Chapter 10: We Aren’t That Different, Are We?
My chest trembles. Aemon’s incomprehensible words send my body into a seizure. A single wave of red light illuminates the darkness with a bloody tint.
Shadow mannequins, grotesque monsters, behemoths and giants surround me: some are dead-eyed, skeleton-like abominations; others broad, boar-like demonic entities. The rest are porcelain-mannequin-looking people. Wispy, distorted creatures twitch and jerk erratically between them. White, yellow, and red beads focus on me.
It’s too dark to make out specific features, but this world resembles a nightmare: fragments of land float in every direction, scattered indiscriminately over the emptiness.
Some creatures are upside down, sideways and diagonal because of the surface they’re on. They curiously hover in place, examining me. If they come near me, will that thing, Aemon, swallow them? Shit… this is a really, really, really effed up situation.
“Egh. Hi?!” my voice echoes across the emptiness. The sinister red light tracing my skin dims.
“HUE-MAN?!” shrill whispers ask from several directions. Waves of words I can’t make out boom through the darkness, “A-qua? Quom?”
“Clearly you all speak!” I shout, trying to gain my footing. I think this is the ground, but it’s too hard to tell here. “Where am I?! Do you… speak, English? … eh…” probably not. “Do you guys—Can you tell me where I am?” I ask the strange glances. “Hey! Stop talking about me like I’m not here! Yes, I am really here! Alive! I’m, uh, human!”
The creatures chatter over me. Their voices are soft and airy, except for a few raspy bellows.
“WHERE AM I? DON’T IGNORE ME! HEY!!! YOU!” I point at the closest pair of eyes. I can’t tell how far they are, but the creature seems short. Shorter than me, at least.
Yellow beads stare up at white beads, “Appa, at hue-man lull Onthiem?” a child-like voice asks softly.
“Qa lull e hue-man, Appa?”
It’s weird. If I concentrate… I think I can understand them…
“Dozoght, Hue-man lull neus enoch. S’alle dozoght.”
Light beams down on me and the chattering stops. I close my eyes. It feels like I’m being pulled in every direction. I stumble on a solid surface, feeling weak when I finally open my eyes. I’m in a building? Wait, there’s no ceiling. The sky’s a soft, calming purple: it’s not quite night though. Where the hell am I? I glance out a window to my left: houses, trees… blue grass? This looks kind of normal. There are sparkly streets with shadow people in robes walking casually across them. Is this heaven?
“We rarely see humans here… Rarely intact, that is,” a strong voice says. He’s tall and formidable. The shadow man’s decorated coat and slacks stand out. Is he their king? A group of mannequins stand behind him: black porcelain men and women with universes dancing beneath their skin, dressed like philosophers, royalty and normal people.
“You speak!?” I yelp. My voice cracks when I realize I’m in the center of a rectangular platform. Odd chairs with a few shadow people standing behind them surround me.
“Yes. Up here, we speak all of your languages and many of this reality’s own,” the royal shadow declares. His voice is deep, prideful and, in a weird way, welcoming. He vanishes.
“Huh!” I shriek. The men and women gawk at me like I’m a talking animal.
“Behind you,” the shadow says, appearing.
“Did he just—” I think to myself.
“Yes. This… reality, if you will, does not have laws,” he responds, stoically. He crosses his arms. “No laws conceivable by physical entities such as yourself, that is,” he says. The man sighs, then paces along the side of the platform. “As you’ve noticed, I am sure, in this particular part of the world, Onthiems do not use their mouths to speak. We communicate with our very being: our own—unique—vibrations.”
My heart thuds against my ribcage. Am I safe here? His presence is beginning to make me uneasy.
“Human child, do not be afraid,” he says sternly. He looks like a bald man with opaque, purple, glass skin. The universes under his skin are bright. His eyes are pitch black, with deep, bright red irises. Finely crafted, futuristic robes cover his body. A sash as red as his eyes runs over his shoulder. “Those beams of light were my power. I transported you from the trenches of our less civilized, lower surface. They neither know worlds other than this exist, nor can they fathom the concept of an entirely different reality. Those, those mongrels are seldom welcoming toward strangers. Up here, it’s safer for travelers.”
They seemed pretty nice to me, but I don’t even know where I am. Maybe I should take this guy’s word for it, for now—At least until I figure this out. I don’t want to die here at thirteen years old.
“Dono Nil, your supreme excellency!” A raspy voice screeches; it’s so high bubbles tear in my ears. Warmth oozes down my lobes and the side of my face. I quickly wipe it off.
The creature’s glass body and wispy robe are completely white. My god! —there’s a huge yellow eye with a red iris and a black, cat-like pupil in the center of its face. Three white horns extend from its odd feathery hair: two on the front and one in the back. A thick red line runs from the center of its head, down its face and through its white cloak. Its only limb is a large, furry, three-fingered hand extending from underneath its robe…
…A head with an arm for a body, wearing a cloak.
…I have officially seen everything.
It flashes a dirty look, then readdresses the shadow man in charge; I think his name is Nil.
“What shall we do about those who saw? They will speak! Other nations will know!” the milky monster screeches.
“Handle it. I want everyone out of the boardroom. If the Asiruns hear about this, I’ll see to it that you’re all replaced and living in the slums!” Nil says, cold and impatient. “Now.”
The mannequins scramble frantically.
Nil, if that is his name, turns his back and faces a wall that turns into a window. “You,” he says, startling me.
I jump and fall on my back. “Me?” I cough, unsuccessfully attempting to help myself up. “Y-yes?”
“What circumstances brought you here?” he asks firmly, but patiently.
“A monster… Well, like a dragon… beast…thing… it almost killed me. If it wasn’t for my brother… and—”
“Aemon, right?” Nil asks. His red pupils pierce through me.
How did he—
“I see,” Nil interrupts, breaking my train of thought. “So, Kalook Mal Aiven, is your kin,” He says. “That particular beast you speak of—It was not after you.”
I sigh, almost relieved, then quickly recall the beast’s massive, scaly claws slamming my head on the ground. I search for something to say. Nil speaks before I find the words. A flicker in eyes makes me feel as if he’s reading my mind.
“Human, at ease. Your life, as interesting as it may be, means nothing to us,” Nil says, leering at me. He’s cold, but I can sense his anxiety. “In fact, the nature of your existence is problematic for my people, but even more so to you.”
“Nature of my existence? —Problematic? Wha-What do you mean?” I ask, containing my fear.
“Take my hand, child,” Nil responds, extending his palm. I reluctantly reach out to him. “You will not survive here if you refuse.” He grabs my hand, gently helps me up and off of the rectangular platform. Oh, it’s a table; I’m a dumbass. Nil glows and something shifts in my head. “Ragh!” I shriek. “I feel… different. Better.”
Nil nods solemnly. “As expected,” he responds. His porcelain lips remain motionless as he speaks. “I welcome you to our world, human child.”
“What is this place?” I ask, examining the furniture and the rest of the room. “How come there isn’t a ceiling? Why is your grass blue? Is it nigh—”
“I will answer your questions, but first you will answer mine,” Nil interrupts stoically. “Your soul, human, is tethered to Aemon, making you a marked entity.” Nil paces pensively. “Tell me, do you also bear the cloak? Are you the Kalook Mal?”
What the—Even if I wore a cloak, I wouldn’t tell him. But, what would he do if I was? I better say something quick. “Honestly, I just found out about Aemon,” I respond. “I don’t know anything about a cloak, except for the one I saw on my brother before coming here.”
His eyes examine me. Nil extends his hand, this time as a gesture of politeness. “I am Nil. Nil-Ovid: King of this world’s, what you humans know as, East,” He says expectantly.
“Emery—Emery Leheir,” I respond.
Nil places a hand on my shoulder. “To answer one of your questions,” he begins. “I restructured your physical brain so that you may comprehend this region of my world and its people, while you’re on it.” His lips don’t move, but I can tell he’s smiling. “I have also bound your two bodies so that the properties of our world pose no threat to you. My counterpart, the Deus of the West, and I, are now the only ones who can harm you here. Now, do you have more inquiries?”
“Yeah I do!” I roar, balling my fists. This is awesome! “Where am I?” I blurt out. “How do you exist with the land like this? Why is your grass blue? How does it grow without a Sun? How do you even have grass?! Is this an island over a world? Why is this so different from Earth? Obviously, you know what Earth is? How do you know about Earth anyway? What a—”
Nil scoffs and rubs his forehead. “I see,” he says, sighing. “Nothing meaningful to ask.” He shrugs. “You were fortunate to land beneath my consulate. Most of this world’s inhabitants despise your species. Human resonance is a drug that has claimed the minds, and lives, of many of our families. My own brother included.” Nil glances out the window.
Those eyes, Nil’s definitely reading my mind. “I had no expectations, human child. I digress,” he says. “In the west, those heathens would have brought you into one of their primitive labs and extracted your soul.”
“Look, I know I’m just a kid, but I do expect answers… or some—”
Nil’s curious eyes open wide, reflecting my uneasiness. He inhales. “You would do best to calm yourself before you attract unwanted guests.”
I try to relax.
Nil takes a step toward me. His eyes are like vultures.
Fuck! Why is he looking at me like that?! I stumble over a chair behind me. He’s going to eat me! I can see it in his eyes! Don’t eat me! Don’t eat me! Don’t eat me! I cower against the grounded chair, but a force lifts me off the ground.
“Eat you? Preposterous!” Nil shouts confused and offended. “We aren’t cave dwellers who murder foreigners.” He crosses his arms. “Your soul is bound to your physical body! I would have to waste my energy unbinding your bodies. Even if I could attack you, Aemon would annihilate me where I stand!” With a gesture, Nil places me on my feet.
“Annihilate you? Does Aem—”
Nil vanishes in a blue and black swirl of light.
A flat, beautiful, bright blue surface appears beneath my feet. Dozens of figures in various poses are frozen in place. I can tell they’re people and I can feel that they’re alive. They look like marble statues: glossy and perfectly chiseled.
I walk around examining them, waving my hand in their faces to get a response. “Of course. Why would you respond? Hello?” It’s so quiet here. “Excuse me, can you guys talk? Anyone? Buhler?” Ha. Never mind.
“Ah. Emery, my dear boy,” four voices respond in unison, “I’m afraid you are early.”
“Who’s there!” My body becomes numb and weightless. “Wait!” I stare at my hands, they gradually become transparent, fading until there’s nothing left. “Hey! Wait! Wait!”
“Where’d you come from?” Roslyn asks from behind me.
My body feels heavy again. My palms sweat. Energy spreads from my chest, and courses through my veins.
Gray aura radiates from my chest and pulls a white mist from Roslyn’s body. Shit! I gotta’ get away from her right now! “I gotta’ get to class.”
“Class?” Roslyn asks, puzzled.
I speed walk to homeroom, yanking the gray aura with me.
Shit, no one I recognize is here! What the hell’s going on? These people aren’t even looking at me.
“Emery?” Mrs. Danison, my homeroom teacher, asks. She turns to probe her purse.
I move from the doorway to let everyone by.
“After the break everyone! Don’t forget!” Mrs. Danison yells. “Emery! I’m really excited that you decided to show up, even if you missed the whole day. I actually feel relieved to see you so animated, so pensive, and so full of life! I have something I want to give you!” She fiddles in her purse then unlocks her desk’s drawers. “Actually, it’s here… somewhere.”
Missed the whole day? What the hell is she talking about? I couldn’t have been… wherever I was… for more than 15 minutes—maybe 30, tops. I anxiously look above the dry erase board. I cringe at the incremental twitch of the second hand:
The school day was over at 12:45. I seriously just lost five hours of my life and I have no clue what the hell happened. Egh. This is some bull—
Mrs. Danison smiles at me and passionately digs through her desk.
“Aha! Yoh! Here it is!” Mrs. Danison yells.
“What? What is it?”
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