The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 8

Monday, August 7th, 5:20 PM

Sauk Centre, MN


Evan parked the Ram. “Okay. Let’s go in.” He first made sure to grab his hat, and the Taylor, minus the case, from the back seat. He and Freddy stepped out onto the parking lot and headed to the door. “You got that keycard?”

“I thought you had it,” Freddy said.

“Huh? What?”

Freddy laughed. “Kidding. I have it.”

“Ha-ha, very funny. Not.”

“Hey. No offense, but after surviving through that cry-fest, I need some sort of uplift.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ll try to control my emotions better.”

“Dude. You totally have to. You and Heidi depend upon it.”

“I know. And again, I’m sorry about all of this.”

“Dude, it’s all right.” Freddy patted him on the back briefly. “Just try to chill for now. We had a rough day.”

“True that.”

Once unlocking the door, they walked inside the room.

Evan went over to his bed and sat down on the edge nearest to the food and drink bureau. He began plucking a few chords on his Taylor.

“Man,” Freddy said, lying back on his bed, “I’m pretty full after eating at Taco Bell again.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Evan placed the guitar down on the bed. “Fred, really. I don’t get something. How could Syrrah have been a Christian, and religious, and ended up with the Causalitors?”

“Don’t totally get that too, man. She didn’t seem like a satanist or demon whatsoever. Weird.”

“Yeah. More than weird. It’s downright disturbing.”

Freddy sat up and looked at Evan. “So, dude. We heading back tomorrow morning? I mean, you feel you found out all you needed, about Syrrah?”

“Well. Honestly. I might want to check out some more people, who knew her. I don’t know. Or maybe not.”

“We could stay another day. Or maybe we could just go out tonight, maybe visit a few young people’s nightclubs, if they have them, just to mingle with the locals. No drinking.”

“That goes without saying.” Evan removed his iPhone from his pocket and looked at the screen. 5:24 PM. “Yeah. Maybe. But really, I’m downright spent at the moment. Was very, very emotionally draining spending time with Neraeh.”

“Exactly. Just like we discussed.”

Evan felt his phone buzz, for an incoming call. He looked at it. “Oh damn, Freddy. It’s Neraeh!”

“What? Answer it! Answer it!”

Nearly fumbling the phone out of his hand, trying to swipe the green answer icon, Evan finally succeeded. He held the phone to his ear. “Hello, Neraeh?”

“Evan. Yes, this is Neraeh. I was wondering. Could we maybe meet somewhere again, soon?”

“Well, sure. You could come to the motel room we’re staying at. Why, what’s wrong?”

“I…I have to tell you some things. I didn’t tell you everything, that I know. So, is that okay?”

“Neraeh. What did I tell you? I am here for you. Yes. You absolutely can come see us. We are staying at the Best Western, room one twenty-six. When will you be here?”

“In about ten to twenty minutes.”

“All right. Drive safe, and I’ll see you soon.”

She said good-bye, and he did too.

The time spent waiting for her to arrive seemed like forever. Evan played a few Ten Dissent tracks, but they mostly spoke about Neraeh. What hadn’t she told them? Did she need help with something? Seeing that they’re both bigger, football-playing guys, did she need help with a former boyfriend, like maybe even that Tate guy? Or was her father abusing her, due to stress from all the years dealing with Syrrah’s passing? Whatever it was, Evan centered it around what he had told her – if she ever needed anything, anything at all, he would be there for her. And he carved this in stone, permanently, within his mind, the more the waiting time for her passed by.

Twenty-five minutes came and went.

“I think I hear a car parking outside.” Freddy got off his bed and walked to the windows. He peeked through a small section separating the curtains. “She’s here.”

Evan stood up and rushed to the door. He opened it.

Neraeh arrived by the doorway, wearing denim shorts and a close-fitting, dark blue T-shirt. “Hey, Evan.”

“Neraeh. Please. Come in.”

When she had walked inside, Evan couldn’t help but continue to notice her appearance. Her blond hair, about shoulder length, was no longer tied back, like earlier. Her hair was mostly straight, with a few slight waves, and swirled and rested nicely upon her shoulders. He noticed mascara, some eye shadow, and possibly some other makeup around her face. Her body was her own, for certain, more fuller and shapelier than Syrrah’s. But no doubt about it. This woman was quite attractive.

And relief flowed through him that he was still only seeing her, Neraeh, not Syrrah.

She eyed the Taylor. “You play the guitar too?”

“Yes.” No point in keeping it hidden now. “Freddy and I are in a band.”

“We play mostly rock,” Freddy said, “but do covers, some electronic, rap, dubstep, other genres.”

“Oh wow,” she said. “What is your band’s name?”

“Ten Dissent,” Evan replied.

“Gosh. Football. Athletic. Plays guitar in a band. You guys keep impressing me.”

“And we sing too,” Evan said. “Both of us. Actually, all four of us do. And we could keep going here, but this is not important now. Please, tell me why you wanted to see us again?” He stared at her intently.

She blinked a few times, thinking. She stared toward the floor and then looked back up at Evan. “Is it all right if I sit down?”

“Of course, of course, Neraeh.” Evan backed out of her way. “Please. Sit down, wherever you would like.”

She walked over and sat down on Evan’s bed, facing toward the windows.

Evan stepped around until he sat directly across from her on Freddy’s bed, the approximate two and a half feet distance between both beds giving plenty of room. Freddy sat down on his bed too, but nearer to the pillows.

“Is everything okay?” Evan leaned forward. “Did your father get mad at you, or did someone else?”

“No, it is nothing like that.” She looked down at her lap and grasped her hands together. She smiled, and then gazed at Evan. “Actually, this is really, really hard to explain.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I don’t think you will believe me. No one ever really did before…well, except for Tate…a little, somewhat, but then he changed his mind.”

“Why do you think that?”

Her pretty eyes locked with his. “Remember how you said, you have some sort of supernatural connection to Syrrah?”

“Yes, of course.”

She sighed and turned away. “You won’t believe me. It is too unbelievable.” She stood up. “I should probably go. This was a mistake.”

Evan lunged forward and gently took hold of her left hand. “Neraeh. No. Stay.” She slowly lowered until sitting on the bed. He released her hand. “Listen. If I told you some of the things that I know, you probably wouldn’t believe me too. Just tell me. If it is about Syrrah, I want to know. I need to know.”

“Need to know?”

“Please, Neraeh, I would never ridicule or embarrass you.”

She nodded, and pouted slightly. “It is about Syrrah. And, if you could, please, I would rather you not tell anyone about this.” She looked at Freddy. “You too, Freddy.”

“I would not tell anyone,” Evan said determinedly, “unless local authorities needed to get involved, and you wanted me to help with this.”

“And they might, possibly.” She shook her head. “I don’t know, maybe.”

“Same with me,” Freddy said, “I wouldn’t tell, provided this isn’t terribly illegal or something.”

“Well, I don’t think it is, at least not with Syrrah. But I don’t know for sure.”

Evan took hold of her hand again. “Just tell us. You will probably feel much better letting another person or two know about this, to get it off your mind.”

Neraeh wrapped her fingers around Evan’s hand, holding firmly. She stared into his eyes. “Okay. I’ll tell you.” She released his hand and like previously, grasped her hands together on her lap. “The main reason I cried earlier, you see, is because I feel responsible for Syrrah’s death. It was most likely suicide, Evan.”

“Yes, I was aware of that. But why do you feel responsible?”

“I told her to go, that night, March twenty-fourth, a Friday. I always thought Syrrah was too prudish, too prim and proper. I was fifteen then. She was eighteen. I kept telling her she should go to a party, because she hardly went to any before. She was always doing homework, practicing her music, spending time with Tate, or doing housework for our parents, but never really doing anything fun, or adventurous. And I had been telling her this for a while. So, finally, unfortunately, that night, she went with some friends to Minneapolis. And I don’t know all the details, since I wasn’t there, but I think drugs and drinking were involved. Syrrah never really told me, about it, once she came back. Because, you see, something happened to her.”

“What do you mean?” Evan asked. “What happened?”

“Her friends said they went to this nightclub, you know, dancing, a band, in the outer edges of town, the suburbs, not downtown or anything. The place was packed, not much room in there, and people were sneaking in alcohol, or drugs, or doing it outside. Not a good scene. But then, this tractor trailer truck showed up, and parked close by. Was a really glitzed-up truck, colorfully lighted, some celebrity or celebrities owned it, so I heard. People in the club found out about it and went outside. Some were just checking it out, but then a few were allowed inside the trailer part, because apparently an intense party was going on in there, one of those traveling party rides. So, Syrrah wanted to check it out. Syrrah’s friends didn’t go in, but a few of them saw her go inside.”

“I have an uncomfortable feeling about his,” Freddy said quietly.

Neraeh glanced at him. “I know. You should. They said she was only in there for about twenty minutes, but when she came out…something had happened.”

“Like what?” Evan asked.

“Like she was behaving more intoxicated than before. And more cheerier, walking different than her friends had ever seen her walk before. She was moving her arms around above her head, sort of strange. Her friends figured she had taken a bad trip of some drug, or drank something she shouldn’t have. So, they put her in their car and left.” Neraeh sighed. “And, well, long story short, she never seemed the same after that.”

“That seems possible,” Evan said. “Even pot can be laced with something. Drinks could have been too.”

“Right.” She shook her head a moment. “But, over time, things weren’t making sense. I don’t think some toxic substance had changed her. I mean, I thought it was a physical issue, at first. But, not later. No. I think…she changed.”

An eerie feeling rattled, disturbed Evan’s innards. But he kept it hidden. “Can you give an example?”

“Like I told you earlier, we were raised in a Christian home.”

“Yes, me too,” Evan said.

“Not me,” Freddy said, “though I’ve changed since then. But go ahead. Tell us more.”

“For example, almost every night, at dinner, my dad would tell us Bible stories. He would make it fun, enjoyable. He has always been a good father. My mom, before she went in the nursing home, was a fun, nice mother too. But Syrrah, and me, we would kid around, say some silly or funny things while my dad told those stories, because he had told these same stories many times before. But my dad, he’s a good sport, and wouldn’t get upset, but would try to keep us listening, even joke around too.” Neraeh gazed down and then looked back at Evan. “But after Syrrah went to that party, she didn’t joke around anymore when he told those stories. Instead, she started really listening. I don’t know, something in her eyes, like she had never heard them before. Sure, it could be argued, like my parents said, that she really started taking notice because she knew she had done wrong, going to that party, being around those people. But, I don’t know, Evan. To me, it was like she had never heard them before.” 

His attention even more focused, Evan sat up straighter. “Anything else you can think of?”

“Oh, yes. That definitely is not all. It gets stranger. Tate said she was different, more aggressive toward him. She even flirted with other guys around him, something she never did before. She behaved differently toward me too, like arrogant, conceited even, not as nice, totally out of character for her. And she started eating steak and drinking lots of green tea drinks, and other foods she never liked before, though she wasn’t eating that much. She lost about ten pounds, and she was already rather thin. But also, are you guys familiar with Dana Zypher?”

Evan stared into her eyes more intensely. “Dana Zypher? Yeah. Why?”

“Wow,” Freddy said, before she responded. “That’s weird. Evan, me and the guys in our band were just discussing Dana, this past Thursday, after practice.”

“Yeah, that is weird,” Evan said, nodding.

“I’m sure you guys would discuss her, since she’s a well-known, popular artist.  Syrrah never really liked her or listened to her music. She liked a lot of older songs, you know, like Tom Petty, Journey, or eighties or nineties music. But Tate heard her listening to Dana Zypher’s music on Spotify. And so did I. Even more strange, she told me one time…” Neraeh stared down and shook her head. “Sent chills through my body. We were in her room together, back in our old house in the country. She was playing one of Dana’s songs, Hater of My Hated is My Friend, something so out of character for her. And then she looked me straight in the eye, devious-like, and told me…I wrote that song. I said what are you talking about? She asked, do you like it, do you like my song? All I could do is stare at her. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. The look in her eyes, like it really wasn’t her, someone else, someone evil, maybe. I’ll never forget that. But eventually, she laughed, and said don’t worry, I was just kidding.”

Attempting to make sense of her words, Evan recalled memories of the hull and recent events. “Did Syrrah pray much before? And then after, did she seem less religious, less Christian-like?”

“It was weird. Sometimes I caught her praying more, yet other times less. And she would ask me these questions, about the Bible, or our church, New Hope Baptist, things she should know already. But then other times, she acted like a devious, hostile person, unconcerned with our beliefs. She sort of fluctuated back and forth.”  

“You said it was like it really wasn’t her,” Freddy said. “So, did you question her? Could she recall things from your past that only you and her would know?”

“Mostly, she could. Some things she couldn’t recall, not precisely, but then again, I had trouble remembering all the details too. I wasn’t sure. Most people agreed with Tate, like even my dad, and our friends. Tate knew something was wrong, but he finally concluded that Syrrah got some bad drugs and her mind was altered, and she didn’t want to discuss it with him anyway, so he wasn’t even sure. She didn’t want to discuss it with me, too, unfortunately.” Neraeh sighed, and gazed on Evan. “So, I haven’t told anyone, except Tate. I didn’t want to upset their state of mind, their way of dealing with grief. But I believe, somehow…souls were switched, or are connected.”

Evan reached across to hold her hand again. “I sort of figured that.”

“Yeah,” Freddy said. “Me too.”

“And see, we are not judging you,” Evan said, “or ridiculing you.”

She wrapped both her hands around Evan’s one hand. “But, do you believe me?”

“Honestly, it is hard to believe, for certain.”

Neraeh released his hand and leaned back, until digging into her short’s pocket. She pulled out a white, folded paper and unfolded it. “I found this, a couple of months after Syrrah had passed. I tried to ignore it, since I convinced myself no one would believe me anyway. Until, about a year later, when I heard one of Dana’s new songs, Lane of Ardor. I went online and found the lyrics. They matched exactly.”

Freddy stood up and sat himself down next to Neraeh. “Can I see it? I’m really familiar with Dana’s songs. I can cross-check the lyrics.” 

She handed the paper to Freddy.

Freddy went ahead and typed in a search on his phone.

“Kind of weird,” she told Evan.

“What is?”

“I know she wrote that, because she used a particular blue marker pen, and the same paper, the same items we both used on the same desk. But, the handwriting is not her handwriting, Evan.” She reached into her other pocket and pulled out another folded paper. “See. Look at this.” She handed the paper to him.

He opened the paper. It was a grocery list, of food and personal items.

“Freddy, can I have that back, please?”

“Sure.” Freddy handed the lyric paper to Neraeh. “And by the way, the lyrics match exactly, like you said.”  

“I know, like I told you.” She gave the lyric paper to Evan.

He held both papers out to compare, being observant of the writing style. He noticed a minor difference here and there with some letters. “Yes, I do see a slight difference.” He handed both papers back to Neraeh. “But, here’s the thing. And not to degrade your theory, but if Dana truly was within Syrrah, and she wrote those lyrics while living in your home, then how could the real Dana, who, theoretically speaking, is actually Syrrah, be able to publish the song recently?”

“Believe me, I have thought about this,” Neraeh said. “And I’m not really sure, except that maybe Dana had already written those lyrics a while ago, on her computer, phone or some paper notepad, and if Syrrah is really Dana, now, she found those lyrics and decided to produce the song, something like that.”

“Did any of Syrrah’s friends ever find out who was in that celebrity party truck?” Evan asked.

Neraeh closed her eyes briefly. “No. They never did, and I wasn’t able to myself.”

Evan requested from Freddy his phone, and from Neraeh the lyrics paper. Once receiving them both he read and compared the lyrics. “Yes, I see. They are the same.” Memories surfaced, of being in the hull, and being moved down that hall of alien hybrids. And then that lab room. White. Frightening. Antiseptic. And then that room with the two side-by-side gurney structures, with otherworldly, transparent material and thin wire lights. How Syrrah appeared so sweet and kind in that news article detailing her accident, her death. And how the Savior wanted her to correct the wrong which she had done. All of it was making incredible, though disturbing sense. “On my God.” He placed Freddy’s phone and the paper on the bed and stood up.

He walked between the beds and headed toward the window.

“Dude, what’s wrong?” He could hear Freddy get off the bed.

Once by the window, Evan spread the curtains apart about ten inches. Warm, pleasant sunlight covered the vehicles and terrain outside, brightening the disturbing though enlightening thought process in his mind.

“Evan.” Neraeh was now standing near him, to his left. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He turned to her and smiled. “No, you haven’t.” He thought a moment. “Did you ever attend a Dana Zypher concert, and meet with her later?”

Her face drew a puzzled expression. “So, you really, actually believe me now?”

He placed his hand on her shoulder. “I can’t say for sure, but I would say there might be a high possibility your theory is true.”

“I can’t…I can’t think…” She put her hand over her mouth and closed her eyes.

He gently stroked her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

She took hold of his hand on her shoulder and gazed up at him, tears glistening in her eyes. “Thank you, Evan. You are so kind.”

“It’s all right, Neraeh, it’s all right.” 

She drew in a deep breath and held his hand tighter. “No. I never went to a Dana Zypher concert.”

“So, you never really pursued this. Darn.”

“I wanted to, but figured I’d be labeled a crazy nut case for even trying.” She removed the grip on his hand and relaxed her arms by her side. “Plus, I didn’t want to cause more turmoil for my family’s healing, of their grief.”

“I totally understand that, believe me.” Evan released his hand from her. His heart was ramping up. It was now or never to give her a glimpse into his past. “You see, something happened to me. Not just me, but six other people. I can’t tell you everything right now, but I want you to understand, that after what I experienced, I can believe just about anything beyond normal occurrences. And realize too, there is a connection between me, and Syrrah.”

“That supernatural thing?”

“Yes, that.” 

She stared at Evan with a sad, faraway glimmer in her eyes. “Did this happen before, or after, her…her accident?”

“After. But, hold on.” Evan lifted his phone from his pants pocket. He opened Firefox and typed in a search for Dana Zypher’s concert schedule, since Freddy had mentioned recently that she was touring now.

“I know what you remembered,” Freddy said, standing near Evan. “Those weird side-by-side structures.”

“Yes, exactly Fred.” He found the tour schedule. “As always, very perceptive of you.” 

“Wait,” Neraeh said. “What are you two talking about?”

Evan held his phone down and focused on her wondering eyes. “I can tell you some things. Clandestine military operations. Very secretive and unknown to most people. I saw it, I was there. Didn’t see it working, but I’m guessing…they have the ability to switch souls, or the personality energy forces and memories which comprise a person, between two people. That’s why, I think, the possibility exists that who Syrrah was, or even is, might exist in Dana’s body.” 

Neraeh could only stare back at him. “Are you serious? What I’ve believed, all these years, could actually be possible?”

“Maybe. I think so.” Evan looked at Freddy. “Dana Zypher changed, right?”

“Oh dude, that’s right! Like we talked about. And she started making changes about six years ago, though most people said it was due to drug rehab.”

“Did she become more religious?” Neraeh asked. “Syrrah was like that, except when I messed things up.”

“I don’t know,” Freddy said. “But I’m sure checking online, her social media accounts, could give us some insight.”

“Neraeh, you shouldn’t feel bad,” Evan said. “All of us go through that, even religious kids. We just want to fit in better.” He looked back at his phone screen. “Dana Zypher’s concert schedule.”

“She’s on tour now?” Neraeh asked.

“Yes.” He placed his phone in her view. “She just finished in Salt Lake City, and will be in Casper, Wyoming this Thursday night, at the Casper Events Center.” He carefully opened up Maps, while Neraeh yet eyed his phone, and checked the distance between Sauk Centre and Casper. “About an eleven-to-twelve-hour drive from here.” 

“Really?” she asked. “You actually want to go meet with her?”

“Yes. After the concert, you know, when fans take selfies, get signed autographs. She doesn’t know me, at least, if that truly wasn’t her when we drove by her that time, and she doesn’t know Freddy, so…it would be best if you came, Neraeh, to see her reaction when she meets you. Would you want to do this?”

Neraeh was quiet a moment. “Well, how long do you think it would be? I have to consider my job at SC Intermediate, the nursing home that is, and my mom.”

Evan looked ahead on the tour date calendar. “Oh wow. She’ll be in Minneapolis on September twenty-first.” He looked at Neraeh. “Syrrah’s birthday, coincidentally.”

She stared intently at him. “You’re not kidding. That is interesting.”   

“But, I can understand if you cannot go at this time, but I want to go, now,” Evan told her. “I can’t wait until she comes to Minneapolis.”

“I’ll go with you,” Freddy said.

“Are you sure? I can take you back. I’ve got enough funds to do this. I just need to find out, if this is true, that Syrrah is really alive.”

“But she’s living in another person’s body,” Neraeh said. “And I think we should address the obvious question here. Why on earth would a super-rich, super celeb like Dana Zypher want to switch bodies with someone like Syrrah, and live in the middle of nowhere with a mid-income family? Makes no sense.”

“I agree,” Evan said. “But celebrities are always doing crazy things, once they’ve been famous for a while, it gets to their head.”

“Or maybe she secretly hates that lifestyle,” Freddy said. “She couldn’t take it anymore. Wanted out. She’s always lived a rich lifestyle, since her dad has been a music producer like since forever. Maybe she wanted to try something new. But it could be a myriad of reasons. We can only speculate.”

“True,” Neraeh said. “Just seems so incredibly bizarre.”

“So,” Evan said, focusing on Freddy, “you definitely want to go with me?”

“Dude. I know how important this is for you. Bob should be all right with me missing a few more days. Shouldn’t take that long. I’m coming with you.”

“All right, Fred.” 

“Don’t forget about Master Ren, though,” Freddy said.

“I know, I’ll contact him too.”

Neraeh’s eyes took on a questioning gaze. “Master Ren?”

“Oh, our martial arts instructor. I teach classes for him too, though not as much recently since Bison football practice.”

“I see.” 

He was expecting her to give another compliment about his many abilities, but she became quiet, deep in thought. But he needed to know. “And have you decided if you would like to come with us too?”

Her mesmerizing blue eyes stared into his gaze. “This has been bothering me for a long time, far more than either of you could imagine. I owe it to myself, my dad and of course my poor dear mother. Yes. I will go with you too, Evan.”

He smiled at her. “That’s great news, Neraeh.” He gently placed his hand on her shoulder a moment. “Thank you, really, thank you.”