Dear Virgil, somehow Lara let it slip to Teresa that she read my journal to examine my dreams. Teresa freaked, saying that it was her idea in the first place I even keep a journal, and that if anyone had any right to my private thoughts, it was her. So until Monday, I’ll have to record everything that I am apt to write on sheets of paper until I get your body back. I shouldn’t have let her, but then Logan asked to see it, and stupidly I told them that they had to both read you over the weekend, that come Monday I would need you back.
They agreed that they’d share the secrets save, between themselves, and I trust them. I just miss you when you’re not around. These sheets of paper are amputations of your whole. But it’s only a few days. I warned them that what they’d encounter would be everything that they could possibly want to know about me, and a lot of what they wouldn’t. They looked upon it as though it were the original books of the bible, and it’s just as thick. Not too much longer, Virgil, ole boy and we’ll need to house our secrets in a new binding, but then again, they are not just our secrets anymore. I wouldn’t have let them take the journal if I didn’t love them. It’s my sacred grimoire of blood, tears, and sex. I’m worried that once they read my thoughts about them that it will change everything, and I will become that outcast I’ve predicted for myself.
SUNDAY, MAY 3RD (THE VOICE & THE RELUCTANT HERO)
6:27 A.M. Dear Virgil, my dreams crept in well disguised, breaking through the fog of sleeping pills and alcohol. I was on a beach staring out towards an ocean, the faint sun climbing aimlessly through the clouds. It was serene and calming, as I always imagined the ocean to be.
Everything seemed gorgeous and blissful, my own personal paradise, but somehow I knew it could not last forever.
“Canaan…Canaan…” a voice crooned.
I did not recognize this voice. It was slippery and edged like a knife. It wasn’t Lamia’s timbre or Cloak’s collection of whispers, and so I did not respond outright. I turned around to see who was calling, but no one was there. Persuading myself that it was nothing I began walking along the shore, carelessly rolling my toes in the sand. I stumbled across several artifacts of the ocean: fishnets replete with chains of fish skeletons linked with algae. Driftwood from a boat submerged in a steep dune. A dozen or so shells, with odd edges and colors that seemed reflective as mirrors, the remains of a broken bottle and the message it contained, and a large conch shell the size of an igloo.
The shell rested unbothered, decorated in thick black etchings that resembled the faces of day of the dead skeleton masks. It was not that they were painted, the etchings were apart of its overall design. Its former inhabitant had either died or abandoned its home, and the opening of the shell presented itself like the entrance to a curious cave. I placed my ear to the opening for the same fantasy of holding much smaller shells to one’s ears, the illusory waves of the ocean reverberating in my hearing loud as the actual ocean rolling in and out in white mounds of surf.
I settled in the shade of the shell, reclining against it, burying my legs in the warm sand. The sun broke through the clouds then, brilliant and hot. Nothing was horrible there. No Revenants. No broken city. Though I think, it would have been much nicer had someone been there to share the vision with me. A masked girl and her gallant companion, perhaps. They were not here either, and even that was okay. I was alone, undisturbed. This was a place purely meant for me. Outsiders not allowed. Yet, though I seemed alone, that low voice called out again:
“Canaan…Where are you? Can’t hide forever boy…the hurt was made for both of us…Let me in to show you how deep it can go…”
Feeling an icy breath graze my cheek, I turned to the opening of the shell and peeked inside, certain the voice was coming from within some dark corner. I could see nothing, only a flat, shiny inlay that would make for a perfect hiding spot. I stood up, turning to the ocean and then to the left and right of me, but there was nothing but endless shoreline and water. I was alone and yet not.
Ignoring the voice a third time, I focused back to my newfound solace, the blue of the ocean beckoning. I ran to the water, to swim, the tide rolling up onto the shore deceptively inviting. I was about to fling my body into an oncoming wave, but then it started to rain.
The rain fell in light, scattered sprinkles, teary droplets on my outstretched tongue and rolling off the surface of my skin. Gradually, the pour descended much heavier. A hydrant in heaven cracked and the torrents came rushing like a watery chariot race into the earth. The wind rose off the water, as though a feverish breath had dusted off the surface, disturbing the calm of the ocean. The steep, frothy waves crashed against the shore as though it was trying to escape, and the clouds above roiled with claws of lightning. Despite the weather’s growing severity, I began dancing in it, cleansing myself in the heavy pour. I peeled off my clothes, spinning myself in a failed attempt at a pirouette. I didn’t care that I wasn’t graceful. I immersed myself in the exhilaration of the storm.
“Do you know how much work there is for us to accomplish? You hide, but I can always find you.” The cunning voice amassed again like the clouds gathering overhead, thick, black.
As if given a cue from the voice’s last word, a tempest yawned from the four corners of the world and mid-twirl, the ground shook under my feet, toppling me into a pillow of wet sand. Something was wrong - the dream altered, stunted and limped into a depressed transition as thick droplets fell from the sky at an alarming velocity, pelting me in the face. I bumbled like a solider struggling through a humid jungle to outrun the whistle of bombs falling, racing for the shelter of the conch. Wedging myself inside, I huddled against the soft inlay, the rain coming down hard on the shell in a tin-roof melody. I reached out seeing red splotches hitting against the white sand, discovering that it was not rain at all, but blood smeared on the ends of my fingers. The distant sky bellowed with torrid roars of thunder.
The clouds themselves affected by the anger thrashing behind their barrier, unraveled in tattered patches of white, burnt and pulled apart like cotton balls. I could hear something coming down towards the earth, and for a moment I felt that the stars themselves were about to unhinge from the black of space and eradicate my meager plot of shore. I braced myself for impact, fearing the shell’s collapse.
Something indeed was on its way and I caught a glimpse of it descending through the clouds like a fastball and rocketing into the sand a ways down the shoreline. Clouds of sand swelled into the air from its impact, but before I could focus on what this plummeting object was, a succession of loud thuds bolted into the ground around me like a vicious hailstorm. The shell provided a formidable shelter, but one of the falling objects broke through the covering and smashed into the surface beside me. Cowering, I peeked out shyly, disbelieving what I was seeing: on the ground, resting in blood and shell fragments was a plump, steaming, still beating heart. Looking out into the sky, I watched as it split down the middle as though two massive hands had pulled the clouds apart, unleashing a slew of human hearts all ablaze like meteor rocks from outer space.
They came down randomly, plunging into the sand, transforming the soft white dunes into messy bright red paint splatters. The sand seemed to absorb it, but I may be wrong, for its introduction to the sand initiated a soured change in the landscape, shifting the shore to the dry, coarse likeness of the wastelands of Nous. It appeared in truth that the blood seeping into the beach wasn’t being absorbed - it was sucking the land’s essence out. The ocean before me changed too. Black waves now ebbed into the blue, and on the horizon, the light of the confused sun peered downwards, its Phantom Twilight rays searing the water, causing it to boil and steam. The hearts falling into the water sizzled and cooked with a nasty hiss.
In the steam, the vaporous shape of Cloak manifested, parting the red showers like a beaded curtain, moving to the shore a willowy, smoky wraith, his robes dissipating as they had in the Revenants’ cavern. The ground shivered all around me with a grumbling that seemed poised to break the shore off at the ocean edge. I tried to see what the faint shadow was up to, but the ground shifting caught me off guard by the ravenous bellows of creatures moaning under the surface. The interior of the shell quaked, teetering side to side in a boat rock or seesaw movement, and I clung to the smooth surface fearing my ejection out into the blood soaked sand.
From beneath, breaking through the reddened dunes like might volcanoes, emerged six large armored creatures rearing their massive plated heads shielded and fortified like living fortresses to the surface like giant prairie dogs, each snarling, biting at the blood rain. Hoisting their heavily scaled masses out onto the earth, they encircled me, feasting on the hearts, their long tongues whipping like a frog’s to catch them in their jaws as they pummeled from the darkening skies. They were not as alien to me as I noticed the elaborate armaments encasing their brutish bodies. They were the armored beasts the Theurgians engineered for the battle against Priaxura, but these were very much alive, not the metal husks in the desert. The beasts crowded around my conch hovel so that I could not escape, they feasted, but they did not seem to mean me any harm. They were there more like massive wardens than threats.
I couldn’t move, could only see, and my point of view was called back to the ocean, back to Cloak who walked on the surface of the water an airy imitation of Christ. The bloody hearts hit the black waters, flaring up and boiling in the scathing waves.
The disembodied voice called out like the hands of lightning screaming across the sky.
“He cannot intercede. I cannot be opposed by vapors.”
Cloak hovered slightly on the air before allowing his feet to touch the sand, and as he walked, it hardened, as though his own darkness was bleeding into the ground, seeming to counter the impurities of the blood rain. There were two forces at work here: his and the voice.
The black fluid from Cloak’s robes extended towards me. It slid along the sands like a desert snake, then coursed below through the ground, and snapped under me, into the surface of the shell like vines, thin tendrils winding around my legs. He pulled me out me of my shelter with a single supple flinch of his wrist, the red terrain dusting my lips. His tendrils seized around my body like chains on my flesh, tightening to hold me in place.
Cloak knelt beside me relinquishing his hold slightly, and leaned close as if his intangible lips were about to kiss me. His face spread apart like a portal, a rift in time and in this wavering window, I glimpsed the Citadel of Fractured Mirrors waiting for me. The broken black mirrors reflected the shore, and through the mass of fractures I saw faces peering out, young blank faces with black tears streaming down their child-like faces. Seeing that I was observing them, their ghostly mouths widened into silent screams, and I shrank back as the Citadel began to crumble, falling apart in great chunks of black glass.
Cloak’s empty face fused back together sealing away the Citadel’s dying gleam, and he stood erect, raising his airy hands to retract the slender tendrils and seized me to my feet so that we were face to face. He bent forward again so that I could stare into the void of his face, and hisses softly:
“You’re absence only aggravates the inevitable…”
“I don’t want this,” I cried, fighting against him, but even though he was little more than a gust of air, his grip was strong.
“Why do you let him control you?” the dark voice asked. Cloak heard it too.
“What is this?” Cloak replied quizzically. He seemed taken aback by this voice.
“Do you really think you can keep him from me?” this vicious voice asked my Shadow.
Flustered, Cloak released me, pushing me to the sand, only I wasn’t me anymore.
“You are not meant to be. You are abomination.”
“I am the farthest point of The Void. I am the end, and I shall have my time, Shadow.”
He forced me to the ground under his wispy heel, but in my possession, I resisted his force, inciting the armored beasts to roar defiantly. They circled me, their heads bowed to strike like a pack of wolves.
“Do you really think he belongs to you? You are fading away just like the rest. Why do you cling, remnant? Why do you care? Your brothers are dead. You have no means to resurrect your kind.”
“It is within the Architect’s faculties to grant remuneration, and I shall have it. I shall avenge what was lost and fight at my Master’s side. A Theurgian is loyal, he abides by the binding of his oath and vow and I shall not abandon mine to the whims of one who only deigns to assume the likeness of the Demiurge.”
“I am not only a likeness, Shadow. I am the blossom of a seed sown long ago, nurtured, tilled, and I am nearing refinement in your precious savior,” the voice chided.
Cloak staggered back as though dealt a blow. Wounded to some unknowable degree, he wavered faintly, but as I watched, my eyes weren’t my own at that juncture. I was actually glad to see him hurting whether it was great or small. The hurt in his black figure left a ripened taste in my mouth.
“I merely await the right moment to express and open my eyes.”
“Enough…” Cloak gasped.
“And then I shall assume the form of Demiurge.”
“And he shall see the world not as a creator, but a destroyer!”
“ENOUGH!” Cloak exclaimed, the whole of his robes becoming spears of black tendrils ensnaring me and squeezing tightly, each sleek rope a boa constrictor. “I have paid dearly for this audience, you will not deny me. While I have breath in the folds of this shade, I shall not be tempted by the likes of you!”
Cloak’s face became a vacuum, the swirling mass of space under his cowl drawing in a vast and impossible amount of air and sand and ocean into the apex of his face. As he held me firmly by his winding tendrils, he exhaled a tremulous breath of the gathered three elements and let it loose like a hurricane over my fixed body, as if to force the possessor’s hold on me out through some kind of exorcism. I could feel the sharp bits of sand and water and air battering against me like a tornado of razors, and inside my head, I could hear the conniving, slithering voice of Simu’la Re echoing deep into my cranial recesses:
“This is nothing! Nothing! My time is coming. I will be born from chaos and give you despair!”
As a storm forms and dies, the voice disappeared, but the damage remained.
Cloak, exhausted and mentally defeated, dropped me from his many grips, and I toppled belly up into the red dunes. Composed and myself again, I sat up, the metal beasts once fiercely alert suddenly tamer, sitting back on their great haunches like majestic lions. The rain dwindled, and the ocean stilled, but the sky remained tinted like a bruised peach. The beating hearts stilled as well gobbled up by the walking battlements.
“Do you know why you were chosen?” Cloak wheezed.
“As if you care, where the Hell have you been? Where were you when they took Baphomet? Do you have any idea what’s happened to him? To me?”
The emptiness behind his hood churned, virile with a returning poise as he stood up.
“I have dedicated myself to your ascension, and it has cost me, but I will not forsake my role in your enlightenment, even to your insolence! Turn from your own dissent. You must find the light and the way to the Threads and open the way to Noumena Pandemonium. There is still time before their defilement is complete. I am coming for you, Canaan Quintanilla. This transmission will not hold, but I am coming. The portal waits, to unite you and I. You mustn’t resist this time. You must cross over.” He pleaded for me to abide with him, his voice a broken lament.
I found myself crying into the sand, feeling the metallic monoliths shifting their weight around me, docile as Daniel’s lions. One of them nuzzled the back of my arm with its cold, wet snout, large as a boar’s, but shaped more like a dog’s, a rather large dog.
I wanted nothing more than to crawl back into the safety of the shell, hide away, and wait for a good wave to take me out to the ocean. Forget destiny and float out on the tide.
“Why haven’t you been there, Cloak? He’s…I’ve been all alone in this. I don't think I can deal with this anymore.”
The airy shape knelt down beside me, passing a wispy hand over the back of my bent neck. “I am coming, my young master. Trust in me and I will fight for you. But know that you are so much braver than you can possibly believe.”
I wanted to believe him. I could feel it in the dream this pull for him, this want to embrace my shadow friend and feel his generous guidance flowing through me, but I pulled away, nestling in the sand, staring up into the sky that looked as cracked panes of glass doming a world on its brink…
I woke up this morning in the backyard curled up with Dante under my arm. Some time in the middle of the night, I must have sleepwalked outside. It was nice watching the sun come up, a sort of eloquence deprived in my dream. The ground was damp with dew - cool against the back of my head. The neighborhood was so very still, people in their beds, pressing the snooze button on their alarm clocks. I should start everyday like that, before anyone else to own the Dawn. Mine alone to adore. I got up and took Dante for a long walk. I walked for what seemed hours, eventually having to carry the little pup, exhausted from our journey. I made my path all the way to the old red house past the school the coaches make us run to before realizing how far I’d gone. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t think I was really thinking at all. Vacant. I simply needed the time alone.
When I was young, I dreamt of being a hero, of being something other than a boy used as a punching bag. I wanted to be bigger than this world could possibly dream. I wanted to be someone else. Cloak has ways of finding me, and if he can break through the dull fog of sleeping pills and alcohol, then there is no doubt, Lamia will find her way through as well. I am starting to believe in all of this more and more, and more and more I am finding it harder and harder to break free. I want to expose this truth, so that I can finally lay it all to rest, and move on with whatever life I am supposed to lead. The world in my head needs me to succeed, to survive and salvage its dying husk, but much is there to obstruct me. Finals and the end of the world and possibly my sanity. I do not know how any of this is to be accomplished.