The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 17

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


Chapter 17: You have the same eyes. Even I can tell.

“So how does this work exactly? Do I just think about teleporting when the energy, or whatever, starts vibrating my body?” I ask, zooming through a whirlwind behind Aiven and Kanti.

“Uh, in theory…” Aiven says gliding forward. His eyes dart to Kanti. “We can warp with him if he has enough power to do so, right, Kanti? I mean at worst, Aemon wakes up, Em’ dies, I turn into a Nothing, Aemon eats me, and then existence collapses.”

“At worst?!” I flinch pushing against the gusts. Dammit. What did I get myself into? This boneheads don;t have any plan in place. What if this kills me?

“Lucky for you, when you think and talk it sounds the same to us, otherwise,” Aiven says,”I’d be inclined to think your outburst was just hot air.” He flies faster. “Anyway, yea, Bro. At worst. Be glad it won’t be the cloak separating from you against your will. That, from what I’ve heard, is the most excruciating way to go.”

“Wait… If it comes off I die?”

“Well, yea!” He snaps back. “It’s attached to your soul.  Where were you for the last few hours?”

“How the hell was I supposed to connect that, Aiven?” I feel like I’m barely moving, but we’re passing everything I know. “What if it separated from me right now?”

“Doesn’t work that way, Em,” Aiven says. He’s nonchalant, but looks even more worn down than he did before.

“Precisely,” Kanti inserts. “Low resonance, or negative energy, separates the cloak from its bearer, Young Emery.” He hovers a few feet above the ground, perched stoically over a wispy purple haze.

“I’ve worn the cloak since I was six. I’ve done a lot of stupid shit. A lot. And it’s never separated from me,” Aiven calmly declares. He almost sounds proud of his exploits. “The cloak is a universal truth. It abides by and adheres to the grand axiom of justice.”

“Grand axiom?” I ask, completely lost.

Aiven sighs. He flies ascends into the sky then gracefully glides down next to me. “Consider the nature of our existence and what we, as humans, label as bad or evil. I’ve accidentally killed someone… a few times. And, of course, because I’m gay, I’m a ‘sinner’ who’s been hated since birth. To some people at least,” Aiven explains. “The cloak forces you to see humans in a whole other light, Em; especially when you start reading people’s minds. If sin was a universal truth, then repression of the self should be considered an atrocity.”

“I can’t say I’m too excited for that.” I like my view of people. Even the people I hate.

“Is that so?”

“Is what so?”

“Even the people you hate?”

Right. Mind-reading.

“Yep. Whether you talk or think, we can hear you clearly.”

“Sigh. I know, Aiven. What I meant was I don’t want my view… my reality… to change. It’s mine, isn’t it? I should have a say in what I allow to happen to me.”

“Everything changes, Em’. If it doesn’t, it dies,” Aiven says. “You changed by accepting the cloak.”

“Yea, but I controlled that. I chose it,” I respond. Why does talking about this make me feel so insecure?

“Did you control that?” Aiven inquires.  “Then you chose Aemon too? And, you must’ve chosen for the Nothing to exist and torment you too, right?”

“I— No…” I respond, staring at the ground and sighing.

Kanti hovers slowly beside me. “Not even the divines can claim to own or control reality. It is a foolish endeavor,” he says while looking straight ahead. “The only being who ever tried such a feat was Aemon, and he exists in hundreds of fragments.”

“What I mean is, it’s scary to think about that kind of change. How do I know if it’s me changing because I want to? I don’t want to lose control over my life.”

“No need to be so hard on yourself, it’s only natural to think you can control everything, especially as a privileged human,” Aiven says, walking faster. “There’s truth and reality, and then there’s our personal truths and realities. I’d rather have the cold, hard, colorless, shit-smelling truth and reality. It beats a fake perception of the world created out of fear. Remember, little bro, a miserable freedom where you’re in control of your choices beats a happy lie where others dictate who you should and shouldn’t be, and what you should or shouldn’t find acceptable.”

I smile. “I already live by that, Aiven. So… the person who gave you the cloak, were they human?”

Aiven shakes his head, “I think so. I think only humans can wear a cloak. Or at least this one. The woman that gave it to me…” Aiven pauses and curiously places his hands at his side. “Or the man… You know, it’s funny, I couldn’t tell you much of how I got the cloak. I remember an ‘M’… the person’s name was, Mo—”

“Master Aiven, shall we pick up the pace?” Kanti asks, blatantly interrupting. What’s he hiding?

Kanti shoots me an inquisitive, unsettling look. His eyes glow pure white before flashing blue.

Aiven speaks before I have time to say anything, “What does that have to do with anything? We’re walking fast enough as it is, Kanti. I literally just started walking faster.”

Kanti nods. “Very well.”

Aiven pauses, like he just realized something. He flies past me and glides ahead of Kanti. “Anyway, the cloak started separating from me a few months ago, but I really sped up process my last night alive. Eh. But, that’s neither here nor there, I guess. You have a watch, right Em?” Aiven asks quickly.

I roll up the left sleeve of the cloak and then roll up the thin, long-sleeve shirt I have on beneath it. “Yep,” I say, awkwardly staring at Kanti. Why did he pacify me? Does he know something he doesn’t want us to know?

“Yes,” Kanti responds, hovering on his haze. “Divines can hear all thoughts, all speech, all sounds simultaneously, all the time. Master Aiven, like any cloak-bearer, is limited to the object, or objects, he can manage to focus on.” Kanti continues hovering between Aiven and me.  His wispy purple haze majestically whisking and churning beneath his divine figure. “Knowledge of certain subjects will only result in turmoil. Master Aivenwas going to extend information you are not yet ready to possess,” Kanti laments. “That being said,” he continues, “there is, quite frankly, a particularity that I do not want you aware of, Young Emery. Nor Aiven for that matter.”

“I hope you brought clothes you can lose, Emery,” Aiven inserts.

“Clothes I can lose? Dude, are you serious? Why didn’t you tell me that before we left the house? I love this shirt.” The wind howls, then bursts over my face, turning the hood of the cloak into a parachute. The cloak wraps around my body, flailing violently against the air. Thank god, I barely feel a breeze on my exposed face. I walk closely behind Aiven and Kanti. I lift my watch and tap a button. 6:45 flashes over a bright green background. “Two hours and 15 minutes.”

“Not much farther,” Aiven says telepathically. His voice is clear.

I can’t believe it. We walked out of my house, down the hill, past the cemetery and school in less than four minutes. This is nuts.

We arrive at a small park with a well-kept baseball field between two houses. Kanti hovers on his haze. Aiven confidently strolls toward a thicket in the distance. He disappears between the trees. Snow patches cover a path winding into the darkness. Patio lights and headlights occasionally flash between the trees as I move. Not much else is visible beyond ten feet or so.

“The town on the other side of the park,” Aiven says, walking through a tree.

“Fair Lawn, Saddle Brook, Hawthorne, Glen Rock? It’s huge park,” I respond ignorantly. I circle around a gathering of close trees, and hop over a bunch of rocks in the clearing behind them.

“Fair Lawn, stupid,” Aiven replies.

“… Homo…” I should’ve guessed… That is where Roslyn lives. I am stupid.

“What?”

“Nothing.” I can’t think of anything except Roslyn. We aren’t too far from her house, maybe a couple miles. “Wait! Aiven, this is weird, man. I don’t want to do this. It’s 6:55. We can figure out another way. What if it doesn’t work and she dies?” I don’t want to sound like a bitch… ugh, why am I getting second thoughts now?

Aiven smiles. “You are a bitch, little bro. Like I said, if it doesn’t work, you’ll die, she’ll die, I’ll die… everything will die. Aemon doesn’t discriminate over the trivialities of whose soul he’s going to consume.”

Dammit. He’s so confident. “I don’t care about dying! What if she sees me? It’ll be weird!”

“Em, if seeing the girl that you like is weird, then maybe you’re playing for the wrong team… homo.”

“You’re gay, you wouldn’t understand the first thing about how it feels to lo—like a girl!” I pout. Snow crunches beneath my feet after I stomp.

“Doesn’t mean I don’t understand love. I’ve been in love a few times and I’ve never felt weird about my feelings. So, what does that say about you?” Aiven says telepathically, his back turned to me. He stops walking and crosses his arms, taking in the moment like it’s his last.

He’s got a point. I’ve been in love with Roslyn since the first time I saw her green eyes.

I try harder to avoid her and get her not to like me, than I actually try talking to her. “I could’ve at least texted her! I don’t want to show up at her house… unannounced. She’s gonna’ think I’m a stalker or something!” I quickly glance at my watch and then pat my pockets for my cell phone. Maybe I can say something. Anything.

“I know women, Emery. Roslyn wouldn’t think you were a stalker, even if you did stalk her. You wouldn’t have the opportunity to ignore Roslyn if she didn’t give you one. You didn’t even talk to her first!” Aiven shouts, laughing at me. “Don’t be a bitch.” The wind races between us when we start moving again.

We make it to a thick, wooden fence lining the backyard of a big house in a small cul-de-sac: it’s Roslyn’s house.

“I knew you’d remember this,” Aiven says.

“How could I forget? In elementary school, we used to ride bikes together during the summer. Never really talked though. I mean we did a few times, but I always made it awkward, so we were usually quiet around each other. Sometimes I’d bike with her to her house and she’d offer me water… this is the same path we would take.”

We stand in the vicinity of her house. I feel her presence. “Should I text her? She’s pretty close.”

“Not necessary,” Kanti says abruptly. The haze he’s perched on sinks into the ground and he stands firm on all four. “Brace yourself, Young Emery.”

Aiven cups his hands around his mouth and whispers into the wind.

“What the—what are you doing?”

“Texting her for you,” Aiven says.

“Texting her for me? By whispering into the wind?”

A figure walks out the back door, quickly making its way down the large deck, disappearing behind the tall fence.

Aiven nods confidently.  “Yep. Now, get ready!”

The center of my chest feels warm. Black aura radiates from my stomach. “Oh no!” I shout. My body’s vibrating! “Grahhhh!” I scream. It feels like I’m expanding and contracting simultaneously.

“Here we go! Quick take my hand and think about the Meta. Look at Kanti’s eyes too! Quick!” Aiven shouts, squeezing my palm.

Kanti appears in front of me. His eyes flash bright blue. My vision shakes.

“Emery!” Roslyn shouts, her fence creaks and slams open in the wind.

The world dissolves, spiraling into an invisible funnel.

“Emery?!” Roslyn yells again.

Everything goes black.

I’m falling. Blue light surrounds me. My ears are ringing.  Small white and blue stars sit still in a black sky. Massive light pillars catch my eyes.

Kanti and Aiven stare down at me.

“You made it!” Aiven says, helping me up. “Time!?”

“7:01,” I regurgitate.


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