The stairs felt like they would never end. I pressed onward though, passing by one of the mounted candles ever so often. In between them, I was left in utter darkness, at the whim of my own footing. I took my time walking down them, adding to the anxiety to reach the bottom.
Voices began to echo from the abyss below, bouncing off the walls. Once again, I could hear their monotone words being spoken in unison, still incomprehensible to me. In the darkness, the words were even more nerve-wrecking. It almost didn’t sound human.
The last of the stairs brought me to a large chasm. A few candles were mounted on these walls as well, but they weren’t of much help. I could see their light reveal a set of different tunnels pointing in diverse directions. From here, it looked like I had to choose a path, but which one was right? If I chose wrong, I knew it would be nearly impossible to retrace my steps, especially in this darkness.
The voices from earlier began to echo once again. Among the cave walls, they bounced all around, amplified by the acoustics. I focused on the sound, trying to pinpoint their origin. Finally after several minutes, I was able to determine that they were coming from the tunnel on the left, so I headed in that direction. The tunnel was completely dark, absent of candles. A few times I tripped on the rocky surface, but using the walls helped maintain my balance.
It continued to stretch onward. All I could see was an endless void in front of me. As I walked, I felt the urge to stop, feeling as if I would smack into a wall or something. All the while, the voices continued their chanting growing louder the more I pushed forward.
Finally, I reached an opening; it was glowing, all the while, producing a wave of heat. I came to a rocky perch; on the side, I could see another set of stone stairs curve down to the area below. I didn’t need to take them because the best gave a good overview of everything below. I crouched and moved closer to get a better view.
What I saw, would forever be burned in my mind. Below, I could see four individuals standing in a square formation, each facing inward. Four bowls containing an intense fire was set in between each of the individuals forming together some sort of a diamond. There were markings in red producing an arrangement of symbols and designs behind each of the figures. I noticed how all of them donned the same cloak and mask as I was wearing.
Each of them was slowly bobbing their heads, their hands clasped as if in prayer except one. The one was holding up a camcorder to film it all. Standing in the center, I saw a fifth person. This one wore a different cloak. It was pale white and more loosely fit than the others. The mask worn was black instead of white, almost as dark as the tunnel itself. If not for the light from the bowls, it would have looked like a faceless being.
It had to be the reverend. Each time he spoke out that strange language, the others would repeat it in unison. My eyes widened when I saw what was behind the reverend. There was a stone table covered with a white sheet, and on it I saw Victoria, clenching her stomach in pain. Every so often, she would let out a intense wail that filled the air. The white sheet underneath her was half-soaked in blood.
Now what? I didn’t know what to do now that I was here. Without warning, I was pulled from my thoughts when I felt something touch my shoulder. I spun around, almost screaming out loud. However, my eyes recognized the figure crouching behind me. It was the old woman, Victoria’s mother. She had followed me down here. She held up a finger to her lip and slowly crept passed me to look below.
“We must stop this before it’s too late,” she whispered over her shoulder.
“How?” I asked. “What can we do? We can’t just rush down there without some sort of plan.”
She nodded in agreement. “I know. We need to sprinkle this within their inner circle,” she said pulling out a small glass vial; it was filled with a clear liquid. “At the stage she’s in now, Victoria will need some of this on her as well.”
“That’s it?” I asked, sourly. “That’s the plan?”
“Yes,” she replied, returning her gaze below. “Once this is sprinkled, I will need to recite my own incantation to cancel out the effects of their ritual. Only then will Victoria be saved and the rest of the world.”
I shivered a little. “The world? You never did mention what would happen if that child was born,” I inquired.
“Nothing good, I assure you, but that will not happen,” she answered. “Listen, I have a plan.”
I was all ears to hearing it and leaned close.
“We need to draw them away from here so that I can conduct the incantation.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“A distraction, of course,” she replied, producing a twisted smile. “We’ll need their undivided attention. I need to conduct the ceremony, so for that, we have to lead them away.”
I sighed deeply. I really didn’t like this plan already, but it seemed like the only other option. After taking a few breaths, I stood up to announce my presence.
“Hey!” I yelled out. It was all I could think to say.
Immediately, they went silent below, staring up at me. The light bounced off the faces of their twisted masks. Not one said a word, until the reverend spoke out.
“Ah Marcus, is that you?” he asked out-loud. “What a surprise it is to see ya’ down here.”
“W-what the hell is going on here?” I stammered. “What are you f***s doing with Victoria?! You bastards better let her go or… or I’ll get the police involved.”
The reverend chuckled, his mask bouncing a little. “Marcus,” he said softly, almost in a jokingly manner. “When ya’ first arrived, I will admit I thought I understood everythin’ about you, just from our first conversation. At the time, you looked like nothin’ more, but a stammering piglet that had gone astray. You couldn’t even get your words right.”
I could see the others slowly moving away from their spots, edging their way to the stairs.
“But then ya’ surprised me with your bold antics. You sneaked into our congregation room, attempted to steal one of my member’s rings, yes I know about that,” he continued.
My eyes lit up. How could he have known?
“Ya’ even warmed up to Victoria, convincin’ her to leave all this and her family behind,” he finished. “Now, that my boy, is something. Tell me, I know you’re sick of seein’ everyone suffer, like your grandfather or even your mother that passed away when you were young.”
I was dumbstruck. How did he know all of this? He couldn’t have.
He continued. “All those people out there in world as well – suffering, doing so unnecessarily, and for what reason, but for what he wants,” he said, pointing upward. “With Lanius though, we can reshape this world. He’ll reshape everything in his image and erase all that pain and all that sufferin’. Everything will be set right, the way it should be. Why not be willin’ to join him in this transformation?”
I could see the other members drawing closer up the stairs.
“Think about it, Marcus. Are we really that bad of people? Look at yourself, what have you really believed in that you could hold on to?” he continued. “Join us down here, be a part of that new world, a new direction. You’re already halfway there; you’ve got what you need on you right now. So why not come down the path fully?” he said, lifting his hands up. “Victoria’s sufferin’ right now, but when this all over, she won’t anymore. You can even be with her in the new world, it’s what you want, isn’t it?”
My eyes glanced over at Victoria, still gasping in pain. Her eyes clenched painfully shut. I listened as she let out another horrific wail. I see could an impression of something moving around in her, pressing upward against her skin. My voice was lost; I was unable to say anything. This b*****d was crazy, they all were. However, if that was truly the case, why was I so hesitant? Was there a part of me that wanted this, that believed in this?
Immediately, the old woman stood up to reveal herself too. “Poisonous words never fail to excrete from your mouth, you sniveling snake!” she hissed at him.
“Who is that up there with ya’, Marcus?” he asked calmly.
“Who do you think, you foul b*****d?” she barked.
“Carolina?” he said, surprised. “I must admit, I am a bit shocked to see ya’ still living. I must ask how ya’ managed to escape the gaze of Lanius?”
“Hmph, wouldn’t you like to know? You’re not the only one who can conjure up a spell or two,” she snapped.
“Right,” he said unfazed. “Ya’ always were an unpredictable one, Carolina. I truly was heartbroken when I learned ya’ weren’t fully on board with us.”
She scoffed at this.
“So, Marcus. What will it be?” he asked, returning his attention to me.
I glanced over to see the old woman’s eyes gleaming at me from the shadows. She shook her head in dismay, mouthing something softly. I couldn’t hear the words, but I could make out the last word escaping her lips: “lies.”
“No,” I said softly.
“Come again?” the reverend asked.
“I said no, you Satanic f***s!”
He sighed, dropping his arms. “That’s too bad, son.” He gestured with his head to the others who immediately sprang up the stairs.
“Move it!” the old woman yelled, bolting down the tunnel we had entered from.
I was surprised she was even able to move at such speed. Without wasting time, I quickly hurried behind her. I could hear their footsteps echoing following us. I didn’t know where I was going; there nothing but endless void before me. I felt my feet trip again a few times as I went. My lungs were burning, begging me to stop, but the adrenaline pumping through me must have kept me going.
Eventually, we reached the original chasm with all the tunnels.
“We need to split them up. Try to lose them in the best manner you can,” she said in deep breaths.
I was half out of breath myself, barely catching what she said. Without hesitation, she ran off to the tunnel on the left. I took the hint and darted down the nearest one to my right. On the inside, I hoped that I had not chosen one with a dead-end. The tunnel itself was very tight. I felt the sharp edges of the walls scrape against my arms a few times, but I pressed onward. Thinking quickly, I pulled out my phone using its light to help guide the way. Ahead of me, my eyes made out what I had dreaded would happen.
I had reached a dead-end. “S**t!” I yelled out. There was no way I could turn around, not if they were following me. However, I was surprised to find that the wall wasn’t like the tunnel’s uneven texture. Looking closer, it appeared be a type of door. It was still made of stone, but it was smooth and had markings engraved along it. I couldn’t make them, out, but the phone on my light revealed a familiar sight.
I could see a small indent with a symbol etched within; it was similar to that of the one for the Congregation room’s doors. “The finger,” I thought out-loud. I reached in my pocket trying to find it. Behind me, I could hear the clapping of footsteps gaining on me. I struggled to pull the damn thing out. When I did, I pressed it up against the indent and twisted.
At first, nothing happened, but soon the door began to move. A loud moan was produced from it as it lifted slowly upwards. I could hear the footsteps getting closer, but the door was still at my ankles. I yelled and cursed at the damn thing to hurry until at last it was up to my chest; it was good enough for me. I was ready to bolt through the opening when suddenly I was tackled from behind.
The force from the tackle sent me forward along with my attacker. We both rolled into the room sliding away from each other. I landed crudely, banging my knee and elbow in the process. It wasn’t until I looked up that I caught the scent of something putrid in the air. The room we had entered was colder than the other areas and seemed to be darker. My impaired vision must have amplified my sense of smell because I completely appalled by it. It was if something had been decaying or rather many things had.
Under my hand, I felt something hard poke me. I couldn’t see the object clearly, but I felt how smooth it was, almost too perfect. Around it, I felt other objects with the same feeling. I wanted to use my cellphone, but I couldn’t find it, clearly dropped from the fall. I did, however, hear a man grunting, apparently my attacker.
“Ya’ little s**t, I knew ya’d be trouble from the start,” I heard him say. The voice sounded like Terrance.
I could hear him standing up. His breathing was still rapid from the chase. My heart leapt into my throat. I tried to be extra careful while I rose to my feet hoping to not draw his attention. If he was like me, then it was impossible to see anything in this darkness. If quiet enough, I could probably sneak past him. I started moving forward, taking small steps while I listened for him.
“The reverend told me about the ring. Ya’ thought were slick about it all, huh?!” he yelled out, his voice echoed. “Ya’ see, the reverend knows all and sees all.”
I could hear his footsteps pacing around. The acoustics of the room made it hard to pinpoint his exact position.
“Then ya’ stole one of our tomes, but I found it,” he continued. “I was glad ya’ did though. Ya’ got to see what’s coming to that b***h. I hope ya’ enjoyed every last of it,” he said, chuckling.
I don’t know what came over me after that. After hearing those disgusting words, I somehow managed to find and pounce on Terrance in an immense rage. I didn’t hesitate and swung where I thought his head was, striking a hard surface. I yelled out in pain. It was his mask that I struck. He laughed, rendering a strong blow into my stomach. I felt the wind painfully rip its way from my mouth.
Afterwards, he pushed me away which sent me falling on my back. I felt the sting from something hard press itself against beneath me. I reached behind for the object and my eyes lit up. Immediately after, his hands grabbed at my legs to pull me close. Still in pain, I kicked at him and pulled out the object from below. I cocked it, aimed in his direction and pulled the trigger.
A flash of light lit up the entire area for a split second followed by a loud bang. The noise echoed throughout the chasm and beyond. That flash of light was enough for me to locate my phone. I grabbed at it, pushed a button and aimed it in front of me. I could see Terrance in the illumination gripping his arm in pain. The blood from his wound dripped to the ground.
“You little…” he started, but croaked in pain.
The gun shook in my hand. This was the first time I had ever shot one before, let alone at a person. I didn’t get time to decide what to do next. There was a deep growl that filled the air and echoed all around us. The ground almost felt like it was trembling. Further back in the room, I could hear something twisting around. Its movements were crackly and heavy. The odor from earlier grew stronger, flooding my nose even more than before.
“S**t! It’s awake!” I heard Terrance scream out. He turned to leave. Yet, before I could even blink, I felt a large rush of wind race past me. The smell of its odor lingered behind it. Whatever it was, it was fast and it was huge. The next thing I heard was it pounding on Terrance. I could hear it ripping into him and tearing pieces apart. His screams flooded the air – a blood-curdling shrill so intense that it brought tears down my eyes.
I could hear the thing continue to tear at him, cracking bones as it did. Somehow, I managed to find the feeling in my legs and bolted out of the room. Behind me, I heard the thing let out a frightening roar. I didn’t stop running though, pushing as hard I could through the tight walls. I could hear its heavy footsteps pounding behind me. The snarls from its breathing grew closer in my ear. It was gaining quickly.
Without thinking, I aimed the gun behind me and fired off a few rounds. It wasn’t until after the third round that I heard another loud roar. The footsteps behind immediately came to a halt. I continued running until I reached the open area once again.
I was out of breath, but I knew I couldn’t stop. That thing was sure to continue its pursuit soon so I couldn’t waste any time. Before I could fully gain my composure, I heard footsteps heading in my direction. They weren’t from the tunnel behind me, but ahead. I quickly readied my gun, ready to fire again.
Three figures emerged from the darkness racing frantically. It was the other church members. I had already fired four bullets which meant I only had two left. There were three of them so I would have to decide carefully who I wanted to shoot. They came to a halt in front of me.
“Hello, Marcus,” I heard Margaret’s voice speak out from the three. “Have you finally stopped running?”
“Back the f**k off!” I yelled, the gun still pointing at them. “If I have to, I will kill you crazy bastards.”
I heard one of them giggle. It must have been Sophia. They slowly began edging their way towards me. I backed up a little, keeping the gun trained on them. I started to shift to the side hoping to align the next tunnel to my back. It was clear this gun was doing nothing for me. I probably would only have enough time to shoot one before the others rushed in. I would need to be quick so I could make a run for it.
“Come now, Marcus. Have you realized it yet? You really think we invited you all the way out here just to install some silly computers?” Margaret began.
I was stunned when I heard this. “What the hell are you talking about? Why else would I be here?”
She chuckled. “We needed a legitimate reason to get you out here and here you are.”
“You don’t even know who I am,” I said. She was clearly talking nonsense.
“Is that what you think? I’m surprised none of this appears familiar to you. You have after all been down this path before,” she continued.
My hands slowly lowered the gun. I don’t know why, but a small portion of me believed, even if it did sound ludicrous. “What do you mean?”
“It’s Lanius, he’s always had a fascination with you,” she answered. “Something about you, he…” she started to say, but trailed in her words.
“What about me?” I demanded.
Before she could answer, a large figure bolted from the shadows, pouncing on Margaret. It was that horrid creature from earlier; it had caught up. Now among the dim candlelight, I could make out more of its features. I really wished those candles weren’t there.
Through the poor lighting, I could see its thin elongated arms with sharp talons for fingers. Massive horns extended from its back. Its loose wild hair fell across its crude snout of a face. Its blood-colored eyes glowed, piercing the darkness.
I watched as it began tearing into Margaret as it had Terrance. With each new sound of splitting flesh came a louder shrill from her. Her loud cries bounced off the walls, extending throughout the tunnels. The others attempted to flee, but they didn’t get far. The creature was merciless, pouncing on them and tearing into them in the same manner. Suddenly, I felt a harsh tug on my arm pulling me down the tunnel behind. It was the old woman. I didn’t know where she came from, but I didn’t question her.
The tormenting screams of the others continued to resonate in the air. The burning pain in my lungs returned, as we turned and ran. The old woman yelled back not to stop; I could hear the struggle in her voice as well to maintain the pace. There seemed to be no end to the tunnel. It felt like we were running in place, making no progress. In the midst of my exhaustion, I felt my foot drag, causing me to lose my balance. I fell hard, slamming onto my already injured knee.
“Get up! Get up, now!” the old woman screamed at me.
I tried but struggled to do so, caught in the blend of pain and exhaustion. I tried to pull myself up using the wall. Behind me, I could hear the rapid thumping of large footsteps once again. I could feel the old woman help me up. She threw my arm over her shoulder and began assisting me forward. However, it was too late. We could feel the gaze emanating from the creature behind us.
Our eyes must have fully adjusted in the dark because I could clearly make out its massive form. Its hot breath blew across our faces, the smell of fresh blood lingering in it. The old woman pushed me away. “Run now,” she said softly.
“What?!” I replied in shock. “No we have to stick together.”
“No, you must go. I will hold it off,” she stated firmly.
“But…” I started.
“Go!” she roared.
Her voice startled me. I quickly turned and began hobbling away. Behind me, I could still hear her.
“You foul demon. You think you’ve won?” she stated.
The creature rendered a harsh snarl in return. I could hear her begin to recite strange words in another language. The creature sounded affected, screaming loud roars of pain. Whatever she was saying, it was clearly working. I paused to look back, just making out their faint outlines in the dark. I wondered if what she was doing was actually going to stop it. However, I saw the creature swing one is long arms at her. Her body flew against the wall producing a loud crack. Her words instantly died.
Not long after, I could hear the thing ripping away at her. The blow must’ve have been enough to kill her because she didn’t yell in pain. I went from hopping aggressively on one foot to a full fledge run. I ignored the pain from my knee, feeling fear and adrenaline engulfing me. Up ahead, I could see a light from the end. I knew I didn’t have much time until that thing would continue its pursuit for me. I reached the opening, revealing the original ritual area I had first come across.
I was hesitant in approaching the perch, but I did so, looking down. Victoria was still down there. Based on her increased wails, it wouldn’t be long before she gave birth. I saw no trace of the reverend.
I made my way down the stairs, approaching the symbols surrounding Victoria. Up close, I could tell they were made from blood. The bowls were still blazing. The heat from them was intense, forcing sweat down my face. When I approached Victory, her eyes fell upon me. I could see the fear returning in them.
“S-stay… the f**k away from me!” she yelled, struggling with words.
I was taken back at this, but then I remembered I was still wearing the mask. I quickly removed it and was relieved to see her eyes light up upon seeing my face.
“Marcus?” she gasped.
“Yeah, I’m here Victoria,” I answered, rushing to her side.
Tears formed in her eyes. “Marcus… p-please…” she stopped in mid sentence, rendering another wail.
She continued screaming. I could hear her vocals become rasp from the strain. I didn’t know what to do. A massive lump moved around her stomach uncontrollably, pressing up against her skin. I didn’t think it was possible, but her screams grew even louder. I felt completely useless right now.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard a familiar roar from above. The creature from earlier had returned. I could see its burning red eyes beaming down from the perch. It leapt from the top, landing with a loud thud. Its disturbing form was hunched over, breathing a rapid rhythm exalting a snarl in between.
Now fully in the light, I felt my stomach tighten at its appearance. The thought of the statue came to my mind. This thing was almost a spitting image of it, but only worse. Its face was more disturbing in person with its blackened humanoid-dog features. The nose atop its snout appeared caved-in, flaring with its breathing. Its eyes were beady, completely dyed a crimson red. Atop its forehead, it held a large closed eye.
I stood in between Victoria and the beast. I wasn’t going to let this thing do anything to her. I raised the gun up ready to fire waiting for it to make a move. Yet, that was it, it did nothing. It just stood there, breathing.
“Come on!” I yelled, trying to provoke it. “Do it! Come at me, you sick f**k!”
It did nothing still. Instead, the edge of its lips curled up into a twisted smile. I felt a shiver roll down my spine. The damn thing was smiling at me. I was ready to fire the gun, but then I noticed the bullet holes on it from where it had been previously hit. Two of the bullets had managed to hit it, but they stuck out of it wounds barely penetrating it. It was useless; the gun did nothing to it. Realizing this, I lowered it, eventually letting it drop to the ground. When I did, its smile grew wider.
“What the hell are you?” I asked.
“That, my boy,” I heard the reverend’s voice answer out loud, “is Lanius, the White Eye of Time.” I could hear it behind me, but I didn’t dare break my eyes away from the creature. “He will become this world’s new master,” he continued.
I was speechless.
“Ya’ will witness his rebirth into this world, Marcus. He will reshape it in his image. Now, witness it,” the reverend went on.
As if on cue, the creature began to roar into the air. I could see the rows of its blood covered teeth extend deep back into its throat. It felt as if the whole room was rumbling. Suddenly, it collapsed onto the ground, lying motionless. I was confused. Did it just die? If it did, what killed it?
Victoria broke the silence, screaming at a level a human shouldn’t have possibly reached. The form within her moved around vigorously, eventually tearing its way free. Blood flew in all directions, some splattering across me. My eyes turned to see a blood soaked creature wallowing around in the remains of Victoria.
It looked to be the size of a dog. I could see the sharp talons from one of its lanky arms cling to the side of the table. Curling horns protruded from its head, entangled in the wild strands of its hair. It sniffed the air for awhile before turning its attention to me.
I felt tears forming in my eyes. Immediately, I felt my stomach give-in, hurling to the side. It hurt because I had already done so earlier and there was nothing left to give.
Leaning over the mess I produced, I could only think of one thing. “Victoria,” I whispered. In the end, I couldn’t do anything but watch her suffer. She trusted me to save her, and I failed her.
The creature looked like a miniature version of its previous self. However, its third eye was open this time. It was completely white, void of pupil, blinking asynchronously to its smaller ones. Despite having no pupil, I could feel its white eye gazing upon me. My head began buzzing starting as a simple vibration. The vibration escalated into an immense outpour of pain.
I could see images in my head. They were images of places in the world, of people. The people were screaming for their lives. The sky above them was black, the streets littered with thousands of bodies lying lifeless and torn to pieces. Fires were brewing over damaged cars with half burnt corpses sitting in their seats. Faces of horrendous beings, too atrocious to describe were seen everywhere tearing away at those unable to escape.
The images flooded my head. I was at the mercy of them as the pain increased the more they appeared. Tears fell endlessly from my eyes. Why was I being shown these horrible things? Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, they stopped. I slumped over still feeling my head throb. I could still see their faces, hear their screams.
“Did ya’ see it, Marcus? Did ya’ see the dream he produced in yer mind?” the reverend asked. He walked from the shadows into the light. He slowly removed the mask from his face.
“W-what the… what the hell was that?” I asked. I could still feel lingering amounts of the pain.
“It took many years to prepare this revitalization. First, he had to get stronger and to do so he needed a vessel to use. I too, was frightened when I first laid eyes upon him, but he showed me his intentions. From then, I was enlightened,” he explained. “He speaks to me with his white eye. That’s how I knew everythin’ about ya’ back there. I’m sure he gave ya’ a glimpse of the paradise to be,” he continued, walking up to me.
“Paradise?” I repeated, still in a daze. “Is that what the f**k you’re calling that?!”
“Yes, Lanius will reshape this world into his image. Imagine sweet blue skies, endless green pastures with trees flowing abundantly with scrumptious fruit. No more pain. No more suffering. A true renewed ‘Eden’. I know its hard to conceive all of this – how could we in the current world we live in?
“His power is beyond our understandin’, but it can open the ripples of time. He can alter what he likes, insert what he likes. With it, he can return to the past of the vessel he chooses. Each time, he possesses the younger self, growing with them until they become of age. Doing it repeatedly makes him stronger. When he finally reaches fruition, he needs to be born of human flesh,” he went on.
“Victoria?” I said.
“Correct. Now, is that time, Marcus. Once he does it again, this will be the last. He will be permanently infused with his new vessel,” he answered, revealing his twisted toothy smile.
“You?” I asked, still feeling the throb in my head.
“Come now, Marcus. I’ve merely been a humble servant, ensuring everything was arranged properly for his rebirth. Lanius has always been interested in you. Ya’ recall the pages of the tome, yes? Who do think that was with Lanius?”
I shook my head in disbelief. It didn’t make sense. There was no way it could’ve been me. “You’re lying. That’s impossible. If so, why me?”
“We’ll ya’ see, Marcus. Lanius sees all aspects of time, all possibilities. Out of everyone, he saw ya’ to be the best candidate to lead to the outcome he desired. Ya’ should feel honored,” he explained.
“I don’t understand,” I replied. “You said he’s always been using me, but I don’t recall any of those times at all.”
“Well of course ya’ don’t, Marcus,” he said, smiling. “Each time, Lanius removed yer memory after transferrin’ to yer younger body. Believe it or not, we’ve already had this conversation before. I only recall because he allows me to. Ya’ see, I’m the one ensurin’ everything goes as planned accordingly. Ya’ll go back as ya’ve done before, but this time, it’ll be for good. I’m sorry to say though, what is left of Marcus Pale will be no more.”
I found myself shaking my head again. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it.
“Please, Marcus,” he continued. “Each time, we go through this little charade. I try to give ya’ a chance to let ya’ willingly come forward, but as always, ya’ fight it. How about switchin’ it up for a change and give-in. It is inevitable regardless,” he finished. “What will it be, Marcus?”
I remained in silence, trying absorb everything. It was too much. How could it all possibly be true? There was no way of telling otherwise. It seemed like a lose-lose situation.
“I think…” I started to answer. “… you’re full of s**t,” I said, rendering a light smirk.
His eyes seemed to twitch with dissatisfaction. “How very disappointin’,” he said, turning his back.
I could see his hand move into his cloak. He turned around producing a gun in his hand. He fired the weapon missing me. I quickly threw myself to the ground, grabbing my own gun. I pointed and shot off a round just he did. His shot grazed my side, only piercing my cloak. My shot, however, had hit him in the leg.
He fell to the ground. Immediately, he proceeded to lift his gun, struggling to aim it at me. I walked over to him keeping my own pointed at him. Standing over him, I held it to his face. He smiled at me before dropping his own in defeat.
“Ya’ think this hasn’t already happened, Marcus? It’s inevitable,” he said. The smile grew wider on his face.
I didn’t answer and simply pulled back on the trigger. His body immediately went limp. I remained over him with the gun still pointing at it. I never thought killing someone would be so satisfying. I didn’t like this thought though. There was something about this place, whatever it was I was ready to leave it.
Unexpectedly, I felt the same painful pulse from early flood my head. I fell to my knees gripping my head. When I turned, I could see the creature crawl from the table, dragging its deformed legs. It snarled at me moving close in speed. I held the gun in my hand and pulled the trigger, but it only clicked. I repeated the action only to receive the same result; it was empty. Quickly, I reached over with my other hand and grabbed the reverend’s gun.
Yet, it was too late; the thing pounced on me. Its slimy hands gripped my neck. I could feel its hot putrid breath on my face and see pieces of flesh clung to it jagged teeth. I wanted to throw the damn thing off, but I could feel the pain in my head amplify. It’s hard to describe, but I could feel its presence within my mind. It was like it was searching for something. It wasn’t until the last minute that I could visually see what it had found. Immediately, we both were engulfed into a blinding light out of nowhere.
When the light cleared, I found myself lying in something cold. When I stood to my feet, I realized that it was snow. There was snow everywhere. Where was I? I looked around seeing cars covered in snow as well. Several buildings loomed around me all with something in common: decorations. They all had reeves and lights either on their doors or around the buildings. Christmas? How could that be, it was July?
Something about this area was familiar, but I didn’t know why. The building before me was fairly tall, maybe four stories. Something about it drew me towards it. Through the glass, I could see my reflection. I could see that horrifying mask over my face. How did it get back on my face? I also noticed both of the guns still in my hands. I can’t describe it, but I felt lightheaded. I could hardly recall what I had been doing prior to arriving here. In fact, I didn’t even remember where I got this cloak from.
I felt the urge to enter the building. I tucked the guns away and entered. Inside, I noticed several closed doors along with a staircase to the side. This must have been an apartment building. I couldn’t pulled myself from this feeling, letting it take me to the stairs. I began climbing, passing more doors on each floor, each with their own set of reeves or anything Christmas related. With each floor, I tried searching for some hint of why I was here. I continued upward until reaching the third floor. I was led to a door on the left marked: 3-A. Why was I brought here?
I felt my hand lift as if it had a mind of its own. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t gain control over it. It banged on the door. Inside, I could hear someone moving towards the entrance. Next, I felt my hand reach back into my cloak, pulling out the revolver. Fear filled my eyes. Why was I grabbing the gun? I wanted to warn the person inside to not to open their door, but my mouth wouldn’t obey either.
To my horror, I listened as the bolt unlocked and the door opened. My eyes could not comprehend the sight before me. The person in front of me was my father. He looked very young more so than the last time I saw him, but it was him. How was this possible? Without warning, my hand struck him across the face. Next my leg kicked him back. The woman inside gave off an ear-splitting scream in shock. It was the young face of my real mother. She was alive, but how?
The apartment was heavily decorated to suit the Christmas atmosphere. It had a tree nicely decorated with presents piled underneath. I couldn’t help, but feel a sense of familiarity to what was transpiring before me. Again, my hand moved without command, shutting the door and locking the bolt. It pointed the gun at my parents, fear engulfing their eyes.
“Why are you doing this?” my father asked, gripping his head. “What do you want?”
I wanted to answer, but could not. To my side, I heard a soft voice. I looked over and saw a young child playing with a book: it was me. I was actually in the presence of my younger self. I felt a strong force vibrating through my head, feeling it filter out. It was odd, but it looked almost like the fumes of gasoline flowing towards my younger self. It suddenly hit me. I felt a partial memory return. I recalled the words of the reverend. This was happening to me because of that thing, Lanius. It was inside me, controlling my actions. It needed to take over my younger self for its vessel.
I could feel its presence vacating my body watching it flood into my younger self. My parents probably couldn’t see it, only me. I couldn’t let this happen. I was not about to become one with this thing for the rest of my life. Concentrating, I attempted to move my hand. The one with the gun was solid and unmovable. The finger in that hand began moving on its own accord. I could feel it tighten on the trigger. The gun was still aimed at my mother.
Why was it doing this? Why was it trying to kill my mother in the process? I made every attempt to stop my hand, but it wouldn’t listen. I was ready to give-in until my mind had another lapse in memory. I recalled having a dream. It was similar to what was happening now, but slightly different though. I tried to focus, attempting to recall more of the dream. For some reason, it was so hard to do so. I didn’t know why, but it felt necessary to remember it.
More pieces began to come together. In the dream, I saw myself fire the gun, but it wasn’t at my mother. No, I shot myself, the younger me. It was puzzling that I was did this. Another piece of the dream came to me. There was a bright light and in the light was a face. I could recall the face this time; it was the smiling face of my mother. She was completely encased in the light as if the source of it.
At that moment, I understood everything. I knew what I needed to do. I attempted to concentrate on my other hand, focusing on the image of it moving to my command hoping the thought would render it. I could gradually feel my control returning. Somehow the more the creature left me, the more I gained feeling in my body.
I concentrated on moving my arm, feeling its mobility. With it, I reached down into my cloak and felt around until I recognized the object. I pulled out the second gun, aiming it at my younger self. My mother before me let out a loud shriek when she saw this. I could feel parts of my arm wanting to drop the gun, but I fought against it, aiming at the child.
The creature must’ve have picked up on my plan because it started to flood images through my head again. This time they were of people that I had known or would come to know: my friends, my loved ones, everyone. It was like it was trying to get me to understand the consequences if I continued with my action. I could see its fumes attempting to pump faster into my younger body.
Finally, I saw the last of them completely enter my younger self. My one-year old self stared at me innocently. This moment had made sense now. I could picture the dream that brought me into all of this. This foul creature had controlled me for the last time. All this time, it had been me who had been the executioner of my own mother. I was the monster, the crazy loon that had broken in all those years ago. No, he made me that crazy loon. He altered time. I was the closest person to help him realize his plan. However, the creature probably saw in all the infinite possibilities of time that my mother was the only threat to its plans. I laughed to myself. It was ironic that even in death she found a way to warn me, providing an escape route.
Lanius’ own tearing through time and space and had backfired. In its own attempt to fulfil its ambition, it ended up creating its own demise. It couldn’t stop the human spirit; it was powerless to love. My mother’s interference was like what the reverend had said verbatim: inevitable. I smiled to myself, squeezing back on the trigger. The bullet pierced through the child’s skull, instantly dropping him. Now dead, I could feel the control of my body return. It was as if a heavy aura of weight lifted from me.
Sighing deeply, I dropped the gun to the ground. Slowly, I removed the mask from my face, looking over at my parents. They were silent with eyes still fixated on their dead child. Finally, my mother turned her gaze to me. I smiled at her, watching her eyes grow wide at seeing my face. With tears forming in my eyes, I could feel a hint of pain growing across my forehead. Something warm began to run down my nose. My eyes looked deep into my mother’s as I spoke several words, “I’m sorry… I had to. I… I did you a favor. Forgive me…”