"I'm not the Chosen One, there is no Cup," Joy smiled sunnily, dressed once more in her plainclothes, finally free of the nightmare she'd been living in.
"They told you that being the Chosen One had something to do with your birthday, right?"
This girl Fabian didn't recognize. Long, wavy golden hair, inquisitive eyes, and an unfamiliar American accent. When had he known an American?
"Yeah, the seventh of July," Joy answered.
The girl turned to him, eyes casting upwards sheepishly, face drawn in trepidation: "Mine's the seventh of July too."
Chosen One, Cup, seventh of July…it tugged at the back of his mind, like a magnet pulling him closer to a vision he'd never had before. It was on the tip of his tongue, yet somehow just out of reach. Think Fabian, think!
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star…"
The voice of an old woman crooned in his ear, echoing the common nursery rhyme in an eerie cadence. The star in the photo, marooned in the darkest part of space, unexplainable and foreign. Why was it there? It wasn't supposed to be, and Fabian had the oddest sensation that he wasn't supposed to be either. It was as if the universe was off by one coordinate, slightly shifted over from where it was meant to be.
"My Chosen One," he whispered, smiling at a faceless woman he couldn't place. Chosen…chosen for what?
"Fabian! Fabian, wake up!"
The violent shaking at his arm abruptly pulled him from his dream. He was standing in the middle of his living room, Joy beside him, looking at him as if he was crazy.
Fabian surveyed the room, completely confused as to how he ended up here and not in bed.
"You were sleepwalking, Fabes," Joy said, answering his unspoken question. "You've never done that before, are you okay?"
He placed a hand to his forehead, identifying a thick throbbing deep in his skull. "Fine, yeah. Weird dreams, that must've been what did it." Joy looked unconvinced. He placed a brief kiss on her forehead. "I'm fine, I promise."
"If you say so," she said skeptically, wrapping her dressing gown tighter around her small frame. "I'm going back to bed, and you should too." She yawned and padded back towards their bedroom, but Fabian stayed, trying to recall what had even happened in his dream. It was slipping through his fingers like water, and he resolved to not give it a second thought.
"So, you up for it? Little school reunion?" Eddie's voice drifted through the phone, buried somewhere under Fabian's messy pile of notes. He scrabbled around, trying to locate the infernal device.
"Yeah, yeah, Joy will love getting to see Patricia again," he called, hoping he was still on speakerphone.
Eddie snorted, the noise garbled by the poor connection. "More like she'll be glad to see someone that isn't me. I've been kinda driving her crazy the past few days."
"Oh?" Fabian asked distractedly, accidentally coming across a bar graph he'd lost two weeks ago in all his clutter.
"I keep sleepwalking, and she gets woken up every night at like 3am to me muttering in the middle of the kitchen. It's weird, I've never been a sleepwalker before, yet here we are."
At this Fabian paused. "…Sleepwalking?" he repeated. That was an odd coincidence, and were he less of a scientific man, he might even say it was related to his own sleep troubles.
"She keeps saying it's because I eat so much sugar right before bed, but what am I supposed to do—not eat a waffle ice cream sandwich at 10pm?"
"Mm-hmm," Fabian mumbled, completely missing the awkward silence that followed.
"…Well anyways, sounds like you're a little busy but I'll see you Saturday, yeah?' Eddie asked.
Fabian barely paid attention to their brief farewell as he contemplated what their shared sleepwalking could mean. Why were so many weird things combining all at once? What could any of that mean?
Why did things feel not normal at all?
Fabian hated parties.
They weren't quite old enough for grown-up dinner parties, but they also weren't young enough for harmless dance parties. Instead, the booze flowed freely, and as it did the ruckus grew louder. Fabian tried his best to melt into the corner table hidden from sight, hopefully preventing him from being approached by any of his tipsy colleagues. Sure, he was chuffed that the Anubis House residents had stayed in touch all these years, and sure, it was nice seeing so many of them still attached at the hip (there were Mick and Amber, still going strong, and Alfie and Willow conspiring by the bar), but he didn't feel the same spark of excitement he used to when the gang was back together. He felt…lonely, but that didn't make any sense. How could he feel so alone surrounded by all of his friends?
"What up wallflower," Eddie sighed, plopping into the seat beside him. "One might say you're being antisocial tonight."
"Just tired. Long work week and all," Fabian lied, sipping mournfully at his Guinness.
Eddie let it slide. They sat in companiable silence, the two former roommates staring out at the jubilee unfolding before them. Joy and Patricia were cackling on the dance floor, swinging each other around and even pulling poor Mara into their orbit. Amber showed off her sparkling engagement ring as Mick boasted about his blossoming football career, neither seeming to notice the blank disinterest on Jerome's face (soon luckily saved by Alfie pulling him off to take not-their-first shots of the evening).
"Hey, do you ever feel…" Eddie began, breaking the silence.
"Feel what?" Fabian asked, pulse quickening.
"I dunno, just as if something is…off? I guess? Not off, I mean, everything is normal…but like, not? You know?"
Despite Eddie's rambling, Fabian could place the exact feeling he was describing. His head felt that everything was right, but his heart knew something was wrong.
"You can see it, can't you?" Willow interrupted, and Fabian jumped slightly at her unexpected appearance. She always had the uncanny ability to apparate seemingly out of thin air.
"See what?" Eddie asked.
They all knew Willow was…eccentric. From moon baths to séances to that one time she read all their palms, everyone had the unspoken agreement to humor her craziness. It made her happy, and who needed more of a reason than that? But something about the look on her face now made Fabian pause in his skepticism. Her flamboyant persona was muted, and she looked more earnest than he's ever seen her.
"See it, you know?" She stared at them as if they should know what she meant. Rolling her eyes, she continued. "This reality…it's shifted. It's like there's a fuzziness around the edges that wasn't there before."
"A fuzziness?" Eddie scoffed, the usual edge in his tone somewhat softened—perhaps he sensed her sincerity too.
"It's like the whole universe has moved over a few centimeters."
Doubt reentered Fabian's mind. "Thanks for that, Willow" he sighed, mentally chastising himself for almost buying into her conspiracy theories.
"You can brush me off, but you know I'm right. You feel it too, more than the others. Something is different, I just don't know what." She turned and glided off in her usual dreamlike way, and Fabian watched her retreating back as he mulled over what she'd been saying. Could she have a point?
"Well, at least we know she's still the same," Eddie snorted, and the moment passed.
"Good seeing the fam, wasn't it?" Joy grinned, unzipping her party dress and kicking off her heels.
"Yeah, course," Fabian answered, loosening the tie around his neck.
"Amber and Mick looked happy," Joy said, an unspoken question in her eyes.
"I suppose so," he mused, watching as Joy peeled off her eveningwear and shifted into sweatpants. Not only was his odd encounter with Willow weighing on his mind, but he felt…disconnected from his life here. Just a week ago he'd been content to sit at his desk at the observatory and come home to Joy, and yet the icy chill of disinterest had crept up on him.
"Amber was saying she wants a summer wedding. You know, I've always been more of a fall wedding girl myself," Joy spoke nonchalantly as she brushed out her hair and wandered to the bathroom, but Fabian could tell she was itching for a deeper conversation. "It seems like everyone is settling down, doesn't it Fabes?"
Fabian leaned casually against the doorway to the bathroom as Joy peeled off her false eyelashes. "Settling down, huh?" he asked.
She shrugged, playing it cool. "I mean—I've got a good job, you've got a good job—I kind of feel like we're in a good place. Might be time to start thinking about…you know, marriage, family. The kind of things Amber and Mick, and Eddie and Patricia are thinking about."
Fabian couldn't place the feeling he felt. He wasn't scared, he'd thought about a future with Joy many times. And he wasn't unhappy. Joy made him feel…joy. So why did he freeze up at the concept of moving forward?
"Anyways, we should sleep. But think about it, yeah?" Joy asked. She stood to give him a peck on the cheek. "I love you Fabes."
He was fairly certain he loved her too.
Fabian was standing in the foyer of Anubis House, the sunlight glinting off the crystal chandelier, grandfather clock chiming, and everything restored exactly to how it had been back in his teens. So many memories here; this is where he'd grown into a man.
Smiling softly, he strode over the checkered floor down the hall where he had slept for four years, smelling the distinct scent of wood and vintage must. He remembered sneaking down this exact hall to meet Joy and Patricia and Mara upstairs, all gathered for a chick-flick marathon he tolerated for Joy's sake (but secretly enjoyed just a little). How different his life would've been without Anubis House; it had shaped the very fabric of his life.
"Fabian?" he heard from behind him. Startled, he turned to see Eddie racing down the stairs. "What are you doing in my dream?"
"Your dream?" Fabian scoffed. "This is my dream."
"Um, no," Eddie replied, meeting Fabian head-on in the hall. "I think I know when I'm in my own dream."
"Well, we can't exactly be sharing a dream, can we?" Fabian answered feebly, unease growing in his stomach as he felt rather than saw the sunlight curdle into shadows.
"Fear not, boys," a sultry voice called from the murky darkness under the stairs. "This isn't your dream at all."
The voice became a whisper in the wind, and from the depths of inky black stepped a woman. She was dressed in regalia from long ago, centuries ago. Her skin was ashy, pale and otherworldly.
"And who the hell are you?" Eddie's voice echoed. He sounded confident, but Fabian could hear the slight tremor in his words.
"I am Senkhara, forgotten ruler of Egypt, and we have much to discuss."