Chapter 16: Goonies.
“Yes!” I scream, clenching my fists. “You’re my brother, idiot! I love you!” I roar, then embrace Aiven. This is real. I have to be strong…even if that means killing what’s left of my already-dead brother.
“Thanks, Em. I love you, little bro,” Aiven says, grabbing my shoulders and locking eyes with me. He hugs me again. “We’re pressed for time,” Aiven says, with a silent despair. “I know you just got the cloak, and you probably feel different, but you have to act casual, Emery. I’ll get into it later, but you can’t talk to humans about the Cloak of Nothing. Keep this to yourself when Mom calld you down for dinner.”
I nod. Kanti and I lock eyes, and I nod at him too.
“You sense it right?” Aiven asks, leaning against the wall next to my door.
“Yep,” I respond with a deep inhalation. “Mom’s going to call me down. In three. Two-”
“Emery!” Mom yells. “Dinner!”
“Nice,” Aiven declares. He’s understandably pensive. I hate seeing him like this. If Kanti hadn’t soothed my soul with his blue gaze, would I be crying right now? Do I have the strength to live with this? Aiven sighs, then places a hand on my shoulder again. “Those thoughts are irrelevant, Em,” he says. Aiven’s eyes are dull, his skin pale, and his demeanor down-trodden.
“Emery!” Mom beckons again. The kitchen’s right below my room; it sounds like her voice is going to break the floor.
“Coming, Mom!” I respond. Watch this, Aiven. I squeeze my eyes shut, “Cloak off!” The cloak vanishes. “Cloak on!” I nudge Aiven when the cloak reappears, “Eh? Eh?”
Aiven laughs. “You don’t need to all that to impress me, bro. I can tell you’ll pick it up pretty fast.”
“How can you tell?” I ask, dematerializing and rematerializing the cloak while I pace around the room.
“For one thing, the cloak will only attach to a worthy soul, even if it’s offered to someone who seems worthy,” Aiven responds, emphatically waving his hands.
Kanti nods. He sits tall and firm on my bed. “Only those capable of comprehending the interwoven nature of the physical and spiritual realms can wield such a mighty power. Thus, one’s limitation is their belief system.” Kanti pauses. “You, Young Emery, even if you cannot directly articulate it, are wise to the all-encompassing truth. I see it, and the Cloak of Nothing knows it.”
I nod. I kind of understand what he means. But, not really. Maybe if I smile and keep nodding… wait…. They can hear me, can’t they? Sigh.
“Emery!” Mom shouts again.
God dammit! “Coming!”
Aiven and Kanti laugh. “You’ll understand everything when the time comes,” Aiven says. “For now, get your bitch-ass downstairs eat so Mom and Dad don’t get too suspicious. We need to be on our way… And,” Aiven says. He pauses, then sighs, before finishing his sentence. “You might be gone for a long time, or might not even make it back.”
I glance at Kanti, his eyes relax me even more. My eyes immediately dart back to Aiven. “Why’s that?”
“You’ll find out when we get to The Meta,” Aiven declares, hovering down through the floor. His arms are still crossed. He looks like a gay, Hispanic, teenage Mr. Clean.
“Emery! Now!” Dad shouts, sternly. His booming voice startles me.
“Shit…” I mutter, scrambling out of my room. “Coming!” I yell stomping down the stairs . I swirl around the handle at the end of the staircase, then sprint through the living room, down the hall and slide into the kitchen. “Where’s dinner?” I ask. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so calm, powerful and confident. I wonder if Kanti can soothe people’s souls with his eyes anytime he wants, or if it just happens. Would I be able to do that at some point? I sit down to Mom and Dad staring awkwardly. Aunt Eliza nonchalantly mixes her drink.
It’s the cloak. I know it is. They can see it! Aiven was probably trolling me.
“Relax, retard,” Aiven says, leaning against the doorframe. “I told you they can’t see it. Only previous cloak-bearers and those who know of the cloak can see it.”
I adjust myself against the table, then dematerialize the cloak. “Pero que lo que? y la comida? Tengo hambre. Un nino no deve’ tener que eperar’ como un animal,” I comment in the most Dominican voice possible. The adults chuckle easing some tension.
“You’ll eat after you own up to your perversions,” Aunt Eliza says, smirking. She sips from her martini glass. “I don’t think there’s going to be dinner on the table until you clean up and wash your hand, Emery… Asqueroso.”
Mom sets the food on the table, then looks at Dad. “Ash…” she says, serving portions of white rice, red beans and adobo-broiled chicken on every plate except her own.
Dad clears his throat. He sighs and glances at Mom. She nods.
Ugh. I know what this is about. Honestly, it isn’t fair. When Aiven came out, no one was surprised and Dad told him, ‘Just because you can’t get pregnant doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice safe sex son. There are a lot of nasty diseases out there.’
“Whoa, bro, don’t compare yourself to me,” Aiven mutters.
Don’t listen to my thoughts, then. Faggot.
Aiven shrugs, then hovers in the middle of the kitchen like he’s on a beach chair.
I still can’t believe they even bought him condoms when he got to high school. This is bullshit. I tell Mom I’m fapping and she assumes I’m stomping around the house cumming all over the furniture.
Mom subtly nudges Dad, then leaves the table to pull a grilled salad from the oven. She serves herself an appetizing portion of quinoa.
“Emery…” Dad says with a stern look. He chews for a second and swallows. “Being a young man… developing into a young man… produces certain urges…” Dad leans against the table. He clasps his hands together, pensively resting his chin over his fingers.
“No way around it. Take it like a champ,” Aiven calls out, still floating in place. “Mom and Dad let me get away with murder because they were too afraid of saying and doing the wrong thing, thus showing their ‘lack of enlightenment’. They’re like woke white people,” Aiven says. He laughs, then coughs and levitates to his feet. “It’s kinda’ sad they’d do the opposite to you, knowing full well they’ve both been in your shoes.” Aiven leans over the island. “Far be it from me to stop a good show.”
Thanks for the advice. Asshole.
“You’re wecome, Puto,” Aiven responds.
“See, Em,” Dad continues. “The body is like fruit.”
“Or a fruit cake!” Aiven yells laughing obnoxiously.
“I was a boy once too, Son…” Dad says. Aiven rambles in the background. “We didn’t have internet in my day; not internet sophisticated enough to be used for… er, uh… you know…” Dad presses his lips together and rocks his clasped hands back and forth.
Eliza sits still, sipping her booze with a straight face. The amusement in her eyes is as obvious as the drunk on her face. They both stink. She raises a finger, then abruptly cuts her chicken, awkwardly avoiding inserting her two cents.
“Do you understand, Emery?” Dad continues as I start mixing slices of chicken with a fork full of rice and beans.
Aiven stands next to Dad mimicking him. “Do you understand, Emery?” He repeats. “Glad I’m not you, bruh.”
Dad adjusts himself in his seat again jostling his large silver watch. “See, your mom says you were…um… choking the chicken…?”
“Don’t say anything stupid. Just let hurry it up so we can go,” Aiven continues rambling.
I stare at Dad, puzzled. “What? Where would I put a chicken, Dad? Why would I choke one?” I chew without breaking eye contact. Let’s see how far this goes.
Aiven sighs. “You know what he meant. We really don’t have time for this shit, Em. Eat, get permission and let’s get the fuck out!”
Mom shoots Dad a dirty look. Aunt Eliza lets out a sigh; she giggles while covering her blushing face.
“Chocking the chicken is basically slapping the sticky… Polishing the golf club… Spanking the mo—”
“Conyaso, Ash! Get to the point or I will,” Mom interrupts, putting an end to Dad’s painful explanation. “We cannot condone this behavior in our home! Emery, don’t play stupid with your father! You know what he’s talking about!” Her finger fully extends, firmly pointing at me. “You, young man… how do you even know how to do that? Huh?” Mom shouts slamming her fork on the table.
I scratch my head and glance at Aiven, who shrugs. “Don’t look at me, Bro. I don’t have any answers.”
“Aiven did it all the time. He told me it was a stress reliever.” Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything, I say telepathically. I lean back and look at Aiven slightly ashamed.
My parents stop speaking. They look at each other. Dad slows his chewing. They don’t have answers for each other either.
“Maybe we should all just eat and forget about it,” Eliza says, rubbing smeared food grease from her glass’s rim.
“To be honest, I didn’t even need to fap. I had a pretty active sex life with my boyfriend,” Aiven interrupts with a flamboyant flair. “You’re clearly not about that life though. I can tell just by looking you, Em.”
Oh god! No way! I’m not about that kind of life at all! I put my face in my palm, trying not to laugh.
Dad clears his throat, “Just be discrete, Son.”
Mom gives him another dirty look. She crosses her arms and sighs heavily. “Really? Discretion? What about abstinence? What about self-respect? Maybe feel a little bit of shame!” Mom roars. Her voice echoes through the house.
Eliza finishes chewing. She gives Mom an unimpressed look, then stares at me. “Don’t deprive yourself, Emery. La vida es corta. If you have an urge that doesn’t hurt anyone and makes your day a little better go for it. There isn’t a formula for growing up or how to live.”
Mom grimmaces. “Just like there isn’t a formula for raising kids in a good environment,” she says, invisibly snapping her fingers. Mom scoops up some more quinoa.
“It’s about to get hot in here. I’ll be waiting outside with Kanti. Hurry up, Emery,” Aiven says fanning his face with his palms. He glides through the wall.
Dad puts his fork down and sighs. He glances at Mom, then at Aunt Eliza, and back at Mom. “Courtney, relax. Eliza was just trying—”
“To put my two cents in where it doesn’t belong,” Eliza interrupts, shrugging while with a clearly uninterested face. She starts cutting a piece of chicken. “Court’s right, Ash. I don’t have children of my own. I run a business and can’t grasp the complex intricacies that go with being an employee, housewife, and a mother. Just how do you do it, Court?” Eliza says sarcastically. She pauses dramatically. “I know!” Eliza shouts condescendingly. “It must be magic. After all, it takes magic to raise a child with your husband in a functioning marriage where all your arguments are about how busy you are! I mean, the desire to have sex with a normal man who actually values you as a person is such a fucking problem, isn’t it? I’d have my husband by the balls if our buggaron neighbor didn’t have him by the hips,” she says, forking a piece of chicken into her mouth. Eliza expectantly stares at Mom while she chews. Her shoulders forward, and eyes ready to pick up the subtlest amount of movement.
Mom looks down at her specially-made vegan dinner, then cuts into her grilled salad and chews quietly.
“You’re so special aren’t you. With your child,” Eliza says slamming her glass on the table.
“I’m sorry,” Mom says, rubbing her eyebrows. “I didn’t mean it like that, Elizabeth.” Mom stares at me. She looks like she’s about to cry. I don’t think what she said was that bad, but she tends to get emotional about shit. “As a parent,” Mom continues, “it’s difficult to accept that the children you raise aren’t robots you can force-feed a way of life into. You’re your own person, Emery. But, when it comes to urges, please just be mature about it. No crusty socks, please, or at least do your own laundry as courtesy to me.” Mom sighs. She diffused the bomb like an expert. She’s amazing.
“On that note, judgment call, Son,” Dad says, chewing his food. He cuts up a piece of chicken. “You can’t tell your mother that you’re basket weaving in your bedroom. It’s weird. Just wash up and polish off in the shower or in the toilet. There’s no shame in it: you’re a growing boy. You have your own bathroom, that you clean. Just be responsible and respectful.”
“Sorry.” I walk to the trashcan, disposing of chicken bones and some beany grains of rice. I wash my hands, trying to not think about the cloak. Sigh. I shouldn’t have told Mom I was fapping.
Mom gets up and sets her plate in the sink. Dad leans over to talk to Aunt Eliza.
“How about you help Courtney with the dishes, Em. You ate too. Don’t be lazy,” Aunt Eliza shouts.
“Why don’t we all?” I respond nonchalantly.
I glance at the time on the stove, 5:53 pm then grab the rest of the plates. I’ll just put them here, next to the sink.
Mom sits down as Dad begins talking about work. Aunt Eliza tells a few jokes. My parents laugh. I toss the excess food into the trash. Kanti appears beside me. The dishes disappear, then reappear spotless in the dish tray. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
“That power, and more, is at your fingertips, Young Emery. However, we do not have time to waste,” Kanti says stoically.
Before I know it, it’s six o’clock. Aiven walks through the wall. “Jesus, man! Are you done?” he shouts impatiently.
“Yes! Hold on,” I yell absently.
Aunt Eliza, Mom and Dad all stop and sharply fix their eyes on me.
“Emery!” Mom snaps, “You’re two for two, today! You are just out of control!” She sips some wine and sighs.
“He wasn’t talking to me, Courtney,” Aunt Eliza says casually. “He was probably day dreaming and talked out loud. Isn’t that right, Emery?” She asks, placing her glass down and looking around in Aiven’s direction. “Probably thinking about spending the holidays with me,” Eliza says, staring back at me.
“Yea. What about that? When would I be going over?” I ask, keeping the scene normal. Might as well roll with it at this point. I can’t rush out of the house without looking suspicious and I know I could definitely get away with trying to learn how to use the cloak at Eliza’s.
Aiven sighs, “Dude, please, you’re literally killing me!” He leans over the counter melodramatically.
“Courtney and I are leaving tomorrow afternoon. We want to set the hotel room up just right for the ball drop; we have a perfect view. You can stay here tonight, Eliza, and you can leave after breakfast with Emery.”
“Your house is a little too cozy for me, Ash,” Eliza responds with a polite hand gesture. “It’s only a 20-minute drive home. I’ll be fine coming back tomorrow afternoon. Four-ish or so. I have to prep for the Christmas and New Year; you know my parties are where it’s at.” She winks at me, “There might even be a special guest, Emery.”
I nod. My heart warms up when I think of Roslyn. As long as it isn’t her, I’ll be fine. I don’t want to ruin her Christmas with my awkwardness. I look at Kanti. The power I felt when I looked into her eyes this morning… If that was Aemon, we can’t stop it. And, if I disappear or a Nothing shows up… Is it safe? I ask telepathically.
“I do not know,” Kanti says regretfully, turning his head to side. “It is possible that we may even fully awaken Aemon when we amplify your energy. It could draw him out. If you were to understand the power you wield, there would be no need for such an extreme action,” Kanti says. “Perhaps… Souls, being essentially energy, can do the same for each other; if we try, we may be able to amplify your power with Aiven’s.”
“Emery?” Aunt Eliza nudges me. “You’re excited, right?”
I nod enthusiastically. I don’t care either way, but it seems important to everyone else. I finish cleaning my end of the table, then excuse myself from the room. My parents and Aunt Eliza continue talking about New Years. “Is it okay if I go outside for a little and play in the snow?” I ask smoothly. “Arsen and some kids are hanging out by the basketball courts.”
“Go on, Son. It’s cold as hell, so put on a jacket and gloves,” Dad responds nonchalantly. The adults resume their conversation and I walk to the living room.
“You don’t need anything,” Aiven says. “The cloak nullifies elemental effects. You’ll never feel too hot or too cold, unless you want to… or really believe you are.”
I walk outside the house with Kanti and Aiven. Wind, along with my help, slams the door shut. “How would I kill Aiven anyway? How do we even get Roslyn to help with something like that?” I ask aloud, materializing the cloak and trying to catch snowflakes in the breeze.
“You have to destroy my soul,” Aiven responds.
“Ok, great, but how?” I walk down the concrete steps and onto the path to the sidewalk.
“Sever the link between his mind and soul,” Kanti replies, trotting alongside me.
I slap my palm on my face. These idiots! “Fine! But, How…?”
“You have to destroy my brain, Emery… Crush my head, or cut it off. Your call. Just make it quick.”
He can’t be serious. He’s already kinda’ dead… or astral, whatever it’s called. His brain doesn’t exist anymore.
“By human perception and logic, I do not, or cannot, exist, Young Emery; yet I too have thoughts of my own. The soul must be severed from the mind,” Kanti replies. Is he going to continue to intrude on my thoughts? “Besides,” Kanti inserts,”the matter of granting Aiven death is as simple as placing your hand on his forehead.”
“I need time to think about all this,” I say, examining the cloak. My eyes dart at Aiven. He crosses his arms.
“I’m on the verge of nonexistence, Emery. Time matters.” Aiven sighs and rubs his face. He takes a weary breath, exhaling anxiety and fear. “I don’t want to become a bestial Nothing like that behemoth that attacked you.”
“Well, at least if that happens… at least… you won’t die.”
“Exactly, Em. I’ll never die. I’ll live feeling the passage of time, with the memories of my existence forever. Never aging. Never feeling. Never hungry. Never sleepy, thirsty, or happy. I would be imprisoned in the bestial Nothing’s mind while it constantly looks for Aemon and the cloak-bearer who let me turn. Yearning to be alive, but never actually obtaining life. My body would be a lump of uncontrollable rage, while I’d be fully conscious of everything and feeling what it feels for an eternity. That’s the theory anyway.”
“You’re awfully quiet, Kanti. Cat got your tongue?” I ask jokingly, intentionally ignoring Aiven. Is letting my brother become a monster better than killing him?
Kanti patiently looks at me. “There is no right or wrong. There are only the outcomes we are willing to accept. Cloak-bearers, can be killed by certain divine entities, other cloak-bearers or Nothing. Unfortunately, Nothing can only be killed by a Nothing or a cloak-bearer. If he becomes a Nothing, then it wall fall on your hands to contain him. You must decide which is most important to you, Young Emery,” Kanti says. “How Master Aiven shall meet his final rest is in your hands.”
I swallow hard. We start walking beside the cemetery fence. The cemetery reminds me of The Void. Ugh. That beast that attacked me– attacked Aemon– was a cloak-bearer who wasn’t spared by their successor. Sigh. I can’t give Aiven that fate after seeing it firsthand.
“Then don’t!” Aiven shouts.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next chapter!
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