The Tragedy of Phantasms

The Tragedy of Phantasms

A Story by Nathan Cavaliere

The following is a short story consisting of about 20,000 words. It was heavily inspired by Lovecraft and other authors in the Gothic tradition, as well as philosophical and religious thought.


Literary Trailer

The following is a short story of about 20,000 words that exists solidly within the genres of Gothic horror, classical tragedy, and magical realism, with special inspiration from Howard Phillips Lovecraft. If you do not have the time to read the whole thing, please focus on Chapters IV - VI. This follows the story of a shaken actor who inadvertently travels into another realm of existence after finding out that her seemingly insane friend's claim of being the Second Coming turn out to be true. Although a piece of fiction, it is also an exploration into various aspects of philosophy, religion, and psychology, with clear influences from existentialist thought, psycho-analytic principles, and religious imagery.

The story should take the average person about 100 minutes to read the whole thing, or only 45 minutes to read the three climactic chapters mentioned above. While reading the story I would recommend listening to the lyricless atmosphere song “Nyarlathotep Part 1” by Cryo-Chamber in order to improve the emotional effect. It was what I was listening to while writing the story. 

Scene I: Mysticism

Before we get too deep into this lesson, I felt it best to give you all insight into why I designed this class in such a manner. Inspiration struck me one day when I paid a visit to a hospital in Wisconsin. For the sake of confidentiality, I will not reveal the name of this hospital. Regardless of where I went though, I went to this place to check up on one of the many case studies I have been looking into for the past years. Their name was Nicole Cheglovosk. 

One particular day when I came to visit, I came across an especially dramatic spectacle. One of Nicole Cheglovosk’s friends, Millia Ineke, had came to visit just before I did. Mz. Cheglovosk was proclaiming that God was killing her for challenging his will and that there was nothing anyone could do to save her. Mz. Ineke at first desperately tried to assuage Mz. Cheglovosk by claiming how easy it was for a case of dysentery like hers to be resolved. Seeing that was not working though, Mz. Ineke switched to a new claim that to any outside observer would have been utterly shocking. For Mz. Ineke had loudly announced that the creature which Mz Cheglovosk swore was God was much too horrible to be anything but an unholy, malevolent demon that stood against anything God could have represented. The shaken hospital staff quickly separated the two, believing that Mz Ineke’s presence was making Mz. Cheglovosk feel even more distressed. 

And this vignette is part of the story which I will use to teach my lesson today. And why am I using an anecdote to form the centre of my lecture, you may ask? 

One of the most fundamental aspects of human culture is the use of the story-weaving instinct to establish one’s beliefs, both overt and subconscious, through embracing an emotional experience imparted to one from art. This has consistently proved to be among the most compelling ways to teach the human mind what behavior is moral and effective. I seek to use the ascendant art of storytelling to provide a valuable insight into the nature of humankind that could not be conveyed through a mere lecture. In my telling of this story I will occupy many roles, including that of an author, teacher, historian, artist, and psychologist; but I should first and foremost be considered a philosopher. 

The story I will tell is a tragedy, not just of the rising and downfall of a single soul, but of the ruination of several, in a setting of spectral dread and fantastical images of the other worlds. And this collective ruination arises from the same primordial well: the obsessive craving for attachment to the constructs of the physical world. Of course, this concept does not exist without context. Both the Buddhists and the Stoics of old have preached that this desire to chain oneself to the empirical world is the primary cause of suffering. One of the central teachings of those who serve the Abrahamic God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is that the favoring of  humanity over oneness with the ethereal and supreme God inevitably leads to pain and evil. More modernly the Existentialists have claimed that it is the realm of thought and emotion which must be at the centre of the human condition rather than merely the grasping and craving of meaningless spectacle and pleasure. This message has not gone undisputed throughout the course of history though, for numerous reasons which you as a human of this world probably know well. 

It is not my rightful responsibility for me to choose for you what to believe, but I know that it is only right for me to at least present a side of this argument in favor of those disillusioned with the chains that link them to the sublunary. This tragedy is at least worthy of consideration, if not actual internalization as holding universal truth. 

Although I have sufficient knowledge to tell the whole story myself, I find that the emotional experience would be so much more profound if it is told from the perspective of someone who actually was permeated by the sentiments created by the events, rather than merely told by an impassive observer such as myself. To this end, I have personally inquired to one who herself intimately experienced the events of the tragedy, and yet survived, and  will recite the story exactly as she told me. 

Millia Ineke wove to me this story at the funeral reception for Nicole Cheglovosk. To say that me and Mz. Ineke were familiar is a stretch, but we did know one another’s face and name through our mutual relationship with Mz. Cheglovosk, with her as a best friend and me as a close cousin, and my frequenting of the theatre where she worked. Typically I would not spend my time with such trifles, but in anticipation of the events to come I found it best to understand the mental cast of those tragic heroes before disaster actually struck.  And also, I wanted to make myself known to Millia Ineke so that she would be comfortable enough to reveal the true story of Mz. Cheglovosk’s death after the events occurred. 

Nicole Cheglovosk had estranged herself from the rest of her family when she refused to hold up the family legacy by aiding the military, either by directly joining or by marrying someone involved. But since she was unmarried, there were few others except for me within the family who were willing to serve as the executor of her will and organizer of her funeral. The stigma coming from the fact that she had died in an asylum also did not help her standing in the family. Even if me and Mz. Cheglovosk were never close I did not condemn her nearly as much as the rest of her family did, and I actually bothered to interact with her when the others did not, though as I previously stated this was done more out of an ulterior motive than any sort of affection. Still, I had prepared her funeral to be just as keenly artistic and grandiosely dramatic as I knew she would have wanted it. 

The funeral reception where Millia Ineke’s story was told took place in the library of my mansion. To fully establish the mood of mourning I had scheduled it for a midnight dreary in December. The wind outside was howling as if it where condemning the otherworldly spectres that surrounded Nicole Cheglovosk’s death, and even with windows closed the gusts still rustled the purple curtains I had placed specifically for the event. Still, the jeering winds could not stop the stars from chasing away the clouds so they could stretch their astral-light to stare in amazement at the magical impossibility of Mz. Cheglovosk’s downfall. A closed fireplace provided most of the scarce light in the room, allowing its haunted rhythm to cause the shadows of all the spectators in the room to haltingly dance. 

The shadows being cast sprung from several of Nicole Cheglovosk’s friends and family, predominantly a German and Russian crowd, but only two of the people there were of interest to me, for they were the two who knew the true circumstances of Mz. Cheglovosk’s death. One of them was eccentric to the crowd, for his cast was that of an ancient Moor, and his bland, robelike attire and headwear clearly established him as a Mohammedan. Previous to the tragedy Idren Salim would never have had the courage to so obviously display his faith in Islam. Even if deep down he gave credence to his cultural religion, to him the benefit of practicing any aspect of Islam observable to others was not worth the cost of prejuidice. In the wake of what he saw from beyond the veil of the natural world on that fateful day though, properly claiming all the protection and strength from God that he could was well worth any threat of jaundiced eyes. He knew enough to tell the story just as factually as Millia Ineke could, but I knew he would be much less willing to tell it, and even if he did it would be with more restraint than potency. Having Idren Salim tell it would lessen the emotional impact I needed in the story to serve its purpose as a morality play. 

So then it was only natural that I turned to Millia Ineke instead. Like the rest of much of her community she was German, but she was of the sort that held black hair and green eyes rather than blonde hair and blue eyes. Like the rest of the thespians there, she was wearing an unremarkable black dress, which allowed her to meld into the assembly as one of the several phantoms present in the glow of the fire. She seemed disassociated from the rest of the throng,  gazing into the cruelly frolicing fire while drowned in the twilight abysses of memory. 

I approached Millia Ineke, and professed that I expected that there was something uncanny about Nicole Cheglovosk’s plight that not all of the funeral-goers were aware of. I told her that I suspected that Mz. Cheglovosk’s claims to have been killed by a smite sent from God may have been more founded in truth than the others were willing to believe . Mz. Ineke never thought she would ever get a chance to tell the story to someone, as she was concerned she would be viewed as insane for doing so, so she was more than a little relieved to be able to express her story to someone as sensitive and accepting to supernatural mysteries as an occult expert such as myself. The remainder of the convention paid us no heed, for they must have subconsciously sensed that what we were discussing was too sublime to be interrupted. There is no doubt that Mz. Ineke was completely unaware that I was actually more knowledgeable about Nicole Cheglovosk’s downfall than herself she was. For she had believed my false front that I was far away studying the occult in Aegypt and Central America as part of my Masonic duties when it had occurred and thus couldn’t have witnessed what she had seen. 

It should go without saying that her story was made inaccurate by the blurry mists of memory and her natural inclination as an actor to embellish events for dramatic effect. Regardless, her interpretation of events are more important for our purposes than the actual events themselves. 

That being said, I should inform you that the dialogue she attributes to the other characters is absolutely not accurate. Millia Ineke apparently saw fit to alter what everyone had said to make it sound more artistic. It must have made the events seem more comfortable in her mind if all of the events seemed like a fictional creation of Shakespeare or Sophocles, set in the far past, rather than a reality that had happened only earlier in this year of 2019. Any dialogue here should not be regarded as an accurate representation of what anyone has said. However, Mz. Ineke’s interpretation of what was said is just as valuable to us.

 The reason as to why she was able to tell the story so fluently was in part because she had privately practiced the telling of the story to herself on a multitude of occasions since the event. Although strange, it was how she coped with the trauma of the disaster, because as an actor the expression of her innermost emotions through storytelling was what she firmly believed was the best way to survive with them. 

I will now tell you the story the same as it was told to me, from her perspective. I will make commentary when I find it best, but I shall keep it as minimal and contained as possible. 

Scene II: Proclamations 

“You are partially right in your assumption. Something beyond this world was involved in the death of Nicole. But this was not something as holy as God. The unknown consumption which blighted her was the result of the influence of something that should not be. I know that what I will tell you likely sounds impossible, but it was what I saw. As to whether what I saw was reality or not, I can’t answer, but what I sensed is all that I have to work with to explain why Nicole made such a drastic claim. Let me start from the beginning:

It all occurred on September 22nd of this year. I did not realize the significance of the date before Julian later told me. I arrived at the [REDACTED] Theatre at 10:00 that day. Me, Julian, Nicole, and Idren all were involved in rehearsing a play we volunteered for. While walking through the city from my apartment on that day, I could notice that the day had already begun to take on an ominous tone. An oppressive layer of clouds had interposed itself between the Sun and Earth, letting only a dim hazy light come through. There was a pervasive sorrow in the air, and it seemed to suck the color and vitality out of every person and plant in the street. The tall buildings seemed to lean mockingly over me, the seas of lighted windows like a myriad of eyes staring mockingly amazed at me because they knew what would come next. There was a stillness in the world as if it knew to be afraid of that day far before I even had a clue of what was in store. 

The theatre itself was not any more wholesome. Despite the fact that it was centuries old and once prestigious, it had fallen a long way. It used to be an expansive affair with five stages, and the elders of the community claimed that every Sunday after church it would become nearly completely filled. That was long ago though. It was hardly like that anymore. Most of the furniture, props, and technology had been worn down and there was never enough money to replace them. Even if its exterior was as a grand Gothic affair, replete with pointed arches, rib vaults, delicately decorated massive windows, and flying columns, that could not stop it from feeling like a factory. The exterior held the charm of a long-forgotten age in it, but the interior looked more like an industrial manufacturer that had been stripped of any of the technology that would make it productive. Only by following the long columns up towards the shining windows could you realize what this building once was. 

It was in this place that the events which led up to both Nicole’s and Julian’s death began. Things started going awry that day in one of these cold, barren rooms. The gloomy blue light streaming from the dusk sky and funneled through the Clerestory windows was all that gave color to the rickety wooden stage over the marble floors. Me and Julian Terbekke were rehearsing our roles for a play that we had been trying to perfect for five months now. Some of the other actors in the play were idly standing by, including Nicole, and Idren as stage director was there to ensure that everything went smoothly. But we were not able to get anything done, because something was off about Julian. He didn’t seem completely conscious at that moment. His movements were all sluggish and his eyes were glassy with a haunted glaze. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was sleepwalking. When I said my first line he only stared at me blankly and soullessly, not having the energy to respond. 

We all knew very well what was going on, but nobody seemed to quite have the bravery or callousness to say anything. He was once again in a drug-ridden stupor, rendered half-catatonic by some disguised poison he had bought from the street. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. It was common knowledge to all the permanent members of the theatre that he was traumatized, and would turn to drugs and alcohol in an impotent attempt to numb the pain. 

His parents, whom he was still heavily reliant on despite being an adult, had died just three months ago and he didn’t have anyone else close in the world to connect to. He was always too anemic in the spirit to try to connect with anyone else. I never knew whether it was because he didn’t want to make friends or did and just wasn’t ever able to. He was so broken by that point in September that it was doubtful if he ever could have survived that long without his half of the inheritance money from his enormously wealthy parents. He was less involved in the theatre than the rest of us because there were too many days which he would waste drowned in his memories and dejected thoughts, all while wracking himself with potent drugs and obsessively eating whatever he could find. 

The only days where Julian was put together enough to be productive was the days he specifically reserved to practice his roles in the theatre. Idren had already discussed replacing his role with someone who wasn’t so impaired, but Julian hadn’t yet made any drastic slip-ups so that there weren’t any grounds to actually drop him yet. That was until that day. It had come to the point now where he no longer had the capability to control which days he could resist resorting to drugs on. He was barely able to keep active before, and now he was fully unable to function. Everyone was silent in response to Julian’s failure to respond with his expected lines. I imagined they were absorbing the haunting stillness of the environment around them. The air around was so tense that I do not know how long everyone paused before Idren broke the silence. 

Although he was trying to sound as calm and comforting as possible, the very fact that it was disturbing the silence tinged Idren’s voice with a thunderous quality. He asked Julian if he felt well enough to act out his role, pointing out that he seemed too intoxicated to do much of anything. Julian only looked at his feet in response to this. After another unbearably long pause, Idren spoke out again and told Julian that if he can’t work then he should leave the stage and let someone who is more prepared act. 

Julian mumbled out that he was capable of working, but not even he was able to convince himself of that, much less the rest of us. Idren called for the scene to start over, and I recited my first line once again. Another pause followed and he was unable to respond with anything except for an indistinct whisper. Putting more firmness into his voice this time but still trying to seem comforting, Idren demanded that Julian leave the stage. Julian complied, wordlessly shambling away from the stage towards the choked light of the city’s street. I was too engulfed by the stillness to even think to stop him from driving away while so deeply intoxicated. Until 8 hours later, that is. 

When I had finished my shift for that day at 6:00 my thoughts wandered back to Julian, and I began to be concerned that he may have crashed his car on the way home. Almost none of the other actors at the theatre had a car because we lived in the city and it was just impractical on all terms, but the estate which Julian inherited was farther on the outskirts of town. That meant that there were too many opportunities for him to have crashed along the dense city streets, even on a quiet day such as this. Before I walked home I decided to step outside and call Julian to make sure that he was okay. I was at first relieved when he picked up the phone, but my released nerves would soon storm back in wicked retaliation and with greater force once I heard the horror he was responding with…”

*Please excuse me, my student, but I find that it is necessary for me to interrupt Millia Ineke’s tale at this point. In the next part of the conversation with me she tries to explain what was said during the phone conversation between her and Julian, but does it in a very sloppy and confused way. It would have been nearly impossible to tell which one was speaking whenever she made a quote. I suspect that she rehearsed this part less than the others. Instead of letting you make sense of the disoriented jumble, I will just present you with the actual transcript for the phone call.*

*9/22/2019, 18:13, EDT*

Millia: Hi Julian. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay. I knew you were… not in a good state to drive when you left and I was worried that you may have crashed your car. 

Julian: I was not the one driving the car. 

Millia: But who else could have driven you? None of the other actors left at the same time as you. 

Julian: An angel had the courtesy to drive me. 

Millia: What do you mean?

Julian: I mean exactly what I said: an angel drove me home. They too saw that it would just be embarrassing for the next Voice of God to die in a filthy backwater alley-street on the day of his coronation.

Millia: I am sorry, but I do not understand what you mean. Is this some sort of freaky extended metaphor?

Julian: It is not befit for God to resort to lies or treachery, especially on such an important day. What I say is the truth. 

Millia: Julian, what are you going on about? 

Julian: Today is September 22nd. The Fall Equinox. The Day of Mabon. Mea'n Fo'mhair. This marks the day of the year when the day and the night are in balance. On this day, the sun and moon will paint the Sign of the Serpent on the Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza and herald the descent of the Great Feathered Serpent itself. On that day, God will come down from the Stars and land on the Earth. 

Millia: Where did you learn all of this from? Last time I checked, you knew nothing about mythology. 

Julian: God told me. Don’t you see? This is the end of our era. The end of the Fifth Sun. Ragnorak. Judgement Day. The cruel world as we know it will fall away, and in its place will rise a new world. A better world. For me, for you... for everyone. 

Millia: Julian, please stop. You make me uncomfortable when you say such outlandish things. I am worried about you. 

Julian: Why are you so afraid? This is a joyous occasion! Don’t you want happiness? 

Millia: What you are describing does not sound happy in the least. It sounds like the end of the world. 

Julian: But I will make sure it is happy. Don’t you see? I will be the person bringing about these events! The Green Man. The next Nanahuatl. I will have the power to make sure that everything is happy in my control… I will be THE SECOND COMING. 

Millia: Julian, just please calm down for a few seconds and listen to me…

Julian: Why are you speaking to me like a child? Are you not proud of me? Are you not proud of the things I will do? Do you despise the greatness that I will bring to the world? Our world! 

Millia: It is nothing like that Julian...

Julian: I do not have the time to be idly mocked today. The Sign of Kukulcan has already shone, so I do not have much time left to prepare. Quetzalcoatl… Zeus… God will arrive at midnight. If you truly trust me and wish to witness the epicenter of the birth of the New Era, then you may arrive at my estate by the Witching Hour. Invite over as many people as you would like. Let us make this a true ceremony! I will make sure that everything is ready for my coronation by the time you get there. God be with you and Fare-thee-well Millia, I hope to see you soon. 

Millia: Wait!...  

*Phone call ends*

Scene III: Dissent 

*Now, let us return to Ineke’s narrative. If further interjections are required I will make sure to clearly signal them.*

“Nicole was supposed to walk home with me on that night, so she was standing close by while I was making the call. I could tell by the reaction on her face that she was just as shaken as I was. Another uncomfortably long pause occurred as we all were shivering in uncertainty on what to do next. 

I do not have any good idea how long it was before I managed to get the energy to speak up, desperately trying to prevent my voice from cracking. I remember telling Nicole that we needed to go check on Julian because he was clearly not well and that there is no telling what he would do once it is midnight and he realizes that what he was waiting for didn’t come. He was already broken enough as is, I was deathly worried that the sorrow of this unfulfillment may… tip him over the edge. I demanded that we be there with him. 

Nicole opened her mouth as if to respond, but never started what she was going to say. She tore away from my gaze and looked down at her feet for another long pause before looking back at me and nodding slowly. Eventually she managed to get something out in a tone intensely smoldering with what I thought was fear. It wasn’t until later that I would realize that the emotion she was truly covering up was hesitance and disapproval. 

“Yes, we should. We do not know Julian’s address though.  Why didn’t he mention that in his call when he invited us? You know what, nevermind. We should ask Idren to reference the Call Sheet and get his address. We could call Julian himself and ask for the address but that would be too… uncomfortable.” 

We rushed back into the theatre and confronted Idren about this. Our unease must have been contagious because he quickly became just as fearful as us. But his reaction was tinged with more disbelief than I or Nicole had because he had not heard the phone conversation himself, so the content of the message seemed improbable. Eventually our sincere conviction on what had happened seemed to convince him that what we said was true. It probably also helped that he was well aware that Julian was in a failing mental state. Much to our surprise Idren offered to come with us to check on Julian, and we impatiently accepted without even asking for an explanation as to why. Later he revealed to me that he himself didn’t even know why he came. 

None of us even considered that what Julian said might be true. None of us could have ever expected that on that day we would actually see something comparable to a god. At the time, disbelief was the only reasonable conclusion for us to make. Looking back on this later though, in hindsight knowing what we had witnessed on that midnight, I now know that our close-mindedness was a fatal flaw. If we knew the truth about what would happen on that night, perhaps we would have taken Katherin’s advice… I am sorry, I have forgotten that I haven’t mentioned Katherin yet. I should get to that. 

As soon as Idren agreed to come along he raised the idea that it would be best if we bring Julian’s sister, Katherin, with us to make sure that we come across as friendly rather than threatening. Seeing as how midnight was more than 5 hours away,we knew we would have the time to speak with Katherin before ariving at the Terbekke estate. Me, Nicole, and Idren all remember Katherin from high school and some years of community college, but we had lost contact with her. After her parent’s death, she had decided that the lifestyle we had was causing her suffering and became a Buddhist in pursuit of serenity. Katherin’s interpretation of what it meant to renounce worldly craving included cutting off her social ties to everyone she knew, and we were not exempt. Still, we knew where we could find her, and hired a taxi to reach her apartment before going to Julian’s estate. 

It seemed as if the environment outside had not changed in the slightest since the morning. The sea of windows still formed an army of thousands of malevolent yellow eyes standing guard over the pale, dim silence of the world. On that day, the world must have tried in desperation to maintain order as much as it could. It must have known that after that night, things would never be the same again. The Earth sought to cherish the last moment of peace and quiet it would get for an eternity. 

It took us less than an hour to arrive at Katherin’s apartment. Luckily, she was present and rang us in. At first she had rented the space because it was easier for her to get to the college from there in comparison to her family’s estate. It is undeniable that part of the reason why she still kept the apartment then though is because her family’s estate was much too lavish for a Buddhist to be happy in. When we were finally allowed into Katherin’s apartment I noticed that it was scarcely decorated, and it only held what was necessary for the simplest storage of cooking equipment and bland clothing. She preferred to spend time outside rather than in her apartment and never entertained guests, so there was no furniture there except for a sleeping bag which she used in place of a mattress. 

Me, Nicole, and Idren all were disgusted by the all-too-frequent pauses that were occurring that day, so we wasted no time in explaining our intentions for coming there. We were all talking over each other, individually adding details piece by piece until the scatted story came together. Although my fear leaped from me to Nicole and Idren with immediate effect, Katherin was able to hastily but smoothly swallow up any sign of terror as she wordlessly contemplated everything we said. Up until this point, our conversation had become too scrambled for me to remember anything any of us said too clearly. But when Katherin first spoke to us, the cloudiness of my attention cleared away and allowed me to recall what happened in the rest of the conversation. 

I so distinctly remember what was said then because everything about Katherin seemed to penetrate through the tension of the moment with an uncanny clarity. She seemed to stand like a light of sanctuary against the darkness of our panic. Katherin must have channeled all of the peacefulness from the environment without taking the elements of foreboding with it. That moment in the day was so out of trend with the nightmare that was the rest of it that it almost seemed even more unnatural than the unworldliness of what had already occurred. Somehow this very serenity was disturbing, purely because of how unusual it was. 

She had none of our impatience, and took a long pause to consider what we said before saying anything in a clear but monotone voice. “What you are doing is not a wise decision. This is not something that we are capable of handling. If you are truly that concerned, we should call a professional therapist about this matter and have them handle this.” 

Somehow Katherin’s tranquility was further incensing my fear and agitation, and I knew that it showed in my voice. “No, we should not call a psychiatrist about this! You know they are useless and nothing they do will help. They will just strip away all of his freedom and feed him more of the drugs that landed him  here in the first place. They are clueless. He needs our help, not theirs!”

Katherin once again caused another hated pause continuing to speak. “It is true that there are many problems with the mental health care system. However, their lack of competency does not automatically make you qualified. Regardless of their flaws, they still hold more knowledge and resources than we have. Just because they may not be fully competent, does not automatically mean that you are. It is too obvious that you do not know how to handle this.”

My fear was rapidly transforming into anger at this point. “That is not true! We absolutely know what we can do to help him!”

Although Katherin’s voice still had the same stable quality to it, my passions gave her tone a malevolent tinge that I know in hindsight was entirely of my own making. “What exactly do you plan to do to help Julian come to his senses then?”

By this point I was completely enraged at Katherin, but I must admit that I do not fully understand why. Perhaps it was because I was jealous. In this panicked moment she seemed so calm and logical, and part of me was envious of how she could do that. Katherin seemed to have an almost transcendent wisdom, all the while I was pitifully bewildered. I couldn’t stand that she was not falling apart just as me and the others where. There are very few times in my life when I have been as upset with her as I have been with anyone else. “We will be there with him, just as we have for years now, and it will make him better.”

The very fact that Katherin spoke with such virtue and clarity at that point felt like venom to me. “You have been with Julian for months now, my dear, and he has gotten worse, not better. All of you were always there with him. His feeling like you abandoned him was never the problem. Your mere presence cannot just shake away a delusion of this depth. A mental breakdown of this degree doesn’t just go away in an instant. You know that your mere arrival there will not suddenly cause him to abandon his delusions and become whole again as if nothing had happened. It will likely take extensive time and careful treatment for him to recover. Not to mention that you yourself, Millia, have yourself been traumatized and broken, and we all know you have not fully recovered. For you to help Julian would be to expect the blind to lead the blind. What exactly do you plan on doing that will make him meaningfully better?”

I found myself unable to respond to Katherin. What she had said was exactly true: I had no idea what to do to actually solve this problem. Even though I knew she was right, I refused to say anything because I am afraid that verbalizing it would make me consider how wrong I was even further. And in this chaotic and uncertain of a dilemma, I couldn’t bare not feeling like I was not in complete control of what would happen, even if I knew this belief was deeply unfounded. It was easier for me at that moment to simply stew in my anger than think any more than frictionally about my ignorance. 

Katherin must not have had the same disquieting effect on Nicole as it did on me, because I noticed that when she spoke it was much clearer, even if it was obviously saturated with pain. “Millia, Katherin is right. We just do not know what to do. This is not something we can handle. We should just leave this to the people who know what they are doing and carry on.”

I didn’t think it was possible, but at this my passion climbed even higher and I know that it was expressed in every fibre of my being. “Nicole, how could you say that! How could you betray him like that! He is our friend! He has been our friend for years! He has been an important part of our lives for so long! We can’t just leave him behind. Do you not care about him at all?” 

Nicole was trying desperately to stifle back tears at this moment, and her speech was interrupted by sniffling. Somehow though the grace of Katherin’s presence still persisted in her voice. “Millia, of course I care about Julian. That is why I want is best for him. We just can not provide him with what he needs at this moment. Our going there will not help him, it will just make us all the more upset. We can’t handle this stress Millia. Please, can’t we just keep to ourselves? You always do this! We will never find happiness if we must share in the pain of everybody we know.”

Idren must have known that if he didn’t take the opportunity to speak in the pause that followed, he would lose his chance at getting his voice in during the ensuing argument. “Millia, please listen to us. Julian was a close friend of all of us, and I know why you feel obligated to protect him. But this obligation is purely of your own making. Julian is your friend, Millia, not your child. It is not our responsibility to constantly keep him at our side. None of us are capable of doing that. We need to be able to move on, Millia. Especially now when it is best for all of us.” 

From the periphery of all of this disorder came Katherin’s sweet voice, somehow taking the dominance of my thoughts even though it was so slight and unobtrusive. “Millia, before you continue please consider everything that was said here and apply some critical thought to yourself. Are you truly doing this to help Julian, or are you doing this to help yourself because you do not want things in to change? You have practically admitted now that you have no idea what to do.” 

I was feeling profoundly betrayed at this moment, and it was causing me to seethe with practically every emotion imaginable. My panicked sight at this moment only saw that all of my greatest friends were now cornering me. Looking back at it, I wish that I had given them more consideration. I should have absorbed Katherin’s wise serenity and understood that they were just trying to help me. But in my anxious fury clarity was nothing more than a toxin. 

“How could you all betray me like this! I am never leaving Julian behind, I do not care what you say. I am going to go and be a good friend, regardless of what you all say to me. And nothing you all say will convince me otherwise! If you all want to be caring people to you can come with me, but if you are so intent on your own treachery and heartlessness you can get out of my sight! ”

Upon saying this I stormed out of the apartment and waited outside in the hall to see who would come with me. After another pause, Nicole and Idren came out to join me. Idren looked sombre and serious, as if he were intent on doing whatever came next despite his uncertainty. Nicole seemed to have none of that intent, as obvious by her crackling voice and tears. 

“This is a terrible idea Millia. It will not end well… But I can’t leave you to take on this challenge alone. I promise I will not abandon you. You are my closest friend. I will be there with you no matter what.”

Just as we were about to step outside to hail a taxi, something caused me to stop. I suddenly noticed that some of the crying I was hearing there wasn’t Nicole’s, nor was it mine or Idren’s. After we had left, Katherin must have buckled and started sobbing. Even then At first I paid little heed to her lamentations and just continued on in my strides. I was too angry to want to even consider her any further. 

I still do not fully understand what continued to drive me to continue with my rashness on that night. At the time I didn’t even want to consider why. All I knew is that I felt that I must. It was if some unseen spirit was compelling me to push forward further into danger. So I bore ceaselessly onward, heedlessly and helplessly into the tragedy of that night. 

Scene IV: Phantasms 

I can only vaguely recall the taxi ride to the Terbekke estate. My thoughts were much more preoccupied with the future than the present at that time, so everything seems like a blur. What I do distinctly remember though is that traffic was unusually light on the day, making the transition to Julian’s ancestral home unnaturally smooth. It was if whatever energy that possessed me was exercising control on the physical world and repelling people out of my way. 

The eyes of the buildings shook with torment and gazed sorrowfully at us through the mist, in agony that they could do nothing to stop our doomed progress. The trees shook madly in the wind as nature tried desperately but futilely to assert its control back over the world which had fallen into the grasp of the Winged Serpent that Julian so excitedly talked about. It is a mercy that I can only dimly recall the anguishing events leading up to our fateful encounter in the Terbekke estate. 

What I do distinctly remember though was when the taxi dropped our trio off in front of the bridge leading to the castle that was Julian Terbekke’s mansion. I suspect that it was somewhere around 8:00 when we got there, but I was too obsessed to bother checking the time. The tower’s sharp rigidity stood in stark contrast to the natural lake and woods surrounding it, cutting into the black velvet sky with a menacing forcefulness. The immense tower was shaped like a cylinder, but at its top quarter the walls tapered into a series of three terraces topped by a wicked, wrought iron spire. Legend holds that the Terbekkes fashioned their home in the style of a tower from the Duurstede Castle in the Netherlands, and that the family money which funded the construction of the estate was built through the savagery and greed of their ancestors as members of the Dutch East India Company. The stolid burgundy stones of the tower, the corrugated walls of the terraces, and dagger-like spire all hinted that whoever built it had a fascination with ancient military techniques. 

All of this would have been imposing as is, but what was even more terrifying was the way in which a deep but hazy violet light poured from the windows and balconies of the foul tower. This light washed over the burgundy stones and blue-gray terraces, infusing its ritualistic energy throughout the essence of the house. The castle’s purple outline was sharply emphasized from the shadowed background, making it seem as if it had been artificially forced in place there by the hand of a god rather than built into the environment. I imagined that the house was sucking the vitality out of the environment around it, because there could be no other feasible as to how the lake and trees which the castle stood over could seem so indistinct and shadowy. The natural environment seemed to sacrifice any color and prominence it had as a sign of respect to the maddening lights of the Terbekke estate. 

As we were walking across the bridge we could see that the water below us was reflecting the eldritch light of the house, causing the lake to appear like a tumultuous galaxy swirling under us. We all must have been too wonderstruck by what we were seeing to even comment on it to one another. Julian was wealthy and a skilled cinematographer for sure, but even we couldn’t have expected him to be able to have the resources and know-how to pull off this kind of phantasmagoria. At the back of my mind I felt the gnawing notion that perhaps something otherworldly was occurring here, but I quickly rationalized it away in favor of scenarios having to do more with technological wonders rather than supernatural miracles. 

When I approached the door, an intense dread blew over and shook me to the core. I cannot explain what drove me to push the heavy oaken wood aside and enter that nightmare palace. Ever since the start of that day I had a sense that some malevolent force had infested me and was urging me further into the maws of this trap. Perhaps it was the same passions that caused me to disregard Katherin’s warning. Even if I did question it at the time though I didn’t fight the call. So I opened the door. A violet haze was saturated around the room, making it impossible to see what was inside. I once again heeded what the devil-of-feelings pushed my soul to do and trudged inside as if the smooth stone floor was made of a deep mud. Idren and Nicole entered at the same time as me because we had all subconsciously drifted closer together for protection, none of us willing to part in that moment. 

What happened next was nearly indescribable. Never before had I felt anything like it. My body went completely numb, devoid of all sense of touch, whereas all of my other senses were heightened to impossible levels. What I heard was baffling and confusing, and the only thing I can relate it to is the cacophony of outdated machinery grinding its gears torturously with overwork, but in uncannily slow motion. I was intoxicated by an odor that smelled simultaneously of wildflowers, concentrated mint, and toasted nuts, but at such an intensity that it was pungently sickening. What I saw was likely the hardest to describe though. The only way to explain it would be by comparing it to what the night sky looks like reflecting off of a turbulent ocean, but from the perspective that I was those lights reflecting off the midnight seas. I was not just one of those lights though, I was alternating between merging among many of them, moving from star to star in a pattern I didn’t bother to analyze. 

Every emotion possible and impossible to experience I felt in that moment. Soul-crushing sorrow, boundless hunger, profound dread, sickening thirst, blistering rage, maddening suffocation, pervasive disgust, utter shock, and most surprisingly, primal ecstasy, all occurred at once to overwhelm me. But strangely, I felt even more than that: emotions which I had never known existed were mixed in there as well. At that moment I did not recognize myself as a person, just as a bodiless and soulless mind that endlessly struggled to make sense of everything my individual senses were gathering. But my senses, especially my sense of smell, somehow were rushing onward, skipping across the twilight sea surface to a destination that we somehow knew existed but could not identify. 

When I “awoke”, for lack of a better word, from whatever state I was in and regained the unity of my senses., in one body and soul, I realized I was no longer in the violet light. Instead, the yellow light of a doorway open to the day was swallowing me, while the rest of the world around me was shrouded in darkness. Outside I could hear a faint sound like that of thunder and quickly ringing bells which at first seemed miles away but then rapidly felt like they were being sounded right above my head. I instinctively crawled towards the light to escape the oppressive darkness, but almost immediately regretted my decision. 

The first thing I noticed when I came outside was the vast oppressive grayness of everything around me. The half-subterranean world could only bear the faintest shades of bile yellow and sickly green, a sharp contrast to the abyssal oceans of violet I had just come from. I was in a constricted trench just wide enough to contain me and just tall enough to keep my head from reaching the surface, but one that stretched into the gray for endless miles. I was not alone in this trench, however, far from it. Endless lines of gray spectres in identical uniforms of war skittered past us in a frantic frenzy. There was nothing in my sight but this trench and the bleak cloudy sky above. I then made another grave mistake by climbing ever so slightly up the hill of the trench’s side and daring to look upon the land beyond its walls. 

The land before me was a lifeless desert of gray and ghostly greens and blues, having no more vibrancy than was in our hole. Twisted and rent pieces of torturous barbed wire railings lay like decaying fish over a drained sea. Formerly the horrendous noise had been at least somewhat muffled down in the trench, but with my head above I could hear everything in its clamoring terribleness. I could hear the heavy plopping of metal as bombs were loaded into mortars and launched into vast grayness. The evil chirping of machine gun firing  with reckless abandon. The beastly roar of tanks rolling forward beyond my sight and  bellowing like bloated hawks whenever they unleashed death. 

But worst of all was the smell. Oh, it could only be described as odors of the deepest depths of Tartarus. Nothing natural existed in that scent. All sensation of smell was overwhelmed by the horrifically sweet and noxious scent of rotting flesh which I knew came from my fellow man. The only consolation was that that the intense scent of decay was overwhelmed by the deep chemical odor of the grinding machinery that we lived. Our relationship with the cruel machinery was identical to the closeness we used to have with natural trees. And how that horrible fusion of smell flowed into my mouth as easily as if I where intentionally lapping at the air like a cat probing for water with its tongue. 

I could not prevent myself from lowering my head to the ground just below my chin and vomiting. I could hear Nicole calling out my name desperately, but it sounded so far away that I didn’t know how to respond. I felt so numb, so displaced from my own body that I didn’t know if I could move. Some part of me wanted to respond to poor Nicole’s cries, but the other part of me, apparently the more dominant part, demanded that I take time to finish my retching before I returned. There was no denying what I saw: this was a warzone, and I was at the center of it. 

I looked up, and nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. A swarm of the enemy was charging us rapidly across the no man’s land, crawling recklessly over the painful iron, and flanked by ghostly tanks that could only have possibly been made from the metals of the twilight zones of the ocean. They too were gray spectres just like me and my siblings in the trench, but there was one main separation between us and them. All of the enemy had the heads of agonized and mournful rats, twisted in remorseful contortions. 

But in a moment I would know that we were not so different. I noticed that my hands where not their usual pallor, but consisted of a bleached pink skin with black hairs stretched tightly over a malnourished, nearly skeletal hand. At that moment I learned the truth: that we were all rats. My side, their side, my worst enemies, my best friends, everyone… everyone was a rat. We had crawled through these holes in the grounds like rats, and now we had become rats. We felt like rats, and thus we were rats. And we would soon die like rats. 

Nicole jerked me back and spun me around to shake my shoulders and face her. Her face had not yet transformed into what I know mine must have. They were scorched by acidic tears though as she forlornly stared directly into my eyes. I didn’t understand until looking in her eyes how afraid she was. Nicole continually screamed out my name, but for some reason I could only stare back without responding. She was pointing in the distance along the trenches, but I no longer had the courage to stare at anything but her eyes. 

Eventually though I noticed that Nicole’s face was disturbed, rippling like a stone being thrown in a pond. I knew that her head too was going to turn into a rat’s. All of us would. I couldn’t bear to look, so I finally heeded my friend’s command and looked to where she was pointing. Soaring in the sky above our trench I saw an indistinct figure in the distance that the only frame of reference I had for was an immense metal vulture that was falling from the sky. Bullets rained down from the mechanical condor’s oversized wings and were collapsing a line of soldiers in our trench, like dominoes. It would only be seconds before I was in the line of fire, and I could only stand there paralyzed. My salvation came when Nicole forcefully pushed me into a nearby bunker, the same one I had came from. I was so limp that it didn’t take much force for me to fall into the rat hole deeper underground. 

When I landed, the ground was not nearly as stable and hard as I predicted it to be. In fact, I actually landed rather softly and noticed that the ground beneath seemed to faintly shift back and forth almost fluidly when I fell on it. It was a much less painful experience than I thought it would be. When I tried to pick myself up though I noticed that the ground shifted again, and I had trouble keeping my balance. When I tried to stand up I fell awkwardly on my bum, and it wasn’t until then that I recognized that the scenery had drastically changed. 

I was in a large canoe of dark mahogany, seemingly floating down an endless expanse of darkness. The pale violet light of the ferryman’s lantern is the only thing that allowed me to see the hands in front of my face. Nicole and Idren were in the boat next to me, just as dumbfounded and confused as I was, with the violet light needling into their pained faces. Looking over the sides of the boat I could only see the clear water reflecting my face from it, but with the filter of the violet over it. 

I looked to see what the source of light was, and standing before the eerie lantern mounted on the bow was an ominous figure. It was wearing a grayish-brown monk’s robe made of a leather even darker than the mahogany of the boat. The robe’s folds gathered the violet light and granted it the color of a raven’s coat. The ferryman’s boots, hat, and hood were made of the same grim material. That gloved hand was gripping a paddle made of the same mahogany wood that the boat was made of, and he whipped it across the water on alternating sides to push us forward. Whatever ghost or demon this was turned its head to momentarily glare back at us, its bulbous insect-like eyes over a vulture’s beak filling my soul with dread. Its eyes looked through my very essence weepingly before turning back to look ahead into the endless darkness. 

After the shade dropped my gaze, I shortly after heard the final member of the boat, who I previously had failed to notice, call out and break the primal silence. “Millia, I am so glad you came!” 

I turned away from the monster to look at who was speaking and saw Julian sitting much too comfortably next to the ferrymen. He was dressed in similar garb, except for the fact that his head was not covered by anything. Thank the heavens his face was the one I was used to rather than being deformed like the ferryman’s was. Julian was sitting all too easily against the side of the boat, seemingly not concerned about any of the goings-on that had just occurred. 

Coming from next to me I heard Idren let out a faint, agonized, and moaning whimper, and turned to see that his heavy fall clothing was torn by bullet holes and was blotted with dark blood. The wounds like that of a swarm of worms burrowing in the ground. I stood horrified for a moment, that seemed like an hour, and then proceeded to hang my head over the side of the boat and vomit once again. 

Nicole was still crying from our last encounter in the trenches, and her sobbing only grew more profuse and noisome upon seeing Idren in his current state. “Idren, by God, I can’t believe it… I am sorry I didn’t save you. I am so sorry. I just didn’t realize you where there. I am sorry! Bloody hell, I can’t stand this, I am sorry! I wish I would have done something…”

Nicole’s elegy was interrupted by Julian’s contented voice containing a barely held back Ecstacy and childish delight. “Worry not, my friends. What you saw was only an illusion. Stagecraft. No harm was actually done.” 

Idren was too in pain to articulate, so Nicole seemed to feel the need to speak for him, even in her panicked state. “It is stagecraft that hurts like hell by the looks of it! How do we stop it.”

“Idren simply needs to understand that the damage dealt to him was not a realistic depiction of reality, and then it will fade. Just disbelieve it, Idren.” The wounded man looked directly into Julian’s eyes with a skeptical terror, but he took Julian’s advice seriously. Idren closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, and then seemed shocked to realize how quickly his breathing returned to full functioning. The only person more surprised by the sudden removal of any sign of damage more than I was could only have been Idren himself. Even his clothes were free of blood. 

Nicole let out a shriek of fury that went off with the force of dynamite in the silence of that place. “What the bloody hell is going on here Julian!? What was that!? Where are we!?”

I wished to express just as much outrage as Nicole was, but I was still too nauseous and disoriented to fully understand what emotion I was even feeling at the time. All I know was that I felt sick, and paradoxically thirsty. 

Julian smirked much too joyfully at the opportunity to explain what was going on. “That, my dear, was the past. The time when the foundations of modernity as we know it was established. The World’s Second Great War. And you had the honor of being in the middle of it. And this here, why, this is the present. We are on the River Styx.”

At that moment I then remember looking back at the ferryman, and when the horrible realization dawned on me I felt like my entire consciousness almost left my body. “The River Styx? You mean… the realm of Hades? Of Death itself? The Underworld? Are we… are we dead?” 

That strange cruel spirit must have taken hold again because I have no idea what else could have caused me to want to smell deeply again. I inhaled, desperately trying to grasp for knowledge of what was around me. For a place of death, it did not smell like death; that does not mean it smelled of life either though. The odor of the River Styx was like that of a pungent mint. A scent not unlike what I sensed when I first entered that place, which I can only call a Dream-World, when I first entered the house. I have a feeling that there was a reason behind the similarity between the odors of those two places, though one I could never hope to identify. 

Julian laughed good-naturedly at this, apparently finding our childishness amusing, but his speech that followed was drained of any of the happiness he had before and was instead infused with a philosophical solemnity. “Why no my dear, you are not dead. None of us here are. People tend to misconceive of the Underworld as a place of death when truly it is just a place of change.  The only thing that has died is the past, ceding to make way for the future. And this, the River Styx, is the present. The transition from bleak past to the brilliant future. This is what humanity came out of the World Wars with. A cynicism, a disillusionment, a lack of faith in God. A religion of science and industry, which quenched their need for knowledge, but left them starved in their hearts and souls, leaving them always grasping for more. This is the eternal sorrow of the Godless society. An epidemic of pain, of meaninglessness, of self-destruction. Look. The present is all around you right now...” 

Damn it that I followed my wondrous compulsion and dared to stare upon the realm of Hades further. The ceiling of the cave above us was lacerated by a crack, causing rocks to tumble silently into the river and drown, but letting that same violet light lay its sinister tendrils on the black sand banks of the River Styx on my left. On the right, there only stretched more of the black sea of infinity. In the banks I saw shades, the shadowy shapes of people in black amorphously gelatinous shapes barely held together into the vague outline of a person. No features could be seen on these ooze-things other than the basic limb structure which would be necessary to tell that the shadows were even vaguely humanlike. These things shambled under the violet light shamefully, their heads cast down to mope over the adamantine chain that had shackled them. All of their shackles were connected by a series of wrought-iron links that stretched endlessly along the chain-gang, not unlike in length to the trench we came from. When in the violet light they seemed unreal, like mere illusions and phantasms of the light. If I didn’t feel their vestigial emotions I would not expect them to be real. 

As they went along, they all sang out a thunderously rolling but mumbling chant. It was not unlike that of a ritual chant, regardless of whether it be the hymn of a Church or the incantation of a Pagan ceremony. They had lost their faith, but still they desperately sang in an attempt to stay in denial of this fact, praying to the empty sky and futilely hoping it would listen. 

Soon the cracks in the cave ceiling were resealed, the rocks which had fallen into the river being levitated back to their former places above. I could no longer see the shambling shadows, but I knew they were still there, just out of sight. Sometimes I imagined that I could see one of their forlorn outlines. 

Julian once again spoke, in the same dire and wistful tone. “These are the Halls of the Blind. Where those that abandon God are abandoned by God. This is Hades. This is Mictlan. This is Hell. But most importantly,... this is the present. But, my dearest friends, this will not last forever.  For behold, ahead of you is the gateway to the future. And I, my friends, I am the key. Behold, Ragnorak! Behold, the End of the Fifth Sun! Behold, Judgement Day!” 

What I beheld was an immense arch opening, carved unnaturally into the cave and leading to some world of the beyond. I could not see beyond the gate, for a blinding violet light shone from it. I was too speechless, too shocked to say anything as we went into the light. I was horrified, I was regretful, I was enraged, I was disgusted, all at once. It was an all too familiar feeling. We had gone through the Dream-World once already and entered into an all-encompassing nightmare. Now, we were to go through it again, to the nightmare within a nightmare. I closed my eyes, and covered my mouth and nose with my hands as best as possible so that I would not smell what would come next…

Scene V: Divinity 

I had reopened my eyes again once I had heard the wholesome noises of the chirping of jungle birds and summer insects. Everything else about this day had seemed so unnatural and otherworldly, but for once things sounded like what the world wanted them to sound like. Such a wide diversity of birds was about and letting out their songs to the world at a natural inconsistency. And although insects are always a nuisance, they reminded me of the summers I used to spend as a kid with my friends. 

Those friends I had in Summer were the same ones with me now. Nicole, Idren, Julian, and I together just like it had been for years… just like when we were kids. Katherin was the only one missing. It didn’t even occur to me just how different things were now than when we were in High School, playing by the lake which the accursed Terbekke estate was on. A seed of hope spawned in me that perhaps this image of the future would actually be something I would want to look upon. 

The smell was even more pleasant than the noises. The fusion of scents was like that of a gentle natural perfume made from wildflowers, mild citrus fruits, fresh resins, and gently roasted cocoa. Winds kindly breezed the smell around my whole body. For once on that day, I felt like it would be safe for me to look. 

I couldn’t have possibly predicted how wrong I was until I flung my eyes open and this beautiful illusion came crashing before me. 

The boat had brought us to a point on the river just before a plummeting waterfall. The waters were no longer onyx, they were clear and pure. From our position on the rocky cliffs we could easily stand mesmerized before the site that Julian had wanted to show us. 

The mossy and overgrown rocks we were on overlooked a sort of city that was built into a dense and tenebrous jungle. Very few if any buildings were on the ground. Instead logs were placed perpendicularly around and between trees to make a net of walkways throughout the jungle forest. Changes in elevation throughout this city were frequent, and instead of using ladders or stairs, sloping ramps provided ways to move from one elevation to the next. No constructed houses could be seen, instead openings were carved into the impossibly thick trees and people seemed to live within the bark. 

I might imagine this being a picturesque scene if it were not so engulfed in darkness. The trees were so tall, their branches so thick, and their leaves so broad that no sunlight could reach anything but the utmost highest layers of the forest. Instead of green plants growing in this jungle, fiendish mushrooms, envious mosses, and other grotesque funguses hooked themselves onto the oppressive trees like parasites. And it grew profusely as if the fungus had fatally infected this forest and gone untreated for decades, but it was still clinging to its dead host. whose overprotective ghost refused to let its body succumb to decay by the fungus. 

All of this fungus emitted that same evil violet light I had become too hatefully familiar with, enveloping the whole of the tropical forest in its sinister grasp. And what the light shone on… oh what the lights shone on, I hardly have the courage to describe. Intertwined in the many snaking fungal vines and soggy mushroom caps there were the corpses of rotting plants, dying animals, and condemned humans. Not just that though, other things were in these vines… things I cannot describe because it looked like nothing I had ever seen before. I refuse to put into words what creatures, what demons, angels, or fairies, intermingled in the graveyard vines with the creatures of this Earth. Seemingly endless swarms of ecstatic insects and ravenous birds (some suitable to the jungle biome, some out of place, and some which didn’t rightfully belong to be of this Earth)  feasted upon these corpses. 

What frightened me the most though where that these scavenging fliers didn’t restrict themselves to merely the dead. They swarmed around the living too, plants, people, demon, and animal alike, waiting for them to die. And sometimes if their target was especially weak they didn’t wait. Some of the things that hung from the vines like grapes I realized were not completely dead when they were set upon by these swarms. Writhing in the purple light, letting out screeches, screams, and howls that I could not hear because the droning of mad buzzing and squawking drowned it out, depriving them of their voice. 

In all of my searching it took me too long to realize, but eventually I saw it. Deep within the trees and fungus there was an imposing pyramid, built from yellow stone that perfectly soaked up the violet light. The pyramid was guarded by the immense statue of a catlike being with a human face. What I saw was none other than the Sphinx guarding over the Pyramid of Giza, but instead of it being sand-choked, vines and fungus had grown lustfully hungry all along it. It seemed so out of place that I had trouble thinking about it beyond just seeing it. 

I then realized that the noises and smells which I thought where so pleasant with eyes closed were saturated with an evil to them that I could only recognize now that I was unblinded. Those squawks and drones which I thought were so natural and soothing now took on an oppressively cacophonous trait. Those sweet smells I thought of as the musky scents of life I could now tell were just as much based in death as growth. What I smelled wasn’t just flowers and fruits and beans, some of that sweetness was the sickening sugar of rotting bodies. While blinded I was so foolish as to believe that the sugary smell of saltes dripping from rotting meat were cut from the same cloth-of-existence as lemons and daisies where. 

All of this and more which I dare not describe is what we saw standing in this Hell-Boat standing just shy from teetering off the green rocks into the trail of the waterfall, which led to no river I could see. 

I didn’t bother to look from the site of horror to see how anyone else was reacting to this. By the quivering of Idren’s voice though I knew his soul must have been shaken. “Julian, if this is the happy future you are imagining… then why is it here? Why does Charon remain with us on this boat? Why has Death himself followed us into this best of all worlds you want to create.”

Another dreadful pause followed, and by now I had begun to hate these lapses of silence just as much as I despised the violet light. And from the periphery of my vision I recognized that the ferryman had walked closer to us. They were standing just shy of my shoulder, but I dared not turn to look at what I knew was Death in the face.

And then the ferryman...  Charon… Death spoke for the first time in a voice,  tenebrous and hollow. The only thing I could relate that din to was the moment when a doctor had told me that my mother’s life was stolen by a stroke. “It is a fallacy to believe that life and death are opposites. In truth, they are just two sides of the same coin. Where there is life, there is death. Where there is no death, there can be no life. Here is a place of infinite life, and so, it must also be a place of infinite death. There is far more decay in the most blooming tropical reef than there will ever be under the ice of the Arctic. Maintaining the spark of life sucks resources from the world, for life demands air, water, food, warmth… all things not unlimited. It would be selfish for there to be no death, and so that who was already living may greedily and selfishly persist forever. No… it is only fair that life cedes to make way for other life. That the nutrients which one takes are to be given back to the world to be distributed to others. In a world where equality is truly reached on all dimensions, death must exist. This is the true law of nature. Even I, Charon, will be replaced one day by another whose name will be Death.”

Julian’s shadow fell on the other side of my peripheral view from the ferryman, and he took the mantle of speaking from Charon and adopted that same voice, but added it with a tinge of restrained hope. “And it will be I who takes their place. Charon has laid down their role, as tradition dictates, to the next Chosen One who was appointed by God. Perhaps one day even death may die, but that is not a change which is my duty to make. At least., for now. It was I whom God chose to be the next ferryman. But I will be so much more than Death. I will become a part of God himself. And when the triangle of the Trinity will be shifted to form the square, the more balanced shape, with me as the added point, this,... why this,... this is the future I will make. For the good of all humankind.”

My fear no longer dominated my sorrow, so I finally managed to tearfully and quakingly turn back to Julian. I was boundlessly upset that the once beautiful impression I had of this realm was gone, and I knew a sense of betrayal showed up in my voice. “The good of humankind? The good of humankind!? Do you truly have the hubris and the insolence to believe that this is what is best for us. Who asked for this! Who would ever want this… this nightmare to be our future!”

The speaking of this statement prompted me to analyze everything around me further so as to get more proof of my claim rather han just fixate on the nightmare-city below. I saw that the river we were still floating on stretched widely on all sides of me so long that I could hardly see the banks of the river. On the banks of this river there lay plain grasslands which sharply contrasted with the thick jungle just over the side of this cliff. This waterfall must have been miles wide actually, yet still the waters flowing from this impossibly large cascade did not even touch the jungle city’s floor but instead fell into some abyss beyond my sight. I wondered how our boat, so close to the edge of the waterfall, did not fall over the side. It was then that I noticed that the bug-eyed and bird-beaked ferryman, whose features too similarly matched the swarming creatures below, had planted his paddle into the ground to keep us from flowing with the tide. Death stood directly before the rising sun of Dawn, their already ominous silhouette emphasized as even darker against the river background. 

I wanted desperately to take my mind off of the tenebrous scenery, so I said the first thing that came to my mind. In hindsight, that was likely one of the worst mistakes I could have ever made. Where I directed my thoughts brought me to the most nightmarish thoughts of that whole night. 

“Wait a second, Julian, when I called you earlier today you said that an Angel drove you to your home. What was this angel?” My eyes then turned to search for who this angel could be, for some reason expecting to see it in view even though such was vastly improbable. My eyes connected to the mosquito bulbs of Death’s eyes, and my mind made the horrific connection within an instant. 

Charon merely let out a slight squawking chuckle as his orbs pulsated grotesquely. “No, Millia, it was not I who was with Julian in the car. No, something far worse was with him.” 

In that instant I hyperventilated and suffered the greatest panic yet. Whatever this thing was that was with Julian was so evil that even Death themself described it as worse than themself. And whatever that thing was, if it had driven Julian home, it must be close by… And if Julian appreciated this unknown horror’s company, then he may call it in. Whatever this thing was could come at any moment. Of all of the evils of that night, that lingering thought troubled me more than anything else. 

The next thing I noticed was that Julian had moved to block my view to Death, and to my alarm the ferryman let go of his paddle and gave it to Julian. The boat jilted forward with the flow of the river, seemingly eager to drive us off the waterfall. What scared me more than the inevitable fall into the unseen abyss which held the water though was the laughing fear that the unnamed monster which had occupied my mind would be within it. 

*At this point I could hardly keep myself from smirking at Millia’s skittishness. She didn’t seem to have any idea that I, the very person across from her, was the “monster” whom she was so afraid of. However, that is merely an interesting side note at best, so let us carry on.*

Just as the canoe was teetering over the edge and about to fall, Julian speared the paddle back into the ground and prevented us from going further. Now that the boat was hanging precariously over the edge I could see into the wretched place where the water was flowing into. There was an immense ravine in the ground that reached into the deepest depths of Hell. This was the only thing that prevented water of the river from infesting the city. But what flowed into that hole was not water, for once it entered beyond the threshold of the sides of the pit, the water leaped to life and danced amorphously, in tune with the chorus of scavengers. It seemed like the water was granted transient life only so that it could feel the pain of dying at the bottom of the Abyss. When the fluid entered into the pit it must have grown viscous in order to vibrate in such a way. I saw eyes forming in this booze, staring up at me as a baby would once first seeing its mother, seemingly endlessly joyful to finally see someone looking at it, somehow completely oblivious to its fate. I can’t stand to describe any more of what I saw in that pit. 

Eventually I jerked my eyes away from where the waterfall flowed and turned towards Julian. He was now taking the place of Death and silhouetting himself against the sun rising from the broad river, positioning himself to seem like the source of the light. At that moment Julian seemed to have transformed into Jesus, preaching at the Sermon of the Mount with the light of God at his back. Somehow, even Death themself was kneeling before Julian, submitting to only being part of the background when Julian was at the centre of all. And then he started his first speech, with perfect theatricality and fluctuations of tone. 

“What you gaze upon here is the River Nile. In the future, this is what Aegypt will become. The Nile shall expand to its true breadth, and the Sphinx shall come to life and push the Pyramids closer to the Nile’s shores. A jungle full off life will sprout from its waters and engulf the desert, eventually spreading to consume all of the Sahara and Arabia in its glory. You stand upon the epicenter of the new age, mighty Aegypt, which had been so downtrodden by invaders and plunged into the plight of poverty. But it had been the Cradle of Civilization once, and it shall be the Fertile Crescent once more. And it is I, under the will of God, who will cause this glorious reign of fertility.

And you may wonder why it is I who will be given this honor and none other. The answer to that question is simple, my children. It is because I possess the qualities which make someone truly capable of giving birth to a new era. Many have tried to change the world to such an extent, but all of them have failed, save for the Lord of Nazareth. Warriors, diplomats, healers, philosophers, and scientists have all tried to tacitly unite in the past to take control of this world. But they have been unable to do what I will do because they lack something important. They lack the true understanding of humanity that only the artist can understand. To profoundly understand what all of humanity yearns for in their most visceral, moral, and intellectual foundations. To know what is necessary to make all of us fulfilled, sparked by one cause that could unite people of all races, religions, and creeds. To truly connect them to the natural world in a way that satisfies their limitless desires for an eternity. Only the artist can truly grasp these, only the actors of this world can know how to obtain it. 

It is time for the arts to reign supreme over all aspects of life and to make all of humanity whole. Politics, war, religion, medicine, knowledge… all to be only dictated within the profound depths of the beauty, both horrifying and wondrous, of imaginative passions. Our collective soul fused in the beauty of creation, which only art can provide. None so far know what this truly feels like, though a few may pretend that they do. Under my guidance, humankind will transcend into the best of all worlds. It is not just my apotheosis, but the blessing of every human being alive and to be born. 

This I will do and more. For I will be God. I will be one with the Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl. I will be Death. I will be Life. I will be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnificent, and, most importantly, omnibenevolent. With a complete, flawless understanding of all of the arts, I will spread my knowledge to the whole world, and all of our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls shall become pure forever. This is the future, my dearest friends. And you all will be the first witnesses to it.

Kneel now, my children, for the midnight hour strikes. This rising sun is only a glimpse into the future, a conjured image. In reality, the Witching Hour has come. The Autumnal Equinox has now reached its end. And now, it is time for God… for Jormungandr… for Quetzalcoatl, to shine his light upon the world.”

It was now the Witching Hour? But that could not be true! We had only entered the house at close to 8:00, and the moments we had been through since we entered seemed like minutes, much less four hours! While we were in this illusory reality, had the flow of time been altered? How much time did we truly spend in the violet Dream-World which I wandered bodilessly through when we first entered the estate? In this cursed place, time had truly become an illusion. But regardless of what it may felt like to my body, my heart and soul truly understand what time it was. It was the End of the Fifth Sun. Ragnorak. Judgement Day. When God… Zeus... Quetzalcoatl would appear before my eyes. 

Scene VI: Retribution

Julian must not have felt threatened at all by how we were still on this boat teetering over the edge of the waterfall, for he let go of one of the two of his hands on the paddle to gesture towards the skies. It was an unnecessary signal, for a violet light more intense than all of the others shone from above, and would have surely taken my attention anyway.

It was a mercy greater than any I could possibly imagine that whatever creature was above me radiated so greatly with the violet light that I could only make out the most basic details of its features. Whatever that thing was, it was massive, with a tyrannically enormous wingspan. I sometimes swear I could see the bumps of scales on the demon’s thundering wings, but it was impossible to tell because my eyes were quivering from the burning of watching such brilliance. It was agonizing to stare at, but I couldn’t manage to get myself to look away.

It was then that I knew that I was staring upon what Julian had referred to as Quetzalcoatl, the great Feathered Serpent. The thing which he claimed was the same being as God.

The torrents of air that slammed down on the land from the flapping of the dragon’s titanic wings quivered the air itself. But the air was more than just quivering. I can’t easily explain what happened next. It was as if the world around was a panel of stained glass that was now shattering into a dust. The environment around me was cracking into plates and falling away to some place I can’t imagine. The world was warping, twisting, breaking into something else. The tapestry of my sight

slowly being completely unraveled in a torrent of violet light.

And as everything that I sensed before me was being torn down, the creature from beyond the other worlds spoke. I have no idea how I could have understood that horrible serpentine gurgling which resembled nothing I had ever heard before. There was almost a kind of mechanical tinge to its voice as if I was only hearing it through a disrupted radio transmission. Somehow this agonizingly vomitous cacophony came across to my bleeding ears as clear and distinct English. 

“Julian Terbekke! I had come here to bestow upon you the mantle of becoming an emissary to the Other Realms. But seeing your evil misdeeds here today, and knowing what toxins dwell in your soul, I refuse to give you such glory. Your very essence has been corrupted by the tenebrous parasite that is pride! By showing these mortals the River Styx, you have undeniably broken them. And instead of shunting them away, you have only led them further into a place too dangerous for their minds to handle. In your arrogance you have neglected the safety of some of the very people you were supposed to protect. Your gluttony for attention has led you to cruelty.

 I now see that you are willing to sacrifice the safety of others merely so you may satisfy your appetite for maintaining your own conceit. I cannot let this stand. The taste of power I had given you was already too much. This ability was given to you to test if you could hold your virtue once you had gained the power you sought. And you have failed this test. 

Now that you are corrupt, the might that you hold will only lead to pain. This cannot continue. You have now become such an immense threat to this world, that I cannot let you remain here. For if I were to even allow you to hold onto what divine magic you have as of now, without granting you more, the havoc you could wreak is still too great for the Earth to bear. The role of the next greatest prophet must be transferred to another in your bloodline, who is more worthy. For the good of all humankind, this must be done. Your punishment is death!” 

By the time that the monster had stopped speaking, the world that I was once in had already completely fallen away. Wherever those places where… the violet dream-world… the hellish battlefield… the River Styx… the nightmarish future…, I was not there anymore. Instead, we were now back inside the upper tower of the Terbekke Estate. It was completely bare of all furniture, revealing to us the full extent of strong-but-sickly burgundy stones of the tower. 

The building  quaked as the roof above us was torn off and tossed thunderously into the netherworld of the lack next to us. I do not recall seeing the alien beast even so much as touch the roof though to get rid of it. Instead, the architecture of the building just seemed to yield to its will and flee in terror from the only-vaguely-drakesque thing that had clung to the side of the building. It lifted part of its body, which I imagine must have been its “head” even though it shone too brightly for me to identify it as such for sure, through the shattered clerestory windows. 

The Castle of the Terbekkes was no longer the source of the violet light. Now, the only reason that the place still was drowned in the witch-light was due to Quetzalcoatl’s pollutant presence. 

Although the whole place was lit though, it was not suffused with the purple light. An orb-shaped bud of something glowing a bile yellow, even more brilliant than its host's purple scales, sprouted from the creature’s body. It was like an abscess was forming on the monster’s body, but instead of being filled with pus, a hot light that was desperate to escape was trapped inside the cavity. The fitful spirit trapped within rapidly was transforming from diseased yellow to alien red. 

A stream of this warm-colored light pierced through the cool violet to needle directly onto Julian. It was almost like a spotlight, but it had a cast that reminded me of the red siren-lights that emergency response teams use to signal that disaster had occurred. The hateful abscess grew in size as it came closer to its culmination at this evil redness. 

And as the abscess expanded, the horrid taste of ozone only grew stronger. It was if a slick of oil was being set ablaze, but so much more pungent. Perhaps someone who was amidst the explosion of an oil rig may relate the smell to something, but I have no frame of reference from personal experience. An unbearably scorching heat similarly accompanied the rancid smell. It almost reminded me of what it feels like to stand over a pot of boiling water, but the painful warmth somehow suffused through my whole being. I tried to vomit again, but by this time I was only capable of dry heaving, as there was no more liquid that could come out. 

Julian just stood there, shocked at his incoming fate. I do not know why he didn’t try to move out of the way of this light which signaled the trajectory of the fatal strike. Perhaps Julian felt that he could not defy what he saw as God’s will, and sought not to interfere with his judgement. Maybe the devil had cast some sort of spell of paralysis on him so that he couldn’t move. Or perhaps Julian and the thing did not leave the illusory reality where time flowed more quickly than on this earth, so that in that other world the attack was being charged so quickly that Julian had no time to react. 

It was then that Nicole sounded out the words which she was so sure was her doom. She cried out to the alien god, and since the preparation of the attack made absolutely no sound, it shrieked sharply throughout the world. 

“Please, if you truly are the virtuous God, please do not kill my friend! He has not harmed anyone yet! Julian is not evil, he is just lost. Julian was just alone and sad for so long and wanted to show his friends that he finally had accomplished something he was proud of. If he is too dangerous with his powers, then just take them away from him and return him to his mortal state. You don’t need to kill him. Please, listen to me!” 

The fearsome spirit paid no heed to Nicole’s pleading. As I saw the monster’s attack fester, the light was pushing so hard against its cyst-like cage that at any moment it could pop. I turned away, threw myself onto the floor, put my hands over my head, and closed my eyes. I was hoping to get no chance to see what cruel fate would befall Julian, who had been my former best friend. 

As I cowered, I felt an intense heat wash over my body, almost as if I had just opened the door to a heated oven, but something far much more blisteringly intense. Mercifully my ears were ringing so furiously that I could not hear whatever monstrous sound resulted from Quetzalcoatl’s fatal breath. I realized too late that I should have kept myself from hyperventilating, as I inhaled a wave of dust that clawed its way into my throat and nose. 

With a panic I realized that the dust, I assume from the bricks broken by the fiend’s attack, was so thick that it formed a wall in my mouth. I recognized that whenever I inhaled, no air came in, only dust charged forward more viciously. 

I cannot remember what I did to react to this. But regardless of whatever futile reaction I performed, it couldn’t have been long until I lost consciousness. Sometime during that fright I fainted, everything fading to black.

Scene VII: Ascension

Although I do not personally remember this, I know that later the following day I woke up in a hospital. Apparently I spent several weeks from that point on in a half-conscious but perpetually fretful state. Though to be completely honest, I cannot recall these moments either, I only know this because the doctors informed me of it after the fact in the later days of my care. My lungs had been severely damaged from inhaling such an excessive amount of dust, requiring intensive measures to restore them to an acceptable level of functioning. At first the doctor’s believed that my trancelike state was caused by severe brain trauma, but after they used technology to scan my brain they found no evidence that it had been damaged. They sent a psychiatrist to try to determine what the psychical cause of my half-coma must have been, but I said so little that he didn’t have any information to make a reasonable conclusion from. 

When I eventually came to my senses in the later days of my care the psychiatrist pushed me on this matter. I only told him that I could not remember what had happened on that night in the Terbekke estate which caused me to enter into the state I had been in for so long. I do not know whether he believed me or not, but regardless he dropped the matter and moved onto more mundane topics. I suspect the psychiatrist must have been trying to probe through the deeper parts of my mind in hopes of finding the cause, but if he ever found what he was looking for, then he never told me about it. 

Once I was able to speak again one of the first things I asked for was information on what happened during that night after I had fainted. The staff provided me with a news article which answered this neatly. Some other people living on the outskirts of the city had noticed the intense purple light coming from the Terbekke house, and then heard a sound similar to an airplane taking off from inside the house just after the roof was torn off and thrown into the lake. The neighbors had called an Emergency Response team who rushed to the area, but by the time they got there the building had already collapsed into the depths of the lake. They discovered me, Idren, and Nicole beside the broken bridge leading to the collapsed building. Nicole was the only one who was actually conscious. The people working on the case believe that Nicole must have dragged the two of us out of the building before it had collapsed. This could not be proven though, as Nicole was the only one who was awake to see it, and her doctor’s are not allowing the press to speak to her. 

The article mentions that Julian’s body was never recovered. They believed it to be lost in the depths of the lake. I knew that the true reason they couldn’t find his body though was because it had been consigned to oblivion by unholy fire.

 Similarly, the article claimed that it was not known what could have caused the house to collapse. The team sent to investigate the now submerged ruins concluded that the only reasonable cause would have been weathering on the foundation that caused it to no longer be able to hold the building up. It was frightening to see how little they knew about the actual event. 

That news article, and no other report I have looked at since, had mentioned anything about anyone seeing Quetzalcoatl. I shudder to imagine what something of its titanic size could have done to possibly vanish without a trace. Regardless of whatever method it used to escape though, it was obvious that the radiant serpent had finished what it came to Earth to do, and stayed no longer than it needed. Luckily for the sanity of this world, none but us knew what the creature had done on that night. 

At some point during my stay the police came to ask me questions. I could tell by the thinly-veiled animosity in the wording that they suspected I had played a hand in Julian’s death. I know they would not believe the true story if I told them, so I simply stated that I could not remember. They questioned me further, but after seeing that they would not get anything left. There was never enough evidence to take any of the three of us to trial over anything involving the destruction of the Terbekke estate  and Julian’s death. 

I was entered into the hospital on September 23rd, the day after the Fall Equinox, and was released on November 7th, a week after Halloween. My lungs would never regain full functioning again, and I now have to use an inhaler to apply medicine to compensate for it. I was offered some maintenance medicine as well to deal with my jitteriness- they now believed I was suffering from Obsessive- Compulsive habits- but I declined. I didn’t have the money to keep up a supply of antidepressants. 

Idren was released from the hospital not too long after I was, apparently not suffering any more severe symptoms than I did. Nicole, however, was not able to leave until they moved her corpse out of the hospital. 

I visited Nicole in the hospital a few times before she died but with each visit she seemed to grow more disturbed and illusioned. Out of respect for Nicole, I will not violate her privacy by disclosing what she told me. Regardless of what she said though, it was undeniable that she was suffering from damage that Idren and I had mercifully avoided. What was most concerning was that she had developed some sort of dysentery or similar disease and was suffering from profuse diarrhea and vomiting. This was the same consumption that would cause her inevitable death. 

Although the staff performed the usual procedures to relieve someone of dysentery, nothing was even remotely effective. Nobody had an explanation as to why nothing was working, though they continued up until the very end. 

Nicole died on December 21st, the first day of Yuletide. I strongly suspect that the timing was not coincidental at all. 

As you can tell, there was a supernatural element to her ruination. But nothing that could possibly be labeled as Holy. Otherworldly yes, but Godly, no… If God were to exist, it would not exist in such a terrible form. Please don’t discount her as being insane though, she was merely lost and upset, in a panic from what had happened. There is some truth to Nicole’s claims, even if it is not the full truth.”

And with that Millia Ineke concluded her tale, returning to staring back into the fire, her mind still in its flickering energy rather than within her own body. 

Once the story had been done, we made our goodbyes. I had got what I came here to hear and didn’t have any reason to talk to Mz. Ineke further. We had both gotten what we wanted from that interaction by that point, and there was no reason for me to dally at the place further. 

As I was performing my duties in other areas of the house, I couldn’t help but have my attention pulled back towards the reception room. I was staying tuned into the winds creeping in through the windows, and they told me that there was something that I had best hear for myself. I paid heed to their advice and made sure to send my senses to where they had directed me to. What I perceived was a conversation between Millia Ineke and Idren Salim, still within the funeral reception room. Everybody by now had already left or were preparing to leave, but Mz. Ineke was making no motion to move from in front of the fire she was staring into.

I would advise you to consider carefully the following dialogue I had heard. It is a very important part of our lesson, and in fact, it may be the most crucial to your understanding. My role will not be to tell you what to make of it. It is best for your learning if you decide for yourself what the meaning of it all was. Make sure to think carefully about this, as it will influence our future lessons. Now, let us conclude this little sermon with our most thought-provoking piece. 

Idren had just sunken into the same chair that I was leaning on when talking to Millia. A calm concern was showing in every element of his body language and tone as he spoke. “Millia, how are you feeling?”

After a long pause Millia eventually responded in a soulless din, but still vacantly stared into the fire rather than looking towards him. “My best friend is dead.”

She didn’t explain further, that fact was just left to speak for itself. 

Idren sighed but did not let it create a long enough pause to make things more tense than they need to be. “I know. I have been friends with Nicole since High School as well. I miss her too.”

A tint of cold fury was now creeping into Millia’s still mostly drained voice. “What is your point?” 

If Idren was offended by this curtness, he made no outward indication of it. “My point is that you are my friend as well Millia. Nothing can be done to help Nicole or Julian anymore, but we are not yet hopeless. You seem to be losing your sanity, much too similar to how Nicole was acting. I don’t want to see you become just as disturbed as she was. I don’t want to lose you as well. I know that I can’t help you Millia, but I know someone who can.”

The edge remained in Millia’s timbre, but it did not show in her features that still looked into the fire. “Do you honestly think that another quack therapist will be able to help me?”

Idren tried to make eye contact with Millia, even though she refused to meet it. “I am not talking about a therapist Millia, I am talking about God.”

Millia finally turned her head, a deep sorrow now contorting her formerly flaccid face. “God? After all you have seen how can you possibly believe in God.”

“It is precisely because of what I have seen that I believe in God, Millia. You yourself had seen him in the same context that I did”

“Do you honestly believe that that… thing, that horrible monster which killed Julian was truly God? How can you possibly believe that something so awful could be what was described in the Bible!”

“God is virtuous, Millia, but he is also terrible. Keep in mind that it was He who sent the Great Flood that drove Noah’s journey. There is a reason that the Fear of God is such a widely taught concept.”

“Virtuous! Virtuous! How could you call that evil thing virtuous? Did you see the destruction it caused!”

“If the dragon’s true purpose was only evil and destruction, Millia, then we still would not be around. If it truly didn’t care about us, it could have annihilated us alongside Julian in a heartbeat. As if we were ants. But the angel only dealt with Julian, who you know as well as I do was no harmless innocent. You saw what he had planned for the future.”

“How could you say that about Julian? He was our friend! He was just lonely and out of his mind and easily manipulated, that’s all.”

“I may have believed Julian was insane before going to the Terbekke estate Millia, but I cannot believe that now. You heard him as well as I did. Everything he was describing was true, and the angel confirmed that fact before your very eyes. He wasn’t delusional, Millia, you saw for yourself that he really could have the power he claimed to hold. And did you not see the clarity with which he spoke? That kind of confident, articulate, and artistic speech skills are not the mark of someone in psychosis. Julian wasn’t lost in the least, Millia. You saw his actions just as well as I did. How can you still cast doubt on his mental composure even after knowing that he was as confident as he seems? No, Millia, you know as well as I do that he was altogether in control of himself while he was planning the villainies he was going through. If madness was Julian’s only fault, then God would have seen fit to rehabilitate him rather than kill him. But there is no rehabilitating a sane man, so only one option was available.”

“And what makes you qualified to determine who is sane or not?!”

“You are the one who claimed that Julian was in a broken mental state Millia, not me. If I am not qualified, then why should you be.”

“Well maybe neither of us are qualified to make that judgement then, and we should just accept the fact that we will never know because he’s dead now.”

A sudden silence shattered the room. Idren must have been so surprised by hearing Millia concede a point that he didn’t know how to respond. Millia herself seemed surprised by what she had said. All of the quiet fury and vacantness left her by this point, only leaving her with the sorrow pervading her whole being. Millia could barely keep herself from crying by this point and this pain easily showed in her cracking voice. Even amidst this deep dejection though there was some air of confidence and certainty. 

“Even if God exists, I would refuse to worship him. He hasn’t ever been there when I needed him. He didn’t stop my parents from abusing me. He didn’t stop me from being destitute. He didn’t stop my best friends from dying, assuming he didn’t cause their deaths himself. I am alone now. Whether God exists or not, I am clearly not allowed to hold onto the things that keep me happy. I can’t rely on anything being able to stay anymore. I know now I can’t keep hoping for happiness in the things around me because the world will not let me keep them. I can only find the strength to go on in myself now, in my own mind. My own thoughts are the only thing that will always be with me as long as I live. And only in my thoughts could I find any peace.”

Any surprise on Idren’s part was replaced by the former pensiveness that he originally first spoke to Millia with. But he took the time to think even deeper now that he lost the need to get the next word in during an argument. He waited more than a few moments after Millia finished before responding, wanting to ensure that she could say what she needs to. “That is where you are wrong, Millia. God will always be there with you. He will never leave you.”

“If God were to always be there, then it would bring me no comfort. He seems to be intent on just watching on as the world burns. No, I will not put my faith in a childish delusion. It is obvious to me now, and it should be just as obvious to you, that no one will look out for us except for ourselves. It is an infantile mistake to rely on something that does not exist to protect us. ”

“There is nothing childish in admitting that someone is better suited to be in authority than yourself, Millia. On the contrary, it is one of the greatest signs of maturity.” 

“But do you truly believe that the radiant monster we saw is what should be the authority in our lives?” 

“If the holy dragon saw fit to choose Katherin as the next greatest prophet, who would hold such great influence over the modern world, then I know that it, as well as Katherin, is virtuous enough to be trusted as my protector.”

“I do not understand, what has Katherin got to do with this?”

“Do you remember what God declared as he was executing Julian? He claimed that the role as the next Chosen One of God was to be given to someone else in his bloodline that was more worthy. With his parents dead, Katherin would have been the next closest person to him. And then on that very same night that Julian was supposed to take the mantle, Katherin disappeared without a trace. No one has seen her since, leaving the police completely dumbfounded as to where she could have gone. The only piece of evidence they had to work with were reports by some of her neighbors that a violet light illuminated the whole inside of the apartment on that night. I think it is only natural to conclude what happened: that Katherin had taken her place beside God and moved to a realm beyond this mere physical world.”

“Oh, Katherin! I cannot believe I forgot to even check in one her after Julian’s death. I was so torn up in my grieving over Nicole that I have hardly given her much thought. I even heard of her disappearance and thought nothing of it. Oh heavens I should have listened to her earlier. She was exactly right. I didn’t know what to do. And when she tried to help me I only offended her. All she ever wanted to do was help me. And the last words I spoke to her were spewed in a hateful fury. Poor, poor Katherin. Why was everyone always so mean to her? Why wasn’t I better to her? All she ever wanted was peace, in her life and all of ours. She was right about what my obsessions would do to people. And I just hated her for it. But why?..” 

By this point crying could be heard, but strangely enough, it was not coming from Millia. Instead, Idren hard started faintly weeping during Millia’s lamentation, and now that she took a pause the sniveling could be heard, still barely audible. Unlike the grieving features that usually accompanies crying though, Idren looked something closer to frightfully astonished. If one didn’t know better, his expression would cause one to believe that blood, rather than salt, was trickling from his eyes. Although a quiet misery could still be seen in Millia’s face, a new look of thoughtful concern had become more prevalent in her features. 

“Oh, Idren. I have not treated you any better than I did Katherin, did I? Mighty lot I have learned from my own preachings so it seems. I am sorry. Your religion is very important to you. I should not have been so aggressive with you about that. Just because I disagreed with your faith doesn’t mean that I should have belittled you for it.”

Millia let that message sink in as she swiveled her head around frantically in search of tissues, or anything else she could use to dry his tears. After finding nothing useful in the reception room (please, make no comments on my ability to plan funerals), she briskly strode into another room and came back no more than a few seconds later. There was a slight smile on both of their faces as she presented him with a toilet paper roll to wipe his tears. The awkwardness did not stop him from using the milky sheets as a tissue though. 

“No, it’s not that Millia. You insulting my religion is not what made me cry. At least, I don’t think so. I don’t know why I acted out like that, to be honest. Perhaps your theatrical skills are just so great that I started feeling your emotions. Or, look, I am sorry too. I approached you here today to try to help you, and all I ended up doing was arguing with you. I shouldn’t have done that. I was not being a good friend. Regardless of whether God will be with you or not, I promise to be able to help you in any reasonable way I can. I should have said that from the very start. It was wrong of me to place more importance on proselytizing you than trying to help you. Doesn’t matter if I thought it was right, I should have focused on it later.” 

The sorrow both of them felt could still not go unhidden in either of their body languages, but a warm softness had come to supplement it. Although it took quite some time, Millia was now not even considering staring more into the fire. The fire was now starting to sputter out, as if her looking at it was the only thing that kept it from rapidly succumbing to a fatal wasting disease. 

“Thank you, Idren. You are a good friend. We all just make mistakes sometimes. I am not any less guilty of being close-minded than you are. And thank you for offering to help me, but I will not ask any more from you than a little encouragement. I do not think it is wise to lean on anyone too heavily now that I understand myself better.”

“You know, Millia, when I first heard about Katherin’s apotheosis, I couldn’t help but be confused as to why nothing seemed to have changed. After that moment, everything about the world seemed just the same way it had always been. All the same villainies, all the same banalities, all the same pain. I couldn’t help but wonder why, if Katherin had such divine power, she didn’t use it. Now I understand that she is employing her spiritual influence, and actually has been far before her ascendance. Katherin must simply find it best that she change the world slowly and deliberately. I am grateful to feel her presence with us now.”

“You know, Idren, for all of our disagreements, I will have to agree with you on one thing. I am glad as well that Katherin now has the ability to make such good in the world. Even if that thing’s power is evil, I know for a fact that she could withstand all corruption and use it virtuously. Although I will not sacrifice my identity to worship Katherin, I wholeheartedly agree with you: I am grateful that she will be present with us now and forever.” 

*Exeunt Omnes. Blackout.*

© 2020 Nathan Cavaliere

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This story has excellent timing and rhythm. Your writing style is casual and whimsical, and is of a quality higher than what public forums normally see (no offense to WritersCafe). I do think there's some cutting down, or maybe a more efficient way of formatting the story so the reader doesn't get lost, like breaking it up into separate posts. But honestly - great piece. Great style, timing, and voice.

Posted 1 Week Ago

Nathan Cavaliere

1 Week Ago

Thank you for the kind review! This is my first piece of creative writing outside of school, so I tr.. read more
I loved this story. I found the format new and exciting to me. I gained so much information and learned many new ways for formatting. You keep with a steady pace and the story followed very well. I hope to read more from you with this format because you don't see it in modern writing often.

Posted 1 Month Ago

Nathan Cavaliere

1 Month Ago

Thank you for the kind comment. I have a lot of ideas that I have notes for which I plan on fleshing.. read more
lyra Kellson

1 Month Ago

I think I might just do that. Thank you.
It is good. Very good! The writing style fits well with the story, and you use your words well. You have patience and do not haste between sentences and paragraphs; the story progresses in a "nice tempo". I can tell you read a lot and has a great knowledge about the genre. You do not "stray" of too much from the structure, is very classic. I took some time to search up different authors and books after you left a comment in my group (to be able to give a better review) and it very much reminds me of several of the more known classic - simply by your writing style. It makes your mind wander very easily between reality and fantasy.

The only thing, that really is the writers call, is the emotional level. You listened to a song while writing this, and only one song? I usually do this too when writing or creating a plot to a story and it really helps carrying you away while writing, you get really poetic and describing, however what can happen is you get stuck with just one emotion throughout the entire book. If you just get stuck in the same mood, same description of emotions, same feel, the story gets a bit monotonous and feels a bit predictable. It can also make the characters feel bland even if they are highly developed. Normally in a story focused on Characters it could work because you can add other factors such as relationships, addictions, history, and so on...but this story is focused on the plot, events and a progression of a maybe give some extra thoughts on that but is the writers call.

It is interesting, and really I would really want to hear more about this, your inspiration and thoughts while creating it. Personally, I think you can develop it further since you are working with very non-restricted genres, and your writing style is excellent. But overall, excellent work.

Posted 1 Month Ago

Nathan Cavaliere

1 Month Ago

Thank you for the kind comments! As this was the first story I ever wrote I decided to stay on the s.. read more

1 Month Ago

Are you for real? Is this the first story you have ever written? Do you mean you have not written be.. read more
Nathan Cavaliere

1 Month Ago

Well, if we are getting technical, then of course I have written for school before. Though almost al.. read more
An excellent story! I am a huge Lovecraft fan and I love the cosmic horror genre. This piece is captured the right atmosphere needed for stories like this. Great work, Nathan!

Posted 3 Months Ago

Nathan Cavaliere

3 Months Ago

Yes, I will look into the doing that sometime later today. Thank you for that information. It is a b.. read more

3 Months Ago

You, my friend, are welcome. Although I hope you realize that when I refreshed the page, your story .. read more
Nathan Cavaliere

3 Months Ago

Yeah, the purple was intentional. I accidentally save some edits to the story before I was completel.. read more

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4 Reviews
Added on March 31, 2020
Last Updated on June 21, 2020
Tags: Gothic, Tragedy, Lovecraft


Nathan Cavaliere
Nathan Cavaliere

Annapolis, MD

I plan to uphold the Gothic tradition by writing various occult horror stories in the classic style. Although I am actually a young adult I have read extensively into literature from the industrial er.. more..


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