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"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." ~Albert Camus


[Chapter 25]

Hal balanced the chisel delicately between his fingers, sensing the subtle shifting of its weight as he adjusted to the perfect angle. With a patient but firm tap, he hammered the end with his mallet and chipped away the last few fragments of stone. A quick burst of air from his lips pushed aside the dust and laid bare the final cut of the “L”. He sighed in satisfaction as he used his fingers to trace out the letter and verify that indeed, all was as he imagined it.

After months stuck inside the hospital, getting outside was quite literally a breath of fresh air. The cool evening wind had a humid weight that lent a calm silence to his solemn task. Saying goodbye was never easy, but at least this time Hal could do it on his own terms.

He moved his hand over all the letters in turn, examining the sum total of his long efforts: 'MARCUS ANDREI ADHIL'. His brother's tombstone was finally complete.

“Hey.” Miri's voice emerged from behind his shoulder, and Hal instinctively looked up, even though he couldn't see her.

“Hey Miri.”

Hal let a long exhale escape his lungs as he allowed his fingers to dwell on the cold stone surface. Marcus' body was long since disposed of by the authorities, but after a great deal of argument, he won the time to craft a marker for Marcus and Vanir, here in the Calypsa cemetery. The new headstones rested near the older ones for the rest of Hal's family, and through supervised visits, Hal had been able to carve the new names into place himself. It seemed only fitting that he should be the one to memorialize the lives that ended by his hand.

“I think it's really nice of you to make these for them.” Miri offered her encouragement with a sober tone. A warm hand rested gently on his shoulder. “You did a good job, Hal.”

“Thanks.” Hal smiled wistfully, letting the bittersweet moment sink in now that his task was done. Miri must have sensed something in his tone, because she offered a question that drifted through the air over his shoulder.

“Are you sad about what happened?”

Hal chuckled lightly in response. “I don't know. A little I guess, but...” He struggled for a few moments to find the right words. “It's hard to explain. Despite all that happened, and all that he did... I think I finally realize that I still loved him, Miri.” Hal let his fingers linger on the last letter for just a few more moments before releasing his touch. “Marcus may have been misguided in his methods, and he might have let too much hate spill into his heart over the years, but you know, he never stopped fighting. He never stopped fighting until the very end.”

Miri's hand gripped Hal a bit tighter, giving him a soft gesture of comfort. “He saw the city for everything that it denied us, and he raged against it. He wouldn't accept anything less than true freedom. I can't help but love him for that.” Hal placed his hand on the earth beneath him, soaking in its cool and fortifying touch. “I only hope that now he has found the peace he so desperately fought for his whole life.”

“I think he did.” Miri's voice spoke confidently. From the way the sound shifted ever so slightly, Hal imagined she must have been nodding as she said so.

“Yeah.” Hal agreed. “Maybe we all did.” He stretched one hand out to the space at his side, and Miri was quick to grab it firmly and help Hal back up from his crouch. He grunted at the effort, but soon found his shaky balance beneath him with a few steady breaths.

From the pace the air had been dropping in temperature, it felt like it was nearly sundown. Most people would find it hard to see or work in the dark, but Hal was surprised how quickly he adjusted to using his other senses to navigate the world. In a way, the world had grown larger, not smaller, after his struggles and injuries. He could hear subtle sounds from across a large room. He could feel the slightest changes of texture with his touch. In fact, it often seemed that because he couldn't anticipate his surroundings beyond his direct experiences, that every moment had a hidden delight that surprised him.

Right now, that pleasure was the sound of the first insect of the night chirping to life. It sat somewhere in the grass beyond, alone, calling out in the hopes that someone might find it. That tiny creature had no idea that Hal could hear its cries. Perhaps, it felt like it was entirely alone. Perhaps, it would never know that Hal was actually right here, keeping it company. Still, it continued to sing, and Hal continued to listen.

What a beautiful sound. What a delicate little moment they shared.

“It really is a nice night, tonight.” Hal smiled, speaking out to no one in particular.

Miri slid closer to him, helping steady his body. “You're right. The stars are staring to come out. The sky is really clear right now.”

Hal laughed a bit, letting the warmth of that emotion run its full course.

“What's so funny?” Miri didn't understand why Hal was laughing at the sky.

“Haha, well, I was just thinking.” Hal pulled Miri closer and gave her an affectionate hug. “In spite of all the troubles in my life. All the pain I had to endure. All the things that happened to my family, to Marcus, to us...” Hal shook his head. “Everything. It all led me here. This place. This moment. This next fresh breath of air.”

Hal inhaled a deep breath and held it long before slowly letting it leak back into the world. “It's not so bad, is it?”

“No.” Miri nodded, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder. “I suppose it isn't that bad at all.” She laughed a little herself, maybe understanding a bit by what Hal meant. “It's not what I expected, but I guess that's just how life goes sometimes.”

A new voice interrupted them both from somewhere behind. “I'm sorry, Mister Adhil. Miss Rodgers.” It was a familiar voice by now, after being under guard for so many months. “It's time to go. The Lieutenant is waiting in the groundcar.”

“Thank you, Nik. You have good timing. I think we're all done here.” Miri responded with a chuckle, helping turn Hal around and guide him back down the path the arrived on.

The soldier's voice, still cracking slightly with the awkwardness of youth, sounded relieved. “Good. I hoped I wouldn't have to interrupt you before it arrived.” Hal couldn't see the gesture, but he knew the recruit was waving the two of them along. “This way.”

With Miri's help, Hal was able to work his way down the shallow hill with only a slightly halting limp. It was likely that they would never set foot in that cemetery again, now that the day of their discharge had officially arrived. That was just fine though. Cemeteries weren't places one should linger for long.

“What took you so long?” Another new voice, this one mature and commanding welcomed them to the base of the hill with the distinct edge of annoyance coloring his words.

“Why so impatient, Lieutenant?” Hal smirked. “Did you get passed over for promotion again while I was limping out of the cemetery?”

“Fuck you, Adhil.”

“Good to see you too, Ronald.”

“Just get in the damned groundcar. The sooner I can finally be rid of you, the sooner I can get back to doing real work.” The leader of their guard detail was as cheerful as always. As much as some things always changed, other things always stayed the same.

Miri stepped in first, before helping pull Hal up into the passenger compartment. He nearly hit his head on the ceiling, but her experienced and steady touch held him low enough to clear it with just a little room to spare. After they both took their seats, Hal felt the entire carriage shake from side to side as Nik clambered in to take a seat across from them. A heavy metallic thud told Hal that the trooper's rifle, a mere formality at this point, was laid to rest against the other wall of the compartment.

“It's going to be a long ride, sir.” Nik's softer voice seemed ill-fitting for his large frame and the profession he chose. “You should probably get comfortable.”

“Damn it, Private!” The Lieutenant clambered into the front of the groundcar with a huff, clattering the reigns of the Manekale beast that was waiting to pull them onward. “How many times do I have to tell you? Stop talking to the fucking prisoners! We pay you to be their guard, not their friend!”

“Sorry, sir.”

A violent lurch spurred the groundcar into motion, and just like that, they were on their way. Nik dutifully fell silent, though not without indulging in a small sigh of frustration. Hal felt for the kid, but somehow he had a feeling that Private Hobbes here would get through life just fine.

The groundcar clattered and creaked as they trotted through the streets of Anduruna one last time. The sounds of the city outside were muffled and muted when heard through armored walls. Already the places Hal knew seemed like they were becoming memories, fading quietly into his past. The day didn't end with a climax or a dramatic finish. There was no bold underline marking the transition from citizen to banished wanderer. There was just the soothing rocking of the compartment where he rested.

The echo of hooves bounced back through the walls for a few moments, telling Hal that they must have been passing underneath one of the entrances of the perimeter wall. He leaned his head against the carriage wall and felt the small tremors pass through his body for only a moment, before the tunnel gave way once again to open ground. The sunset was probably behind the Starfall mountains right now, giving them a sharp, dark outline in front of a golden sky. He couldn't look out a window and see the sight for himself, but Hal still had a clear picture in his mind.

Miri's fingers snaked around his own, sliding into place with a soft, affectionate touch. She didn't say anything, but Hal knew that this was as just a big moment for her as it was for him. Perhaps even moreso. He returned her grasp with a firm squeeze of support, and she slid closer to rest her head against his shoulder. They each settled in for the long trip by resting together, sharing body heat and the cadence of breathing.

At some point, whether it was seconds or hours later, Hal drifted off to sleep. What his destination was, when they would reach it, and what he was going to do once they got there, was a mystery to him. The soldiers never bothered to tell him, and in all honesty, it's not like if they gave him any particular answer he would care at all. Hal slept soundly with Miri beside him, and the passage of time was lost for a while.

The groundcar rocked a bit, waking Hal from his quickly forgotten dreams. Nothing in his world had changed from before he slept, and he was entirely unsure of the time until Lieutenant Ronald banged his fist on the wall from the driver's compartment up front. “Private! Prisoners! Wake up!” Ronald's voice echoed faintly through the steel. “We're here!”

Miri stirred, lifting her head from where it rested alongside Hal. “Good morning to you too...”

Nikolas' armor clattered a bit as he shuffled to life, likely just as asleep as everyone else before the Lieutenant interrupted things. Metal dragged across wood as the rifle ended up back in his hands. A cough failed to conceal the sleepy sound of the soldier's yawn. “Looks like we made it. This way sirs.”

The car lurched again as Nik stepped out, and Miri gently guided Hal up from his seat and through the door down onto the waiting earth beyond. His feet were standing on mixed clumps of dirt and grass, and the air felt invigorating with the weight of unevaporated dew.

“Where are we?” Miri asked, as her sound slowly paced around the area.

“That's not for me to share.” The Lieutenant seemed to derive some cruel satisfaction from not filling them in. They could be anywhere, but Hal had to guess they were somewhere out near the Eridu delta, since he wasn't standing on a mountain or in a desert. There were worse places to end up.

“Halcyon Adhil. Miriel Rodgers.” The Lieutenant's voice took on an overly official bearing. "You are hereby discharged from your custody. If you ever return to Anduruna again, your lives will be forfeit.” Hal pictured the Lieutenant smiling as he gave the address. “Do you understand?”

Hal couldn't help but laugh quietly to himself at the whole affair. “Sure. Yeah. Go on home, Lieutenant.”

“Hmph.” Hal heard the manekale attached to the groundcar shuffle a bit, clattering it's harness. “Come on, Hobbes. We're outta here.”

Nik stepped close offering them a more sincere goodbye. “Take care of yourselves, sirs. I don't think we'll have the opportunity to meet again.”

Hal stretched one hand out towards the sound of the voice, and he was pleased that the gesture was returned with a full handshake. “You might be right, Private. Take care of yourself as well. Don't let the jackal over there boss you around too much. He's all bark and no bite.”  

Miri laughed a bit and offered her own warm words. “I appreciate all the company you gave us, Nikolas. I won't forget you.”

“Thank you ma'am.”

“Private!” Nik's grunt of amusement was quickly drowned out by more orders. “How many times do I have to tell you! Get back in the groundcar before I personally kick the living shit out of you!”

“Coming, sir.” The faintest twinges of disrespect eked their way into the final word.

Heavy bootsteps crunched the grass behind them before clambering up into the vehicle and disappearing behind the heavy thud of a door being closed. It didn't take long for the groundcar to march away, towed by the powerful gait of the animal that pulled it. The sound of those wheels creaking and rolling slowly faded to silence, and soon both Hal and Miri found themselves entirely alone.

They stood together, holding hands for a quiet moment before curiosity got the better of Hal. “So, where are we, Miri?”

“Um...” Miri's weight and sound shifted around, as if she was giving the area a full survey. “It looks like were a long way from the city. I can't even see the tower from here. Lots of fallow pasture and gently rolling hills.”

Hal nodded. “Is there a hill nearby we can walk to?”

“Yeah.” Miri's hand started to pull Hal in one direction. “This way.”

They marched through untrimmed grass for a few minutes, climbing a gentle slope to reach the nearest peak. As Hal reached the crest of the hill, he felt the air grow a little bit warmer. Warming rays of sunlight were starting to kiss the surroundings, and he could predict Miri's words before she even spoke them.

“Oh spirits!” Miri was taken aback by the sight she laid eyes on. “The sunrise...” Her fingers squeezed Hal's own with more intensity. “We're close to the ocean. The light is reflecting off the water. Millions of sparkles. Just like the snow.” Hal knew that she was smiling brightly, just like the sunrise. “It's so beautiful.”

“I know.”

Miri shifted her weight, turning towards him. “But... you can't even see...” Her words trailed off, too late to hide her disbelieving tone.

Hal laughed a bit and let go of Miri's hand. Reaching up, he felt his fingers brush against the gauze bandages that was wrapped around his eyes. He took a few seconds to feel out the knot that held them in place, but it didn't take long before it was loosened and eventually released by his careful work. Hal pulled the bandages away and felt the sunlight and the wind wash over his whole face for the first time. The air felt sharp and fresh as it touched his raw and scarred flesh, but there was no pain. Hal's grip loosened, allowing a short gust of wind to pull the gauze completely free from his possession. The fabric drifted away with the current, carried off to places unknown.

It took an extraordinary amount of effort, but eventually Hal was able to force his cracked and broken eyelids to open, revealing the hazy eyes that had been waiting underneath for so very long. With his eyes open, Hal couldn't see again like he used to, but the world did seem to get just a little bit brighter. Miri didn't recoil or gasp in surprise at his appearance, but instead she waited patiently for the answer he had yet to give her.

“Hey Miri.”

“Yes Hal?” She chuckled a bit at the reversal of the ordinary.

“Would you like to know what the sunrise really looks like?” Hal opened his hand again, waiting for her to take it.

Her fingers warmly wrapped back around his own. “Okay.”

With the troopers gone, there was no one left to stop them from sharing the moment as it was meant to be shared. Miri activated her power, and all of a sudden the image of the sunrise as she saw it was what Hal saw as well. Her heartbeat was superimposed upon his own. Indeed, the sunrise was just now cresting over the ocean that sat a mere mile away, and orange flashes of light reflected gently across the shifting surface. Hal smiled at the sight.

“Are you ready?”

Miri nodded.

Hal grinned, and activated his own power. With their senses now linked, the orange sunrise that drifted gently above the horizon, finally became what it always was.  

An explosion of color poured forth, reflecting off of everything in creation. Prismatic hues that had no names scorched the morning itself, welcoming it with brilliance. Shades of red, orange, purple and gold bounced off of the water and bent the air. The sky beyond the horizon became deeper, wider, and full of shimmering life. The weight of glory buckled Miri's knees, and suddenly it was Hal who supported her as she took in the true majesty of life for the very first time.

“Oh... Hal...” Her voice was breathless, and the vision of the world blurred as tears welled in her eyes. “Is this...” Her voice caught, and she swallowed, blinking away tears. “Is this what you see?”

“Every morning.”

She sobbed happily, absorbing the warmth of that sunrise alongside him. “It's the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.”

Hal laughed deeply, letting that celebration carry out into the wind. “Well, I think you're in luck, Miri. Tomorrow there will be another sunrise, just like this one.”

“Haha!” Miri laughed as well. Something was different about this one, though. It had a weight to it. A wholeness. It wasn't a 'laugh at Hal's joke' type of laugh. It was more. It was the laugh that Miri always wanted to have, but could never unleash until now. The laugh that celebrated life itself. “I think I'd like to see that one too.”

Hal saw himself through her eyes as he angled his face down towards her and grinned. “We can see the entire world together, Miri. That is... if you'll be my eyes.”

Miri pretended to give the proposition serious consideration. “Hmmm...” The hum turned into a wide smile. “I'll be yours if you'll be mine.”

Hal nodded. “It's a deal.”

Miri punched Hal playfully. “That's the best line you got? 'It's a deal'? You could have said something really romantic instead of really lame.”

“Haha, sorry.” Hal scratched at the edge of one eye. “I'll work on that.”

“You better.”

Miri leaned forward to give him a light kiss. They watched the sunrise together for a long time after that, sharing a warm embrace. Once the beautiful sphere of fire cleared the horizon completely, Miri spoke up. “So... where do we go from here?”

Hal shook his head, chuckling a little. “I'm not really sure.”

“Me either.”

“Well, I'm glad we're in agreement.”

They shared another laugh together before Miri held Hal tighter. “I'm a little scared about what happens next. I've never been this far from the city before.”

Hal returned the hug, giving Miri some reassurance. “Truth be told, Miri, I'm a little scared too. But you know what?”

Miri looked up, watching Hal smile down at her.

“Somehow, I get the feeling that everything will turn out okay.”

The Wayward Astronomer: Chapter 25
Ending credits: Shooting Star by Teddyloid feat. IA…

Ah, that road continuing forever, into the cosmos
That white light illuminating the darkness so it can twinkle in the sky
If you want to know where it's destination is, I'll tell you
Hold on tightly to that key to the future, and let's start our journey

(Ah, those nights I cried with all my heart)
Goodbye to the past
(Because you all were there for me)
I won't turn back anymore
Hand in hand, we'll run forever

One love - A big love
One heart - One heart
Bring forth your courage, look forward, and let's keep continuing on
One life - Let's seize
Once chance - This moment
Let's gather together that fragmented radiance

Oh, Oh, we can go anywhere
Oh, Oh, shining anywhere

I've realized it; 
That my worries are much much smaller than the stars
But I wonder, why were they this painful?
Entrust yourself to me, look up at the sky, and let's wait for the time

(Ah, those nights I cried with all my heart)
Without looking back
(Because you all were there for me)
I'm not afraid
Take a step forward, let's go everyone! Move forward!

One love - persisting with
One heart - my blazing wish
Let's not lose our way, and run through that stardust path
One life - Don't lose
One chance - Those things important to you
Let's gather together that fragmented radiance

Oh, Oh, we can go anywhere
Oh, Oh, shining anywhere

Speed up
Let's hitch a ride on a shooting star, oh oh
Entrust it all to me, let's leap into the future

One love - With a big love
One heart - One heart
Bring forth your courage, look forward, and let's keep continuing on
One life - This moment too
One chance - Won't lose to dreams
Believe in yourself and move straight ahead, writing your story
Oh, Oh, we can go anywhere
Oh, Oh, shining anywhere

(I know the song is in Japanese, but I hope everyone enjoys it. I literally found this song weeks ago as I was finishing the last chapter, and it's just perfect. The lyrics, the symbolism, the feel. It really moved me, and it goes to show how universal art can be.) 


We made it. We finally made it. I can't believe I came this far.

I thought I would feel nervous about writing this chapter. That it would have all this pressure behind it, but you know what? It wasn't hard. It was relaxing and calm, like talking to an old friend. I'm really happy that I made it this far, and I couldn't have done it without all of my readers and friends supporting me along the way. I have to give out a ton of special thanks to a ton of awesome people. 

Thanks to everyone who read my book and provided feedback along the way: :iconhazzardouseco: :icongpedde: :iconlunaroutcast: :iconezioauditore97: :iconbyakurai1313: :iconwatcherguy4: :iconartfullyinept: :icondarkspeeds: :icontreyva: :iconquad-pulsation: :iconartyomnikolikondrat: :iconiateademocrate1: :iconkrritkin: :iconscifann: :iconyarboots: :iconavolendi: :iconkoreviss: :iconzephyr-wind13:

Thanks to everyone who produced art for this story and helped bring my characters to life in ways I never could: :iconsw1tchbl4de: :iconbyakurai1313: :icondthrocket: :iconsuperflatpsychosis: :iconleithster: :iconusblynx: :icondarkspeeds: As well as Ben Martinez and SuperSorrel.

Thanks to David Lillie :icondreamkeepers: for creating the vibrant DreamKeepers universe that inspired me to create a story within that world.

Thanks to all my family and friends not on dA who have been reading and encouraging me along the way.

I'm sure there's so many more people I forgot to mention, but I really am very very grateful to you all for what you have done. Sometimes the little things help the most 


So what's next? To possibly misquote / misparaphrase Winston Churchill: "This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning"

I will be taking a fresh pass on all that has been written to polish my writing, add some detail and clarification, and clean everything up in preparation for publishing and retail-level distribution. I will be sharing my story with the world at large when it is ready, which should hopefully be a lot sooner than it took me to get here. Stay tuned for updates later in the year. Any feedback people want to offer on overall shortcomings that need to be addressed, send me a note and I'll definitely try to handle it.

After that, who knows? I love writing, so I'll probably begin a new project when I am ready.

I've spent just about as much time on this description as the chapter itself, so I'll call it here. Thanks again everyone. You're the best. 


The Wayward Astronomer is original fiction set in the DreamKeepers universe created by David Lillie :icondreamkeepers:

Other chapters can be found here:…
Hi everyone,

In the next couple of days I will be leaving my apartment in California and moving to Midland, Texas as part of my company's relocation. 

I'm not a native Californian. In fact, like most people at XCOR, I'm an import. I was born in Connecticut, grew up in Rhode Island, went to college in Florida, and I've spent the first 5 years of my professional career in California. Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about leaving. Over the past few years I've grown comfortable with the setting, and it's been great to visit amazing places like Yosemite, San Francisco, and San Diego. I've swam in the Pacific Ocean, climbed mountains, hiked trails, and motorcycled through canyons. I've found loves and lost loves. I've grown, physically, personally and professionally.

I won't miss the local politics or the drought, but I will cherish the memories I've made here. I will build new memories in my new home, and I will remember the events that brought me to where I am. 

Who knows how long I will call Texas my home, or where I will travel to next, but I am thankful for all the opportunities and blessings I have been given. While I'm reflecting on everything, I just want to give everyone here on dA my sincere thanks for sharing their work with me, for reading my story, and for helping make life great. I love you all. 


  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Shooting Star - Teddyloid feat. IA
  • Playing: Wasteland 2
  • Drinking: Blue Moon
[Chapter 24]

Is this what dying really feels like?

That question was the last thought to flow through Hal's mind, and it seemed stuck there in mid-stream,  unable to move forward. There was never any pearly gate, no flash of light or recanting of his sins. There was just the question. The single question that waited an eternity for an answer.


A sound broke through the haze of timelessness.


There it was again, and suddenly Hal realized he was having thoughts. Why was he thinking about having thoughts?


Hal tried to open his eyes, to wake up, but he only partially succeeded. There was nothing to see, but he was clearly awake. He was thinking about being awake and how odd this felt.


Something was covering his eyes, and yet even so they felt fused shut somehow. Slowly the cold truth of realization condensed in his mind. His eyes were covered by bandages. He was lying down. He was alive.



Hal wanted to cry, but he couldn't. Why was he alive? Was the universe just playing some great cosmic game of chicken with him? He had given his world everything, and yet it demanded still more. The call of life always asked him for more.

The beeping accelerated as he felt his heartbeat speed up. He was in a hospital bed. The air felt still and cool to his half-working nerves. He tried shifting his weight a little, but halted himself when he felt the tug of tubes sticking into his body. There were tubes in his arm. There were tubes in his stomach. There were tubes in his nose.  

He heard a sound like a gasp of surprise. Wherever he was, he wasn't the only person in the room. Hal heard footsteps shuffle from his right to his left and then hastened to even further beyond, leaving the room entirely.

So much for pleasant introductions.

Hal felt his tail begin to stir, and it slowly opened its four blood-red eyes. It was a strange feeling in that with his own eyes blinded, Hal for the first time remembered that he still had these ones. Their sight didn't manifest in his mind with clear images or even as the sensation of vision at all, but he suddenly had an intuitive feeling for his surroundings. He somehow understood that this room was longer than it was wide, and he shared this space with other beds cradling other unconscious patients. This room felt dim. This room felt tired. But most of all, this room felt forgotten.

He lay there alone with his thoughts for some time before the sound of footsteps returned. These new ones were sharp, and each footfall echoed through the halls with the sense of purpose. Before long the echo became a direct sound and the footsteps approached all the way to the front of his bed.

“Mister Adhil. You're awake.”

The voice was stern, female, and confident in the way that only experience could provide. It seemed to be waiting for his response, and only after a fair amount of delay did Hal speak up himself, testing his vocal chords.

“Um, good... morning?”

“Good morning indeed. I'm surprised you can speak.” Hal heard the sound of metal brushing against plastic and the faint flutter of paper as charts and diagnostics were consulted. “I don't think we expected you to wake up today, if ever at all. Tell me, how do you feel?”

Right to business then.

“Tired. Like I'm trying to wake up from a dream that I can't remember.” Hal offered the statements that he felt were best. After a few moments without a response, he hazarded a question. “Are you my doctor? Am I really alive?”

“The answer is yes, to both.” The clipboard clattered back into place at the end of the bed. “Forgive my abruptness, but it's not often that I get the opportunity to have these sorts of conversations. I'm Doctor Richter, and this is room 13B of Bergmann Memorial Hospital. Long term care.”

The footsteps moved closer to him. Hal could sense the faint pressure of fingers poking at buttons on his monitors. “Your blood pressure is a little high for someone who's been in a coma, but everything else looks normal.”

Hal's heart froze.

“Wait, I've been in a coma?” He dreaded the answer that was to come. “For how long?”

A minor sigh escaped the doctor's lips. “I'm afraid you've been asleep for quite some time. Let's see... about a year and a half.” Her voice lowered a bit. “It's pretty rare to have anyone wake up like this. Most of the time, it's just a waiting game until the plug is pulled.”

Hal tried to find some words, but they were slow in coming. So many thoughts were racing through his mind, it was difficult to settle on any one, but eventually enough laps had been completed to allow the most pressing one to rise to the fore. “Why am I still alive?”

“Don't you mean 'how am I still alive'?”

“Sure.” Hal shrugged, or tried to at least. His nervous system felt like it had been rebuilt out of molasses. Arguing semantics could come later.

The doctor took a moment to formulate her explanation before speaking. “Statistically, you should have been dead on arrival. Everyone's physiology is different, but the brain can only survive without oxygen for so long before the damage is irreversible. That amount of time is usually measured in minutes not hours. Conveniently, its distribution is described by a nice normal bell curve.” Dr. Richter's voice actually sounded annoyed. “You're the edge of the curve. Your life is an anomaly.”

Anomaly. That word was an unwelcome one. A word the doctor hesitated to even speak. No one ever knew how to handle anomalies.

“I've been writing a paper on your condition, but even I don't really understand it. From all appearances, you have very late-stage cancer that's spread to every single part of your body. But, for some reason it doesn't seem to be hurting anything.” Richter grumbled in dissatisfaction at her apparent lack of understanding. “It's the most widespread and comprehensive cellular mutation I've seen in a living body, and somehow it's benign. This collage of old cells and new cells... it's just what you are now.”

“That's good, isn't it?” Hal didn't understand why she sounded so disappointed.

“I suppose.”

Hal heard the sound of a pen clicking to life and the sharp scribble of notes on a clipboard. “Your mutated cells appear to use a different respiration cycle than normal, allowing for greater anaerobic energy production. I've been trying to nail down the specific chemistry, but all the cell samples I take die quickly when removed from the host. It's remarkably infuriating.”

Hal managed to tilt his head ever so slightly in a nod of understanding. It kinda made sense. He wouldn't have been able to wake up from being drowned if his cells couldn't some how get by without oxygen, even if that meant going dormant for a long time. After his mind finished absorbing the information, he offered a wry smile. “Sorry to be so inconvenient to you.”

“It can't be helped.” The pen clicked again and the clipboard clattered into place at the foot of his bed. The doctor sighed again. “Now that you're awake, I have to make some calls and take care of some paperwork. I know it sounds cliché, but you should just take it easy. We have an awful lot of difficult physical therapy to look forward to.” It sounded like the doctor was starting to walk away.

“Wait.” The footsteps halted in reaction to Hal's word. “What happened to Miri?”

“Miri?” The doctor sounded like she was thinking who that name was attached to. “Oh. Yes. The purple fox? She'll probably be dropping by soon.” Hal heard the faintest of chuckles. “She visits you almost every weekend.” Without another word, the footsteps left him and eventually faded into distant echoes down the hallway.

The news was such a shock to Hal, that he simply lay there, stunned, for what felt like another year and a half.

Miri was alive?

No way.

This had to be a dream.

No person could ever get that lucky. No life could ever be so blessed.

Could his?

Hal felt a familiar constricting sensation in his throat. He struggled against the inevitable pressure before finally giving way to a singular emotion that spilled out from his lungs.

The emotion wasn't relief. Relief is too transient. Relief is a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. When the heat fades, it fades as well.  

The emotion wasn't happiness. Happiness is warm, soft, and intangible. This feeling was strong, massive, and overwhelming, like a cresting wave, reaching, peaking, and ready to crash onto shore.

The emotion Hal felt... was Joy.

Joy surged forth from his heart, flowed through his lips and poured into the room, carried forward by the current of laughter. He laughed longer and harder than ever before, feeling the purity of those echoes reflect back and wash over him. For the first time in his life, Hal understood what laughter was always meant to be. Laughter, is the celebration of joy.

Hal laughed until his body was exhausted, and simply could not continue any longer. Even though he was blinded, the world felt brighter than it ever had before. It wasn't long before his world had become a lot busier as well. No Miri yet, but instead an army of medical assistants, perhaps drawn by his honest and vocal expressions of joy. There wouldn't be any of that here. This was a hospital.

Tests were run, samples were taken, interviews conducted. A lot of medical jargon and stern, disbelieving voices. What's two plus two? What year were you born? Do you feel dizzy? Nausea? Is it difficult to think of words? Describe what a square looks like. Apparently he was supposed to be brain dead, and the experts had a hard time accepting that he was not.

Amid the flurry, Hal learned more about his physical health. His muscles were atrophied from being in a bed for a long time. Between that and the old gunshot wounds, learning to walk was going to be difficult. Good thing he had some experience under his belt.

Both of his eyes were blinded. One had been smashed and one had been sliced, and neither one would be able to show him the world again. The bandages that covered them weren't really necessary for anything other than keeping people from being shocked by his appearance.

The scarring on his body was extensive. Bullet wounds, lacerations, blunt force trauma. Pristine and low mileage he was no longer. One young resident probably described it best when he remarked that  Hal looked 'pretty hardcore'. It wasn't an adjective Hal was accustomed to people applying to him, but it would do.

Somehow, none of these facts particularly worried Hal. What else could he do, but laugh at it all? He was alive. It wasn't a perfect life, not even close, but it was something. Maybe something was enough.

Eventually the nurses and doctors and residents finished their poking and prodding. They would be back, they promised, with more questions and more tests, but for now, Hal could relax in peace. His energy level was hardly up to the task of sustaining such attention. Simply laughing had drained him a good deal. The sound of the heart monitor was soothing, almost entrancing, and he flirted with unconsciousness in and out as time passed without being measured.

Eventually, the unmeasured future came to pass, and Hal felt the presence of someone else in the room. A warm hand gently placed itself on his own, and even without words, Hal knew who it belonged to.

“Hey Hal.”

Miri's soft voice crossed the space between them, sounding calm, but perhaps a bit sad. The quiet of the room told Hal that they were completely alone. It didn't seem like she knew that he was awake.

“Today's a special day for both of us, isn't it?”

Hal forced himself to remain still. He wanted to hear what she had to say without interrupting her. Hal honestly didn't even know what day it was, other than it was a weekend.

“I finished my thesis. If all goes well, I'll be 'Doctor Rodgers' soon.” The normally great news was delivered with a wistful tone. “Heh. Doctor. I don't know if that title even means anything to me anymore.”

Hal stopped himself from frowning at Miri's words. Her voice had a quality to it that he could feel but not quite place. The faintest trembling in her fingers telegraphed the subtle wavering that was soon to follow in her words.  

“You know, Hal, it's strange. I thought I'd be happy about this, but for some reason, the more things go back to normal, the more it feels like everything is wrong.”

Lost. That was the word Hal had been searching for. Miri's voice sounded lost.

“I always imagined that when I got to today, that Dr. Kincaid would be here to congratulate me. To tell me that I did a good job. He'd smile and say something about how I have a bright future ahead of me, and I think I would actually believe him.”

She drew in a long, hesitant breath, taking a few precious seconds to gather more strength.

“And I thought that you would be there too. That we would cross this line together. I pictured Dr. Kincaid saying the same thing to you, but you'd just smirk and make some joke about how I did all the real work. We'd all laugh and smile and everything would feel right. Like I was actually meant to live that moment.”

Miri sniffled a bit. “But that's not what happened today, is it?” Her voice became more strained. “Spirits, Hal... How many times have we had this conversation? This is so stupid.”

Hal almost spoke up, to comfort Miri, to let her know that he was still here. But something stopped him before he could start. Why did he suddenly feel afraid?

“I know you can't hear me. But I just wish...” Hal felt the dull sensation of a droplet of water falling onto his forearm. “Sometimes I just wish that I could go back in time and remember that I was happy once. Back when we could just watch the stars together, and talk about the wind and mountains and snowflakes.” Miri sniffled again, fighting against the strain in her throat.  “Now that today has finally arrived... I honestly don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do with my life. Every day just feels like I'm going through the motions. Have you ever felt like that?”

Hal heard her laugh bitterly at her own words. “Of course you haven't. Every day you had a new sky to look up at. I always wanted to know what that would feel like, if only for a moment.” Her hand squeezed his. “Everyone says that I need to move on. But they don't know what we've been through. The small moments we shared. What they meant to me. Not one person in the world understands who I am.”

Hal finally broke his silence, and his tail bobbed to life, angling over towards her. “I do.”

“Holy-!” Miri screamed in surprise and Hal heard the sound of a chair clattering to the floor. The faint tremor he felt through the ground meant that Miri fell too. Hal frowned, wondering if he was a little too cruel in surprising her like that.

“Miri? Are you ok?”

A fist responded with a firm punch to his side. “HAL!? You ASSHOLE! You're awake!!? Were you listening this entire time!?” Another fist landed home, even stronger than the last, followed by another.

“Ow. Sorry.” One jab struck him in the gut, close to where some tubes were. “OW! Hey! Don't mess up my happy tubes!”

“YOU'RE SUCH A JERK!” She sobbed freely, striking with one last punch to his side. The attack soon turned into a hug, and Miri embraced Hal tightly, crying into his shoulder. If Hal could cry he would too, but he settled for gently wrapping his free arm around her to return the gesture. They stayed like that for a long time, allowing the gravity of their improbable reunion to fully sink in.

“Hal. Oh Hal.” She spoke his name over and over, as if repetition would prove that that he wasn't an illusion. Her voice was muffled a bit from being pressed so close. “I thought you were in a coma! The doctors told me every time that there wasn't much chance you would ever wake up!”

“Yeah, well, I'm an anomaly apparently.” Hal smirked a bit at his own humor. “I thought you were dead.”

Miri pulled her head away for a moment, presumably to wipe at her eyes, as she struggled and mostly failed to compose herself. “I very nearly was.”

“Then how?” Hal only got a few words into his question before her head was resting close again.

“You have terrible aim.”

“I'm being serious.”

“So am I!” Miri jabbed him, much more gently this time. “The bullet hit me in the stomach, a few inches below my ribs. Right here.” Her fingers guided his hand along her side to a place where a patch of her fur was missing. Hal's fingers felt the odd, soft flesh of raw scar tissue. “It missed my vital organs. That said, I nearly bled to death in that church, but the medics were on the scene super-quick. A *lot* of medics.”

Hal grimaced as he remembered the final minutes of that encounter. To him it just happened yesterday, but Miri had a lot more time to recover and come to grips with the traumatic events. Unpleasant as it was, this was his opportunity to learn about the aftermath. “So... what happened?”

Miri sighed, closing her fingers around his, just like they had back then. “The troopers won, but, I don't think even a dozen people made it out of that room alive. So many bodies that used to be people just... everywhere. All over.” She tightened her grip a little. “Trooper ops always have paramedics on standby, and practically every single unit in the city was there to triage the casualties. It was all over the news for weeks.”

Hal felt her face nuzzle into his shoulder some more. “All it took was a few emergency blood transfusions, two surgeries, and way too much time in the hospital to get me back on my feet again. You know. Easy stuff compared to what you're used to.”

“Sounds like.”

Miri's voice was harder to hear with how her face was buried. “I thought I lost you, Hal. Are you sure this is real?”

Hal snorted. “Not at all. I'm probably hallucinating.”

“Is that so?” A little edge of mischief worked its way into Miri's words. He felt her head shift, moving up towards his to plant a kiss on his cheek.

“Ehhhh... still not convinced.”

A finger poked the side of his face. “Hmph. Nice try, but that's all you get. We're hardly alone.”

“Awww.” Hal pretended to be disappointed. “Hospital wards don't turn you on?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Well, there's one date idea out the window.”

The two of them laughed a bit at the joke, still trying to come to grips with the new reality they both earned. Hal didn't have enough energy to keep up the banter, which seemed to suit Miri just fine. They lay together in silence, enjoying each others company all the same.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to savor the moment for too long before more footsteps came down the hall. These ones sounded heavy. Boots marching in lockstep. Hal didn't need to hear the word to understand who was coming.

“Troopers.” Miri's voice sank low, and she pulled away from Hal to sit back down in the chair beside him.  

The loud boots entered the room, breaking the calm silence they had enjoyed. Some of the boots stopped there, but another pair continued on approaching them with a sharp sense of purpose. “Ah, Miss Rodgers. I didn't know you were here.” The new voice sounded imperious and overbearing.

“Prosecutor Graham.”

Apparently these two knew each other, and from the iciness of Miri's tone, it was not exactly a pleasant relationship.

“I need to speak to Mister Adhil.”

“Go right on ahead, but I'm not leaving the room, so don't even try to make me.”

The prosecutor sighed as if weighing whether or not to force the issue. He must have decided to let it be, because his next sentence addressed Hal directly. It was very formal and to the point. “Halcyon Adhil, I am here to inform you that you are under arrest for crimes against the city of Anduruna. The list of charges is rather extensive, I'm afraid.”

Hal grumbled. “Last I checked, I'm lying in this bed because I tried to help the city. What the hell am I being charged with?”

“Murder. Aiding and abetting a domestic terrorist. Power use. Illegal possession of a firearm. Many more items along that vein. Any one of them alone could put you away for a long time.” The voice seemed to take immense satisfaction in reciting Hal's so-called crimes. “You're in an awful lot of trouble.”

“Gee, I've never been in trouble with the cops before.” Hal quipped dryly, unable to hold back the snark.

“You don't seem to be taking this very seriously.”

“And you don't seem like a very pleasant person.”


Miri chastised his tone, but it was difficult for Hal to keep the edge out of his voice. He smiled a false smile towards the sound of the prosecutor. “Thanks for the friendly notice.  So, do I get to talk to a defense lawyer now?”

“Oh, no. Not at all.” The prosecutor laughed a little bit, and Hal decided that this gloating sound wasn't what laughter was supposed to be. “Your guilt was determined by the courts many months ago. Sentencing simply hasn't been carried out because of your medical condition.”

“What?” Despite his physical weakness, Hal felt a fire begin to burn inside of him. “That's not fair. A defendant is supposed to be able to confront his accusers. You can't just convict me while I'm in a coma.”

“Terrorists like you don't get the same rights afforded to normal citizens.”

“I'm not a terrorist!” Hal started coughing violently, and Miri's gentle but firm touch made sure he leaned back in bed, preventing him from overextending himself.

“It's true.” Miri spoke up for Hal. “Hal was the one who helped stop Marcus! He should be thanked for what he did, not condemned!”

“That's quite enough from you, Miriel. The only reason why we didn't banish you for powers violations is because you agreed to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution. But you've played that card already and it would only take one word from me to have you arrested as well.” Prosecutor Graham cleared his throat, clearly not afraid to throw his weight around as he pleased. “Just because the two of you may have done some admirable things does not erase the crimes committed. We are a city of law and order, and those who violate our laws will be punished accordingly.”

The sound of footsteps slowly paced in front of Hal, and he pictured the Prosecutor wearing a smug expression as he clasped his hands behind his back. “You have no idea how much of a shit-storm you created. How many good men lost their lives because of everything that happened. Our finest company of shock troopers was nearly obliterated in that confrontation, and we lost many more people in the weeks that followed as we hunted down the last remaining elements of your brother's little insurrection. Those soldiers will never be brought back to life, and someone has to answer for their deaths.”

Hal was not pleased with the way they were being treated. It was only due to exhaustion that he failed to raise his voice. “So I'm the last loose end, huh?”

“Indeed.” The prosecutor paused in his slow pacing. The directness of his voice seemed to address Hal directly, instead of reciting a monologue into the empty room. “Your brother is dead. Even if we had tried to save his life, it would have been too late. You stabbed him through the heart.” Hal frowned. “Every known associate of Marcus is either dead or in prison, and the meteor shards that we recovered are safely secured from the public and renegades like you. Rest assured, we won't allow any  more citizens to make the same mistakes you have.”

Mistake? Hal mentally shook his head. No. His life wasn't a mistake. The meteor wasn't a mistake. This petty man would never understand.

“So what are you going to do to him?” Miri asked the question she didn't want answered.

“Lucky for you it's an election year, and the Viscount is trying to project a softer image. Instead of execution, it will be easier for everyone if you merely disappear. Leave Anduruna and never return.”

“Banishment?” Hal struggled to untangle the knot of conflicting emotions that balled up inside his heart.

“Yes. It's the standard punishment for powers violations. Trust me, you're getting off a lot easier than I think you should. As soon as you're discharged from the hospital, your citizenship profile will be deleted, and all of your assets will be seized by the state. You will cease to exist. You will leave the city and you will not be permitted to return. If you do, the consequences will be... severe.”

“You can't do this to him!” Miri argued against the verdict. “After all he's sacrificed, you're just going to reject him?”

“Would you rather we shoot him instead?”

“This isn't right!”

“It doesn't matter. It's the law.” The prosecutor's voice had a finality to it that indicated the issue was no longer up for debate. “Now silence yourself, unless you want to suffer the same fate.”

“I won't!” Miri didn't relent. “If you're going to banish Hal, then you'll have to banish me too!”

“Calm yourself, Miss Rodgers.” Graham's voice became intensely cold and serious. “This isn't the sort of choice to be made lightly in the heat of passion. There is no undoing it once it's been done.”

“I told you my answer. I have nothing more to say to you, Mister Graham.”

“Miri, you don't have to-” Hal started to protest, but he was quickly cut short.

“Hal, shush.” Miri gave his hand a determined squeeze. “After all that we went through to find each other, I'm not letting you disappear again.”

“So be it.” The prosecutor grumbled to himself. “We don't need a dissenter like you causing trouble, anyways.”

“Wait.” Hal got the impression that the man was preparing to leave. “Before you go, I have one last question.”


“What date is it today?”

“Excuse me?” The prosecutor sounded peeved by Hal's mundane question.

“The date. Today. What is it?” Repeating the question only seemed to irritate the man more.

“It's April 15th.”

“Heh.” Hal felt the beginnings of another laugh stir in his soul, and he was unable to hold it back. Soon he was laughing in earnest, filling the room again with the sound of joy.

“And why do you find tax day so funny?”

“Haha.” Hal managed to slow his laugh long enough to speak. “It's not that. I don't think you'd understand. I'm just happy to be alive.”

“You awakened are all the same.” Graham's voice sounded bitter and spiteful. “You have no respect. This city is better off without you. You might be happy now, but when you're alone in the wilderness, cold, hungry, and lost, you'll wish you could come back.”

“Whatever.” A smile emerged on Hal's lips, undaunted by the warning. “Believe whatever you like. It doesn't change the way I feel.”

That seemed to bring an end to the conversation, and the footsteps of Prosecutor Graham stomped out of the room. As silence returned, Hal felt his body relax. The smile didn't go away. Happiness was not the normal reaction to a situation like this, but Hal decided that he just wasn't meant to be a normal person. He certainly was pretty bad at it.

Miri remained with Hal, letting her guard back down now that they were left alone. She laid her head next to his and snuggled close. For a long while, the two of them merely enjoyed the sensation of being together. Being alive. The beeping of his heart monitor reminded him every second that yes, he was here. Life was here. Love was here. He had everything he needed. Everything else, well, those were just minor details.

After a time, Hal finally recovered enough energy to speak. He almost didn't want to break the silence, it was so comfortable, but the words on his mind had to be spoken. “Thank you, Miri.”

“Mmmm?” Her muffled voice sounded like she had fallen half-asleep. “For what?”  

“You know. For staying with me. For everything. I don't know how I ever got so lucky.”

Miri nodded sleepily, brushing her cheek against Hal's shoulder. “I think we're both lucky.”

“I suppose that's true.”

“Mmm.” Miri placed a hand on his chest, lifting her head slightly.

“Hey Hal?”

“Yes Miri?”

She gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “Happy Birthday.”

[End Chapter 24]
The Wayward Astronomer: Chapter 24
Man, it feels amazing to be this close to the end. Only one more chapter to go! My chapters are definitely longer than what they used to be, as this one clocks in again at around 5000 words.

I hope that everyone enjoys the penultimate chapter, and that it gives us all something to look forward to. Through all the struggles and injustices we endure, sometimes it's great to just remember that you're alive, and life is beautiful. I can't wait to finish this story.


The Wayward Astronomer is original fiction set in the DreamKeepers universe created by David Lillie :icondreamkeepers:

Other chapters can be found here:…
TWA Character Sheet: Marcus Adhil by Kafelnikov
TWA Character Sheet: Marcus Adhil
This is the fourth and final "character sheet" of The Wayward Astronomer, created by :icondarkspeeds: 

Marcus is a main character of the story, and the twin brother of Hal. Despite their similarities, very rarely do the two brothers see eye to eye. 

Marcus' Theme Song:
Linkin Park - Lost in the Echo…

First Appearance: Chapter 11 

Major Arcana: XVI - The Tower
TWA Character Sheet: Hal Adhil by Kafelnikov
TWA Character Sheet: Hal Adhil
This is another fantastic character sheet commission completed by Elson Wong, aka Darkspeeds :icondarkspeeds: He gets a ton of credit for once again bringing a ton of life and visual detail to a character that I can only express through words.

Hal is the main character of my Dreamkeepers universe original story entitled "The Wayward Astronomer".

Hal's Theme Song:

Redlight King - Past the Gates…

First Appearance: Chapter 1 

Major Arcana: XII - The Hanged Man
Hi everyone,

In the next couple of days I will be leaving my apartment in California and moving to Midland, Texas as part of my company's relocation. 

I'm not a native Californian. In fact, like most people at XCOR, I'm an import. I was born in Connecticut, grew up in Rhode Island, went to college in Florida, and I've spent the first 5 years of my professional career in California. Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about leaving. Over the past few years I've grown comfortable with the setting, and it's been great to visit amazing places like Yosemite, San Francisco, and San Diego. I've swam in the Pacific Ocean, climbed mountains, hiked trails, and motorcycled through canyons. I've found loves and lost loves. I've grown, physically, personally and professionally.

I won't miss the local politics or the drought, but I will cherish the memories I've made here. I will build new memories in my new home, and I will remember the events that brought me to where I am. 

Who knows how long I will call Texas my home, or where I will travel to next, but I am thankful for all the opportunities and blessings I have been given. While I'm reflecting on everything, I just want to give everyone here on dA my sincere thanks for sharing their work with me, for reading my story, and for helping make life great. I love you all. 


  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Shooting Star - Teddyloid feat. IA
  • Playing: Wasteland 2
  • Drinking: Blue Moon

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VeTeRiLu Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist
Geo! Your story is getting printed :wow:

Congratulations!!!!! :hooray:
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner 1 day ago
Thanks so much VeTeRiLu! I hope the kickstarter is successful.
TenkoSama9 Featured By Owner 3 days ago
Thank you for the watch *bows* ^_^.
Faolan931 Featured By Owner 3 days ago
Thanks for the llama!
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner 3 days ago
No problem!
Ethereal-Harbinger Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for the cute:+llama:! We really appreciated it! We hope that you enjoy/like and comment our works. Happy Winter times! =) (Smile)
Kafelnikov Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2015
No problem. Your work is great and I look forward to seeing more of it. Happy new year!
Ethereal-Harbinger Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2016  Student Digital Artist
I'm happy you appreciate my work, I do look foward for your news awhile I keep making my work. =P
Hope you had a fantastic NEW YEAR! XD
Dutch-CannonFodder Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the points and thanks for the help with submitting my entry! :) (Smile) 
white-tigress-12158 Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2015
Thanks for the llama!
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