The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 12

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen


Chapter 12: You said a lot. Finished?

God dammit… mug fragments keep clicking, clanking and shuffling in my backpack. Why am I not holding the bag? Sigh.

How fast does Aiven expect me to get home? What the hell are we even running out of time for? None of this makes any sense! If he could use his power to levitate me and all that crap when the monster attacked me, why isn’t he doing it now?

“Because I can’t, man!” Aiven shouts angrily. His disembodied voice reverberates from every direction. “The faster you get home, the faster I’ll explain everything. Promise.”

“Fine…” I snap back. Even in death… my brother’s a pain in the ass…

“Look Em, I know it’s tough for you to form complete thoughts, but you can just thi—”

Fuck off, you passive-aggressive bitch! I say in my head. I forgot you can read my thoughts. Honestly, that makes me uncomfortable. My thoughts are mine!

“You think I like being able to hear you think?” Aiven retorts, annoyed. “You have the worst, most mono-toned voice in the world. Seriously, unless you want people to think you’re crazy, Emery, you need to talk to me telepathically,” He says, sassy as only he can be. “We can’t afford to have you on medication or under constant supervision again.”

I got it, I respond telepathically. The mug fragments continue clacking. I pause, then remove the small bag from my backpack. “Piece of shit…the bag’s ripped!” I mutter.

“Jesus, Emery. You’re such a little whiner,” Aiven responds from all directions. The wind picks up. Aiven levitates the plastic bag. Blue light surrounds the mug fragments. Tears on the plastic bag disappear. Mrs. Danison’s mug reforms.

I pass the entrance to the cemetery while holding the bag. Except for the frigid air, it’s a beautiful day.

“Ugh!” a woman groans in the distance. It sounds like a person, but who knows. After everything that’s happened today… with Nil, Aemon, Aiven and that dog… someone or something’s watching me. But, I can’t afford to lose any more time today.  Not now.

I need to get home. I want to go home… “What the hell do you want?” I yell through the black, iron fence posts. Whatever it is, is definitely watching me. I can feel it. “Answer me!”

“A little too dramatic, Emery…” Aiven sighs. His voice sounds like it’s right next to me, but I can’t see him.

The silhouette of a woman stands up. “Excuse me?” she inquires aggressively.

“Nothing!” I scream. Please, be someone I don’t know me- Please be someone I don’t know… I sprint up the hill. I live in a small town; if this gets back to my parents I’m going to spend Christmas and New Years with them.

“Relax, Em!” Aiven shouts. “It’s your– It’s Aunt–“

“Hey you little shit! Get back here!” the woman commands, interrupting Aiven. She sprints along the fence. Her shoes awkwardly crunch the snow, thumping over the cold dirt.

It’s too cold to run like this. I pause, gasp for air, bending over, placing my hands on my knees. My breath swirl in the frigid air. “Ha. Oh man,” I let out with a sigh. “That was–“

“That was what?” The woman asks sternly. Snow crunches behind me. Definitely not shoes. High heels?…

“Ma’am it was a… crap…” I sigh, staring at my aunt. “Hi, Tia Elizabeth…”

“Jesus Christ, Emery! Mistake or not, Courtney raised you better than that. Could you imagine how upset they would be if they heard that you spend your after-school hours cursing at grieving women?” Elizabeth shouts. She laughs condescendingly.

“Well… Are you going to tell on me?” I ask nonchalantly, crossing my arms.

“Depends. What’s in the bag? I heard it clanking from the cemetery a little while ago. D’you break something? Steal something?… Doin’ drugs?”

“I promised my teacher I’d fix her mug.”

“The Jew, huh,” Aunt Elizabeth says casually.

I nod with a sigh.

“Well, shalom,” Elizabeth responds, smiling proudly. “I’ll tell you what. Since you’re doing something nice for someone, I’ll do something nice for you too. Besides, I’m too exhausted, and way too sober to hear you get scolded.”

“Thanks.”  That’s a relief. “Anyway, why were you visiting Aiven?” I ask, impatiently.

“No one was home, so I decided what the hell. I could care less about waiting a little longer.  If I must, why not make my time worth it. Ya’ know?”

“You couldn’t care less… If you could care less, then obviously, you care quite a bit.”

“Don’t be a smart ass.” She walks along the fence until she reaches the next entrance. Aunt Elizabeth takes the bag from me. “Nice mug, it doesn’t look like it needs to be fixed,” she says, curiously putting it in my backpack. “I parked in front of your house. Courtney told me to meet her there, but she isn’t home yet so I walked over to pay my respects to Aiven,” she says, answering my previous question.

How is she not winded? Running like that… in this? With high heels, no less. Freak of nature…

My aunt’s thin and, by all accounts, gorgeous… to people who don’t know her personality… with pitch black hair. Aunt Elizabeth wears 70s style mink coats and black dress gloves, most of the time. She’s like Audrey Hepburn, without the mole. Frail, a bit squeamish, but she hides it by acting cool and nonchalant. She’s “that” girl; the kind people fight over, the kind who doesn’t break a sweat when they do, the kind of woman who would live with a man for a few years only to leave at a moment’s notice with his X6 BMW. Aunt Elizabeth is the face that has launched more than a thousand ships; ironically, she isn’t really my aunt despite us looking like family.

She worked with my mom a long time ago, so she has one of those familial titles Hispanic parents often give out: someone familiar is some kind of aunt, uncle or cousin, or some sort relative. Unlike most people though, Mom and Elizabeth have been through, as they put it, hell and back since before I was born.

Mom helped Elizabeth through the most difficult time in her life: Elizabeth was raped but lost the child after deciding to keep it due to complications during its birth. If that wasn’t bad enough, her husband of four years left her for their neighbor: Stewart. Her son and I would’ve been the same age. That’s probably why my mom is always there for her. I wonder if he would have been cool.

Anyway, since then, Aunt Elizabeth’s had several rocky relationships with men nicknamed “Butch”, “El Negro”, “Rafa”, “Freaky Deaky”, “Guapo”, “PaPa”, “Big Cheeks”, “Dick-Dick” and things like that.  She dated women for a while, but that only lasted until Joanne, her ex-husband’s cousin, proposed to her. Elizabeth’s been alone ever since, in her spacious three-story home on the Jersey side of the Hudson. Most people can’t stand her for more than a day, but Mom and Aiven, before he committed suicide, loved her.

“We were going to discuss our holiday plans,” Aunt Elizabeth says, halfway through our uphill trek.  “I heard you were thinking of staying with me from the twenty-fourth through the third.”

“They thought of that. I just want to stay home. I don’t want do anything but lie around and play video games in my underwear, munch some Chinese food and watch anime.”

“So, you want to sulk?” Aunt Elizabeth asks, aggressively. “Aiven’s grave is in the other direction.  Go back and ruin your own holiday before it starts, but don’t ruin it for everyone else. Ashley and Courtney—”

“Ash. Call my dad Ash…” I respond. “Tia, I told you what I want to do. Sulking isn’t part of that. I like Chinese food and I like video games. I should be able to do what I want. I have straight A’s, I mow and shovel lawns all the time to make my own money. I’m thirteen with nine hundred bucks to my name. I deserve some freedom.”

“Really?” Aunt Elizabeth retorts with prejudice. She sighs and rubs her nose. “No mortgage, no car payments, no career, no employees, no bonds, no stocks, no books to balance. Someone else cooks for you, cleans for you, and reminds you what you need to do. They even pay for things you pick out, knowing full well you’ll abandon it within the year. Is that not freedom?” Elizabeth scoffs.

“That’s not the point. I work just as hard as anyone with a job, but at school.  I know what labor is like,” I snap.

“Anyone can shovel snow and mow a lawn,” she says indifferently. If you want to complain about your uphill struggle, then start a business and try to keep it afloat. People with less have done more than you.”

“Not my problem.”

“Fine. Anyway, darling,” Aunt Elizabeth begins. “Don’t go out of your way to muck things up for everyone by behaving like a turd. We all have complaints, but we don’t force them on you for attention.”

“I hate the way you talk… who says muck. When did turd become a behavior anyway?” I say, laughing on the inside. I’d rather troll her into flipping a shit than listen to her bullshit. Who gave her the right to be right anyway? She isn’t even really related to me. If I were complaining for attention, I would throw an even bigger tantrum.

“I see your little tricks, Turd. You wouldn’t resort to trolling, if you had meaningful relationships. You’re just a sad little boy,” Elizabeth sticks her head up dramatically. Her heels tap loudly on the concrete. “I’ll tell Courtney you like asking grieving people what the hell they want.  That’ll make this holiday more stable.”

“I’m 13. Too old to get grounded. Nice try though.”

“You’re not too old to have your video games and internet taken away,” she responds victoriously.

My heart drops. I mowed too many lawns, raked too many leaves, and shoveled way too much snow to get that taken from me. “Fair enough,” I say through my teeth. Rage swells in my chest. It’s strange that I never get the urge to feast on her flesh. It’s probably because she’s gross; her diet consists of wine, cigarettes, weed, a ton of pills, small amounts of expensive food and a ton of hot air.

“Courtney!” my aunt shouts, her heels tapping on the pavement. “Courtney, darling, how are you?” she says. The superficial tone in her voice is sickening. I hate how she treats my parents. Even though they’re supposed to be good friends, she really hates them, or something about them.

Crap. I didn’t even put two and two together. If she’s expecting my mom, then mom’s going to be home early. Dammit! I forgot about Aiven!

“Still here,” Aiven says, omnipotently responding to my thoughts. “Didn’t feel right to rush that.”

I shrug.

“Elizabeth!” mom reaches for a hug.

“Eliza,” Aunt Elizabeth declares. “Please, Courtney. It’s Eliza. Where’s Ashley? I thought he’d be home today. It’s not like he has to work anyway.” Last time we saw her she was Beth. Before that she was Liza, she was Izzy before that and before that she was Elli… Now she’s Eliza. Sickening. One day she’s just gonna’ be “E” or a symbol.

My phone vibrates as mom and Aunt Eliza walk in the house. The alert reads, “A new episode of one of your favorite shows is available.” I follow them into the living room.

Mom sits on the larger of the two tan, leather couches. Eliza sits on the other.

I see Aiven’s reflection in the glass table. He looks at me and points to his right. I look at the hallway, then back at Aiven. He shakes his head. Dead asshole, just tell me where to go.

“Dude, seriously? You see where I’m pointing, go upstairs to your room!” Aiven shouts impatiently.

“Alright!”  I yell. Pushy, dead bastard…

Aunt Eliza and my mom pause, puzzled at my outburst, then resume their conversation.

I walk upstairs, flipping the lights on.

Aiven’s standing in the middle of the hall. He moves against the wall. He raises his bone-shadow left arm, extending a claw like finger: Creak. Pop. Clack.

“What the fuck, man?!” I flinch and blink.

Aiven looks normal. “You looked like a shadow person, what the fuck was that, Aiven? If you really are him…”

“Sorry about that… It’s this thing… It’s me,” Aiven responds. “You wet the bed till you were five, you hate mayonnaise, white bread, you think cheesus crust is funny. You belong to the Church of Snor with Arsen, and you’re madly in love with Roslyn. It’s me Em’,” he says asserting his identity. “I doubt an imposter would have saved you from the Nothing that attacked you in the space between realms.”

“The Nothing?” I ask, feeling my chest tighten.

“Just get in your room, Em. We need to get started. It’s me, your brother, tormentor and superior, Aiven the Great.”

“Fine… you pass. For now.” I walk to my door. I’m not taking my eyes off of Aiven after that. Any shadow creature who watched me constantly would have been able to spit out what he just said. Even if it makes me feel better, his knowledge of me proves nothing. I slowly raise my right hand to the knob, heart pounding, throat tightening.

I blink again. Aiven’s gone. “Aiven?” I feel around for my knob while looking at the hallway. Gav—oof!” The door opens and I fall on the hard wood floor. “That wasn’t cool, man. Like, at all.”

Aiven sits on my bed with a large furry shadow at his feet. “Not here to be cool, just trying to make sure I can die and you can live in peace, bro.”

“Huh?”

The shadow stands on four legs. It’s the black dog who saved Dad’s life; the same one who calmed me down. It nudges my door closed while I stare at Aiven, too curious and afraid to move in the still silence. I can’t even hear myself breathing. I don’t hear the door shut. I don’t hear anything.

“Emery.”

I jump, scrambling to find the regal, omnipotent voice who just said my name.

Aiven and the dog stare curiously.

“Are you alright, Em? What the hell’s gotten into you?”Aiven asks.

“Aiven…? Was that you? Didn’t you hear that?”  This is weird.

Aiven looks at the dog and shrugs.

“Hear what, Young Emery?” the regal voice says again. It’s calm, but thunderous.

“You had to have heard it now? That voice!”  I open my closet, check under my bed, and then check my computer speakers.

“Young Emery, sit still…”

I look under my bed again, scanning around Aiven and the dog’s feet.

It lowers its head. Two eyes that resemble the blue surface penetrate my soul. The profound peace I felt in that realm overtakes me. “I am who you hear, Young Emery,” It says.

I walk around the bed while staring the dog down.

“Are you-”

It sits firm.

“God?” I ask.

Aiven looks at me, looks at the dog, back at me, and then back at the dog before letting out a chuckle. “Lord Kanti is beyond God as you—and most of the human race—understand it.”

Lord Kanti, the dog, laughs.  “I am one of many. I dare not say that we are gods, though we are kin to the divine source.”

Aiven smiles, nodding in agreement. “Couldn’t have said it better myself, Lord Kanti,” Aiven says.

“Young Emery, Master Aiven was going to give you—”

“Tha— that’s okay,” I interrupt, reluctantly. “I don’t think I—”

“Hear him out, Em,” Aiven says, cutting me off.

“Young Emery,” Lord Kanti begins. “It’s not a choice for you to make or take lightly. You must accept the cloak from Aiven. He cannot meet a peaceful demise until he passes it on.”

I look at Aiven. “Is this true?” I ask calmly.

Aiven nods. His face is stone. “I wish it wasn’t. But, as it stands, we only have a few hours. I had meant for us to meet sooner, but a few complications arose,” Aiven says. He sighs, defeated. Aiven puffs his chest out and cracks his neck. “Now isn’t the time to get into all that. What do you say, Em? Do you accept the cloak I have in my possession?”

Is he serious? “No. Of course I don’t,” I snap frantically. “This is crazy! You haven’t explained anything! Why would I accept something without knowing the terms?” I turn and point at Kanti dramatically. “You show up, knock my dad over, you stalked me this morning, and you’re here with my dead brother. I still don’t understand what you are. I’m not going to do anything you ask. You could be a demo-”

“Really, Em? We both tried to save your life,” Aiven responds softly.

“I still made it to a place called, The Void. If it wasn’t for Aemon, that thing inside me, or whatever, I would’ve been dead!” I shout angrily.

Kanti and Aiven exchange concerned glances. “I brought you back from the Void,” Kanti says stoically. He sits up with a royal air. “How you got there is a mystery, but you were in critical condition, Young Emery. You needed to touch The Topside of The Meta for the darkness to recede,” he says, sadly. “You must accept the cloak before we can explain. It is the only way we can be certain that you will be alive after Aiven perishes.”

“Alive?– What the fuck does that mean?!”

Aiven sighs. “Look, little bro, there are entire universes that exist beyond humanity: other realms, other worlds, other beings. You saw The Void for yourself–The thing inside of you, Aemon, threatens the entire fabric of existence. If he awakens completely, he’ll shatter your soul in the process.”

“Wi-will… I-I… Will that kill me?” I swallow my nerve, trying to block out Aiven’s response. Why is this happening?

“Yes,” Aiven responds. He places both arms behind his back, then paces pensively.

“Young Emery, not only will you die,” Kanti inserts, sitting tall. “It is a death that will annihilate your entire existence. You cannot be reborn, and there will be no reckoning. Only the pain, sorrow, and malady that comes adrift in the infinite darkness. A darkness that even I, a divine entity, cannot begin to fathom,” Kanti says stoically. His voice is powerful, and so moving that I can’t bring myself to respond.

I feel like a worm forcefully exposed to the significance of sunlight, or a troglodyte seeing fire for the first time. “How do I know this isn’t a trick and you aren’t shadows… or thing-creature… people?” I ask, peace overtaking my anger and apprehension. “I don’t even know why I’m suddenly in a good mood. You could be taking over my mind.”

Aiven stands up. He nods at Kanti.

Kanti nods back. “I am imbued with the divine source of existence, Young Emery,” he responds. “My gaze soothes the souls of the living.  If I were controlling your mind, would it not be more effective to force you to do what is desired rather than offer crucial, albeit unnecessary for the time being, information?”

I swallow hard. “I guess.”

“We could not control you even if we wanted to, Young Emery. The power of Aemon is such that it renders any manipulation of your being utterly futile,” Kanti declares. “Of course, such a thing would not happen, mind you.” His black fur glistens in the gentle winter sun beaming through my window.

“How do I know you’re not just toying with me?” I snap back. I calmly, but sternly point at Kanti then at Aiven. I feel so at peace, but I can’t let it cloud my judgement. “I knew Dad was a little too mellow this morning,” I mutter. “You must have locked eyes with him before I knew you were in the house. And what about Aiven? He doesn’t seem relaxed, but you said he needs to pass on. Is he dead? Is he alive? How do I know you two aren’t a manifestation of Aemon? With the things I’ve seen, how do I know this isn’t a nightmare? It’s too much to be real.”

“Young Emery, how can I be Aemon when Aemon’s essence resonates within you?”  Kanti responds. “The power imbued into Master Aiven’s jacket is all that keeps Aemon from claiming existence as his plaything. Your brother sacrificed fragments of his life force to ensure your protection while you wore it. Yet, you stand here questioning? You must accept the cloak from Aiven so that you may live and he may rest in peace.”

Aiven stomps around, talking to himself behind Kanti. “Enough,” he finally shouts. “Emery please, accept the cloak. I’m not asking, I’m not telling, I am begging you.  You don’t understand the danger we’re in. We thought there was more time, but now…”

The calm fades and I feel anxious. “I’m not doing it!” I yell, feeling uncertain and crippled by an illogical fear. I remove Aiven’s jacket. “You can both suck it! This is crazy. You’re—Ragh!” A demonic voice bellows from my lips.

“Em?” Aiven asks. He reaches out to me as I collapse.

“Eergh! My chest! It burns! You’re doing this! Stop! My body’s going to explode! Aagh!” I scream. My index finger merges with my middle finger; my ring finger and pinky follow suit. My knuckles pop and crack. They dislocate then squeeze together. My mind goes blank from the agony. When I can finally see, three black fingers extend from my black hands. Darkness seeps through my veins.  My hands and wrists turn darker than black before spreading to my forearm.

Light fades. My room drifts into a pit of anger, misery, agony, sorrow, fear and despair. I float in a pool of infinite nothingness; a weightless grain of salt tossed by the waves of an ominous ocean.  “Breeeeagghhh!” I screech when light penetrates the thick blanket of my pain.

Aiven rolls me over, wrestling his jacket onto my contorted body.

I can’t feel him touching me. I only feel pain.

“E-r-y L-ok a- Ka-i!” Aiven says, distorted. Disorienting noises disrupt his words.

“Rawghhh!” I screech again, helplessly and hopelessly attempting to respond. What’s happening to me?!

Kanti looks into my eyes when Aiven finally gets his jacket on me.

My fingers separate, returning to normal. The skin between them resembles melted cheese being stretched apart. The tar engulfing my veins runs up my arms slamming back into the center of my chest. I stand up, struggling to catch my breath. “Damn… that really, really, really hurt…” I gasp unevenly.

Aiven stands in front of me. His face is serious, his demeanor anxious. “Accept the cloak, or you will die, Emery.”

“Ok… Ok.” I gasp. “I’ll do it,” I respond, remembering when I was eight. Aiven would have a reason for everything he did. He made mistakes on purpose, like he knew everything. When I needed his help he would always say, “Figure it out. What will you do for yourself when I’m not around?

Sunlight beams through my window and Aiven extends his right hand. White mist dances around his forearm.

Kanti nods slowly.

“I, Aiven Leheir, cloak-bearer, wielder of light and darkness, Kalook Mal, Eten Kalos, pass this cloak to the new deliverer of destiny: another worthy of dedicating himself to the protection of mortal souls, aligning himself with Shaik’Tael and the venerable divines of creation. I have seen with my eyes his progression as a sovereign entity and believe him capable, righteous, sound of judgement, character and logic. I entrust Emery Leheir, human of Earth, with this cloak, The Cloak of Nothing. With this, I relinquish my duties and accept the perils and rewards that come with once possessing the mightiest power in existence,” Aiven concludes, standing firm and proud. He extends his hand. “You have to accept the cloak, little brother.”

I nod. Red mist surrounds my right palm as I extend my hand.

“Put your hands down!” Aiven shouts, quickly turning to Kanti.

Kanti nods, calming my soul with a glance.

White surrounds Aiven’s body. Blue traces my skin. Time stops.  Light radiates from our hands when we shake them.

A white cloak extending down to my ankles takes the place of Aiven’s jacket.

“How is it?” Aiven asks.


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