Mia ran through the front door and her eyes started searching among the frozen people in the store. She looked up and down the aisles of movies and video games before she remembered something.
"Babes Riding Dragons… that was the movie..." she remembered as she turned a corner and her heart started racing when she saw her first boyfriend looking at the backs of movie cases. Without her having to say a word, he looked up at her and smiled.
"Back so soon? Did you forget something?" Elias said cheerfully as Mia did one of her famous tackling hugs.
"Of course! I did that on purpose so I could spend more time with you!" she joked.
"So… is this place weird enough for you?" Elias commented as he gestured towards all the frozen people.
"You can see these frozen people, too?" Mia asked.
"Yeah, I've been here long enough to figure it out. The people who are frozen are still alive."
Mia's fears were confirmed as she concluded that since she was not among the frozen, she had to have been dead.
"So, if you're not frozen, and I'm not frozen. Does that mean that I'm dead?"
Elias looked down at the ground, not sure how to answer that question.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me! There's so much more that I have to do in life!" Mia exclaimed, more angry than sad.
"Hey, I didn't say that you couldn't go back." Elias conceded.
"But I don't want to go back, either! I want to be here with you!"
Elias smiled and put his arm around his ex-girlfriend.
"I don't want you to leave, either. But as you said, you have so much more to do with your life."
"When you say it, you're just being corny!"
"It's the truth. But you can stay here a little longer if you wish."
Mia sighed and wrapped her arms around Elias again.
"So much has happened since you left, Elias."
"Did you know that you have a brother? I met him."
Mia then looked down at the thought that maybe this would be too much for Elias to process at the time.
"I knew about Lucas from an early age. Butch wasn't incredibly good at hiding his 'business trips'. He always kept a picture of Lucas in his wallet."
"It must be so hard knowing about him, especially since you never got to meet him." Mia said with a sad sigh.
"It's okay. I know that he's out there, and he knows that I love him very much. We know that we'll see each other again someday."
Mia smiled as Elias continued.
"You know, I'll always be there, even if you can't see me. I'm always there with you, Cameron, Kenton, and Lucas. I'll take care of you all, just like you all took care of me."
It was then that Mia realized what he meant. Everything made sense now. How did Kenton think to go searching for Cameron when he was kidnapped? What made Cameron go back to the Conner house when it was on fire?
"I love all of you and always will. Especially you." Elias said as he hugged her again. Mia looked around and realized that they were no longer standing in the aisle of the video store, but rather closer to the door.
"I guess it's time for me to go..." Mia said sadly. Elias nodded.
"Mia… one more thing. I never got a chance to say this but thank you for making the last few months of my life the happiest they've ever been. And thank you for continuing to be happy in your life."
Mia couldn't talk, but only gave a bittersweet nod.
"If you ever need me, you know where to find me." Elias said with a smile. Mia, tearing up again, gave another nod. With no further words to say, she turned around and walked out of the video store into a pure haze.
Her head started to feel a bit of pain and her throat became dry and sore almost at once. She started to make out the designs of a strange room that she was in. She looked around and realized that she was back in 2017 when she saw her now fifteen-year-old boyfriend looking back at her. His face perked up a bit when her eyes met his.
"Hi." Cameron said as he held her hand carefully to avoid disturbing the I.V. With a line in, Mia couldn't reply with anything but a nod.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
It was time for Sylvester to go back to California and start classes. With Mia resting back at the hospital, Cameron went with his cousin to the airport. Cameron looked down at his cousin, who was wearing a pair of sunglasses to cover up his blackened eye.
"Thanks for the sunglasses." Sylvester said as the two of them approached the point where they had to go their separate ways.
"You're welcome. I'm sorry that I did that to you." Cameron said, trying not to tear up from the guilt of hurting his cousin.
"It's okay. I would have done the same thing, if not worse."
"No, you wouldn't. You're too good of a kid to do anything like that.”
Sylvester couldn't believe what he was hearing. Without saying another word, Cameron grabbed his cousin and hugged him tight.
"I'm going to miss you, bro." Cameron quietly said.
"I'll miss you more!" Sylvester said, returning the hug as he started to feel the gravity of saying “goodbye.”
"Are you coming out here next summer? I, well, we would love it if you would."
"Maybe. I was thinking that maybe you'd come out to California and spend some more time with us. I have awesome friends who would love to meet you and Boobzilla… sorry." Sylvester said, trying to make an awkward joke.
"We'll see… we'll see. You better get going." Cameron replied. Sylvester smiled and took off for the gate. Cameron stood there in the airport and watched out the window as Sylvester's plane took off and disappeared over the horizon. With a smile and a sigh, he turned around and walked out of the airport.
Five Years Later: Tuesday, August 8, 2022
Life was starting to flow at a college campus in California. The summer was concluding, and the new students were wandering into their dormitories afraid of what the world would be like outside of their local high schools.
Sylvester Moore, now eighteen years old, walked into his dorm and looked around. He sighed at the blandness of the room and sat down his last bag before plopping down in a chair. With the rush of getting to college ending, he wanted to take some time to relax. He turned on the small TV mounted on the wall and rolled his eyes a bit as it defaulted to the campus information channel.
"Welcome, new students! Please make sure to take time to get familiar with the campus and be sure to take any tutorials for our online learning system. Please feel free to stop by the nursing center to get your flu shot. Remember, university policies require new students to be vaccinated against both meningitis and COVID."
After becoming bored from this, Sylvester scrolled around on the channels until something familiar caught his eye on a music channel.
"And coming up next is a musician with humble beginnings. Orson Frasier, who's latest album drops later this month is here with us!"
Sylvester did a double take as that summer crossed the five-year gap to come rushing back to him.
"So, I've heard that you've been taking a break from your album promotion for some family stuff?" the reporter said as Orson looked around a bit awkwardly.
"Yeah, as I'm sure people are aware, my little brother got married and I stuck around for that."
"Speaking of which, there's been some people who have been outspoken about your brother's wedding. What are your opinions on that?"
Orson rolled his eyes at the question that he was tired of answering repeatedly.
"Look, I know at my brother's got himself a keeper. I love him, well, both of them, very much and I'm happy as long as they are."
"Great answer!" the reporter said as the crowd applauded in support. When the noise died down, the reporter continued.
"So, what about you? Do you have someone in your love life?"
Orson crossed his arms and smirked.
"That's for me to know."
Sylvester, still cringing over his faux pas on that day, decided to turn the TV off and get out his phone to get caught up the social media feeds that he had been neglecting over the past few weeks. Seeing Orson on the news made him decide to look up his cousin and his friends.
The first thing he noticed was a familiar name in a news story that was being shared. He clicked on it and looked at the article.
"Today, Oregon restaurateur Charmaine Hayes announces the opening of her latest restaurant in Burbank, California. Her son, recent college graduate Kenton Hayes, will be running the restaurant."
Sylvester gave a small smile and flipped over to the next article in the feed.
"Birth Announcement: Cameron and Mia Elder welcome a baby boy! Elias William Elder was born in Astoria, Oregon at 3:27 PM on August 4. He weighs seven pounds and three ounces."
Although he spent some time in California, Sylvester went back to Oregon in 2019 to study culinary arts while in high school. Leaving the Elder household once and for all just a month prior, Sylvester chuckled a bit at the idea of Cameron getting rid of one “kid” and getting another to deal with. He looked down at the comments for the article to see some familiar names in the comments.
Lucas Elliott: I like the name!
Cameron Elder: Yeah, I just felt that it was right to honor the two missing people who were most important to my life. BTW, how did that college thing go? Sick of real college life yet?
Lucas Elliott: Yeah, I moved in this week. It feels weird being with the new freshmen.
Cameron Elder: You'll be fine. You take that ivy-league school by the horns and raise some hell!
Lucas Elliott: Thanks… I guess :)
Sylvester, completely sidetracked by the banter, smiled as he stood up and put the phone in his pocket. He opened the door to the communal area and stepped outside to explore the campus. He walked to the quad wondering how his story was going to continue, and that's when he saw something standing across the way.
"No..." Sylvester said to himself as he got closer. It had to be a hallucination caused by all these memories. But as he got closer, he knew that it wasn't. It all made sense, as this was a college close to his home.
"Maya!" he yelled out. The eighteen-year-old girl standing before him looked up and couldn't believe her eyes. Sylvester smiled and walked towards her.
Quiet Enlightenment is dedicated to those who were affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. This includes those who are or were infected, those two million (and counting) who are no longer with us, and the brave medical and essential workers of planet Earth who stared down the unknown as they worked to diagnose and treat the ill and keep us safe, healthy, and supplied.
Book Started: February 2014
First Draft of Book Finished: December 2017
Final Draft of Book Finished: March 2022
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Quiet Enlightenment: Universal Edition
Universal Edition, 2020 Edition, and Original Story (Euayfcialty Universe of Stories): Theodore Galison, DewBow Productions
The countless people who have supported DewBow Productions (and Subdermal Gazette) in all its incarnations over the past two decades.
Those who listened to me ramble about this story for the last seven years, and always told me to keep running with it.
The Misfits. You know who you are.
The characters of this story for being a second family for me to turn to during my darkest hours.
The residents of Oregon and Maine for keeping wonderful and informative websites to make research so much easier.
You, for reading this story.