unconsciously tightened on the sheets beneath her, and the reality hit her like a soft pillow to the face. 

There was no pain. She closed her eyes, scared to believe it. She raised her left hand up and looked at it. Her blood-stained pink gloves were still on her hand, but the arm was steady. There were no tremmors, no pangs of pain, no nausea. Her hand fell. She glanced around and met two bored-looking purple irises. 

“You’re awake,” he said. Relia slumped on the bed and closed her eyes. “Are you pretending to go back to sleep?”

“…no,” Relia said awkwardly. 

“Hmm… I’m not sure if you remember, but you fainted. I brought you to the med center. I think they contacted your parents.”

“Thank you.”

They sat in silence, and Relia wished she had something to say, but her throat clogged up every time she attempted to speak. When she looked at him, the image of the boy in her dreams overlaid with his face, and she was overcome by guilt. How could she have forgotten Rion? She felt chills run down her spine, up until they moved. He was her closest – and only – friend. So many things in her life stemmed from him, and yet she forgot him when all he wanted was to be remembered. 

The logical part of her mind understood that things like this happened. She was eight. She could hardly remember anything from that time, and if she’d never made the promise, it wouldn’t have affected her life. Even if she remembered him, it would have been a childhood memory to look back on with fondness once in a while. But now, it was all wrapped in pain and broken promises.

“I forgot about you, Rion,” she finally said, staring at the wall, then held her breath.

“I know,” he said softly. Then after a moment, he added. “I wish I had forgotten about you too.”

Relia’s heart ached. The physical pain from her crest had stopped, but now a knife sharpened with guilt and remorse was ripping through her heart. Her eyes watered. All this time, she’d never thought about what she would do if she met the boy from her dreams. She just wanted her pain to end and never considered who he was or had become or why he wanted to be remembered so badly.

“I’m sorry.”

He grunted and stayed silent. Relia sat up and looked at him. He reclined on the chair with his head tilted back. His pink hair fell around his head, much longer than it was when he was a child. His eyes seemed deeper, more tired, though not as sad. He was taller than her and lean, almost skinny. His left hand was covered in a black glove that went up to his elbow. As she studied him, he studied her as well.

He smiled, and her breath caught. “You look terrible.” He said bluntly.

Relia scoffed. “Yeh, thanks. You look great.”

“I know,” he smirked.

“You grew up to become an asshole?”

“All thanks to you.”

“I…” Relia bowed her head.

“I’m joking, Relia… I won’t lie. I did feel betrayed for a long time, but even still, I wouldn’t have wanted you to suffer like this.” He sighed and rubbed his face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to make a promise like that.”

“We were just kids.”


Another stretch of silence, but this time more comfortable. It was strange how despite all the years since she’d last seen him, and the fact that she only just remembered him, there was an easy familiarity between them, and she felt comforted by his presence.

“I moved almost a year ago. Standard year.” He made a sound of acknowledgment, and Relia continued. “I was cleaning up my stuff and saw the piece of tree bark. I couldn’t understand where a random piece of bark came from, so I threw it away. I think that triggered the promise.”

“Bark?… Ah!” his eyes widened. “Our monument.” 

“Yeh,” Relia said, then started laughing almost hysterically. “I threw out our monument.” She sighed, and her body sagged in exhaustion.

“Maybe you should lie down.”

“I’m fine. This is honestly the best I’ve felt in months.” She thought she saw a flash of guilt on his face, but it was quickly replaced with that bored look she was getting used to.

“Was it really bad?” he asked, in a voice void of emotion.

“Yeh. I was starting to consider stasis or euthanization.”

His eyebrows rose sharply. “Well, I’m glad that won’t have to happen. It would suck if you had to die right after we met again.”

Relia smirked. “Are you glad to meet me again?”

“That is yet to be determined,” he said, looking away.

Relia smiled and laid back down on the bed. “Hey, I’m going to go back to sleep. Please don’t leave, even if my parents get here.”

“Do you think I have nothing else to do?”


“Why am I the one always waiting for you?” he mumbled, still looking away from her.

Relia’s mind sank into unconsciousness, but before she fully passed out, she felt a warm grip on her ungloved right hand.


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