Shouta’s rage carried him as he followed Yetunde. She kicked the horse hard in its side, causing it to cry out in protest and throw her off. She gasped as the wind was knocked out of her. She rolled onto her side, curling up into a ball. The grasses wooshed around her as Shouta almost ran over her. He turned around and picked her up by her shirt.
“How did you even know?” she gasped.
“I think that’s a bit too intimate to tell my estranged father about,” Shouta grumbled.
Yetunde chuckled then started to laugh hysterically. The grass started to move but no wind blew. They were suddenly surrounded by a group of gun-toting DOGs. Shouta threw Yetunde in the air. Bullets sprayed in Shouta’s direction from all sides, but the glow of a force field protected him. Shouta snarled, waving his hand to the right, a black swirl of hands, evil laughter and cold pushing themselves at the DOGs. They fell backward, the swirls entering their bodies through the holes in their masks. They twitched and started firing on their own.
With a single breath, Shouta captured Yetunde before she fell to the ground. He took off in a sprint, throwing her body over his shoulder. Like weeds, more DOGs sprouted up in front of him. He waved his hand out front of him, tall clouds of black smoke engulfed them, pulling some of them into the ground, strangling others.
The simulation shifted. The grass, the sky all disappeared. Shouta stood in a black room holding Yetunde. The background came back in, the grass now a dry and barren field. The sky was orange with purple clouds. Yetunde’s body suddenly felt heavier than before. He set her down, staring at her face. She wasn’t breathing.
The simulation turned into an all-white room.
Shouta placed her hand on her cheek, squeezing her hand.
“Yetunde, I’m so sorry…”
A tear fell from his face to her’s. Muffled voices started to go off around him. He looked around, listening hard to what was being said. Some of them sounded familiar. A low but quick beeping nose started to come in as well. He looked back down at Yetunde and held her body close to him as it started to disappear.
The beeping noise was coming from the computer that they had gotten at the church. The tech they were using to get into the simulation was old and outdated and trying to match it with Shouta’s newer tech made it overheat and fry itself. It was fortunate that they were able to salvage parts of the simulation that wasn’t destroyed before the computer shut down.
The doctors and nurses hovered over Shouta’s body in his pod as his own machines were beeping off the charts. Moira and the team of assistants were huddled around a computer, trying to find bits of simulation that still existed.
Dana, Samara, and Ekundayo were sitting next to Yetunde’s pod, covered in blankets. Dana watched as everyone scooted around, moving bags of IV solution and getting cups of coffee ready. Zee was leaned up against the wall by Dekinai’s pod, talking to some men in suits.
“Thank you very much for this, sir. We did some digging and turns out Dekinai wasn’t even a big family name. He won a contest to live out here, but he made a living from being a fisherman. He was an orphan back on the mainland, he doesn’t have any family outside his son, who I’m sure probably doesn’t want to be associated with him now. We have a few men outside waiting to take him in when he wakes up,” one of the men said, shaking Zee’s hand.
“So, what about the people at the church?” Zee asked.
“Sir, I have no idea what you’re talking about. As far as we know, a group of good people stopped a white supremacy group from creating a foothold in our city and country. Have a great day.”
Yetunde groaned, her eyes trying to adjust to the brightness of the room. Samara looked up from her book, Ekundayo held put a straw in a cup of water and held it to her lips, Dana squeezed her hand. Yetunde pushed them away, struggling to sit up.
“The whole simulation is shutting down!” someone cried out. Yetunde blinked, looking over at Shouta’s pod.
“Well, we found him in an isolated part of the simulation. Everything looks like it’s collapsing in itself and he’s the center. He’s still in there. If we can get him out in the next… 10-15 minutes, he’ll be fine, but if he not… He actually dies this time,” Moira said, looking at Yetunde. Yetunde made her way to her feet, stumbling. Dana and Samara helped her to Shouta’s side. Yetunde stroked his face, his skin paper thin. She smiled a bit, tears rolling down her face.
“I want to go back and do everything differently…” she said to him. The doctors, nurses, and assistants cleared the space around Yetunde and Shouta. She held his hand softly, trying not to disturb his delicate hand.
Shouta’s eyes opened, but it was unnoticeable. They stared at nothing.
Yetunde sniffed, chuckling to herself.
“Remember when that dog we had ‘adopted’ for a day and it was just my neighbor’s dog? You were so mad and you only just started calling my place your own…”
Shouta looked up in the room, a large window opening up to him. He stared up at Yetunde’s face, watching her lips and her eyes.
“Yetunde,” he whispered. His body outside didn’t move. Her voice was muffled, but it started to clear up.
She sat there, staring at his hand.
“I never got over the fact that you pretty much dropped out of university to watch me eat Cheetos and take me to the movies. Ugh and we took forever before we became official. We were always so busy. Remember study group? Oh, man. Aside from that bump in the library that was the first time I actually looked at you. You were so handsome. I mean, you still are. Even if you look like One Punch Man,” she teased in between her tears.
Shouta smiled, sitting on the floor, just watching her talk. He studied her face; she had gotten thinner and her big afro was now just small stubble that grew from her head. It suited her, regardless, he thought. Her eyes still had that very serious shield up, but her smile would let it down.
The pod room suddenly got more frantic; something about the simulation deteriorating faster the closer it got to Shouta. Yetunde drowned it out as she kept talking to him. The room flickered, slowly dimming. As the simulation fell apart around him, he reached up toward her face.
With a beep, the simulation shut down.