At two in the morning, there would be rain in Sakurai. It was an irrefutable fact, one that had been tested again and again by the Skyscraper’s single inhabitant; making discoveries not as a person but a myth.
However impressive, rooted beneath every one of Nova’s tedious observations was an inability to rest. Many a night came where sleep would never arrive for her, stepping out onto the balcony with a disappointed sigh. The last lights of apartments below powered off at around one-thirty (aside from the one that inexplicably always seemed to be lit), and from there the rain would soon follow.
It had become a dangerous sort of routine, standing out to watch the ever-so-loud city fall dull. The rain would fall until dawn, finding a silent aubade in the clearing of the skies. The city below would wake up, and the lights would flicker on. The day would go on, and the cycle would repeat.
It was routine, and there was nobody who followed it better than Nova.
Perhaps that was why she thought she knew exactly when Sakurai was crumbling to the ground.
If you asked any inhabitant of Sakurai what occurred at 2:00am on the eighth of December, all would have the same answer. Nothing. It was a unanimous answer, but a correct one; not a thing had happened then within the city. And that was exactly the problem.
Nova, arms crossed halfway over the balcony, glanced for the umpteenth time at her watch. Sighing, she flicked at the display, the unmoving watch face almost seeming to taunt her in return. 2:02. Clear skies. While Nova considered herself incredibly knowledgeable, the only thing she was confident in at the moment was the fact that something was about to go horribly wrong.
Briefly, she looked away, glancing back into the dimly-lit apartment she had grown to call something close to home. However, her peripheral vision barely caught sight of a bright light, snapping her head back quickly. She blinked a few times, checking that it was really there as her hands secured firmly around the balcony’s railing.
It was true that the skies in Sakurai had not fallen on the eighth of December. What had fallen, from all that could be seen, was closer to a meteor.
Cutting through the atmosphere like a knife, something was falling to the ground, whooshing of the air increasing in volume by the second. Speed accelerating it beyond any semblance of recognition, the blonde could do nothing but watch from behind the railing as its impact hit, crashing through her ears in a rushed attempt to cover them. Recoiling slightly from the noise, Nova scanned the surrounding area for any sign of a crater, heart beating through her own chest. Nothing ever happened at night , she thought. Not in Sakurai.
Nova spun around on her heel, barely stopping to grab her glasses off the C-table before throwing open her main door and barreling down the staircases, paying no mind to the apartment doors she knew were unoccupied. Halfway down, she stumbled and almost twisted her ankle, scanning for witnesses subconsciously before resuming with little more than a mental curse.
The thick, metallic door at the bottom was locked, hinge partially rusted over from what Nova assumed was time and disuse. The circular lock slid open with a firm tug of the dial. The blonde struggled to get the door frame itself open, scorning her own inability to leave the house more than twice a week before the handle gave way for a bit of moonlight to creep through. Pushing her foot against the barely-open door for support, she stepped through into the stone path.
The forest around the Skyscraper (While Sakurai had plenty of buildings, none were comparable to the giant found directly in its center, trees and stone footpaths outlining it like a city center) was thick, streetlights illuminating the six stone paths that led in every direction. Nova took a few deep breaths, attempting to regain her lost energy from running before hesitantly walking off towards the left. It had landed this direction, had it not?
Eyes narrowed and head upright, the teenager combed the paths with a fine-toothed comb, black flats clacking on the stone with every stride. Glancing between gaps of trees, the darkness made it difficult to see very far beyond the path. She glanced back at the darkened Skyscraper, checking her direction before tsking audibly. Rubbing her eyes with permanently-gloved hands, Nova half-doubted the last time she had even slept. If this has all been a hallucination, I’m going to have to congratulate my sleep-deprived self on her creativity. …Not to mention idiocy. However, when turning back towards the Skyscraper in a half-attempt to just return home, a faint set of footsteps made their way into hearing range, soon followed by voices.
“May I ask again why you dragged me out of bed for something so frivolous?” One voice asked, bleeding notes of sharpness like a horror movie piano.
“I’m telling you I heard something crash out here.” A second chorused in, much more diluted with what Nova could guess was exhaustion. Well, there went the hallucination theory.
“And so you couldn’t have just ignored it?”
The voices, conversating a bit more, drew closer, causing Nova to briefly panic. It’d be ridiculously suspicious to be seen at two in the morning around the Skyscraper, not when the building was believed to be empty. Getting herself into conversation with voices she’d never met before at this hour would only open up a set of questions that the blonde decided she would never be ready to answer. Besides, as she realized with an internal facepalm, she had left her notepad on the counter in her rush out the door, so there wouldn’t have been a way to respond anyways. If I could, I’d be jotting down tonight as the single worst experience I’ve had here.
Nova’s eyes darted left to right, and she could see the beam of a flashlight make its way into the distance. Without a second thought, she darted into the trees, weaving through just enough to watch from a distance.
“Very well. Allow me to prove to you that there’s nothing to be concerned about.” Two figures came into view, a woman holding a flashlight and a shorter man. The beam of light was moved around a bit, the pair coming closer.
“And you’re positive nobody’s unaccounted for? I don’t want to risk any injuries, Leah.” The shorter voice half-mumbled, stepping under the streetlight to reveal dirty-blonde hair. He was wearing a gray topcoat which seemed to be a few sizes larger than him, thrown over a green T-shirt in what Nova could only hope was a rushed decision and not an intentional fashion choice.
“While I can’t confirm things with 100 percent certainty, I have never received word of anyone being awake at this hour, let alone staying near this area. If you did hear a crash, I’d be willing to suspect that something fell over.” Leah stepped into the light as well, jet-black hair tied into thin box braids. Her own absence of a coat was blatant, but from her black dress pants and white collared shirt, it appeared as if she had attempted to throw on a proper outfit before leaving. Missing a tie, Nova thought, looking down at her own. “We can always check for everyone in the morning, Aviro.”
Aviro sighed a bit, but nodded and began to walk back the way the two had come. Nova, allowing herself to breathe properly for the first time in a few minutes, noted upon the pair’s exit that they were likely around the same age as her. Perhaps a year younger.
Leah lagged swiftly behind, speedwalking in an attempt to keep up as the flashlight’s beam swung back and forth from loose grip. The light occasionally rose high enough to gaze into the forest section directly across the path, and was there something reflecting off of the light? Nova waited until the footsteps came out of hearing (for safety, she’d insist) and then began stepping towards it, hesitant yet hurried. There was no time to waste, not when she knew people had woken up due to whatever this failed UFO was.
Arriving in view of the small crater, Nova leaned down to get a closer look. As she suspected, a metal object sat inside. Black gloves wiping off bits of debris, she picked it up to examine further, holding onto it with both hands. Resembling a concentric sphere, the thin, metallic-wired frame circled around a small metallic ball in the center. Upon closer inspection, the sphere itself seemed to pulsate with a small amount of energy from the center upon being touched. If enough force was placed onto this… Nova wasn’t sure what would happen, nor was she sure she wanted to.
Sighing, she turned back towards the building, placing the sphere in what could only be called an obnoxiously large overcoat pocket. She couldn’t use this, not without knowing what it did. She scoffed, sparing one more glance at the still-clear skies before continuing back home. It appeared Sakurai was still attempting to hide things.
And although she tried to keep her mind on the mysterious energy source, some part of her couldn’t shake away the sinking feeling that she was in serious danger.
It was perhaps the only time Nova Westbrook would ever regret being right.