Chapter 18: “Bullet Dodger: the movie,” poorly-written and directed by Life.
“Crap! How’d we lose six minutes?” I ask, stumbling to my feet.
“Time is a man-made construct to rationalize the process of moving through space. As such, it only exists within the third dimension. It is not applicable in this realm.”
“Why does my watch still tell time? And why does Aiven’s life depend on our non-existent, human time?”
“Things in The Abyss simply are. No beginning or end. Unfortunately, mortals abide by the laws of space and time regardless of their location, be it in ethereal or physical form.” Kanti sighs. “Unfortunately, Young Emery, bearer of the cloak, you are not exempt from this axiom.”
I shrug at Kanti. “I don’t really follow…”
“Jesus, Em. Does an astronaut’s watch work in space? Does an astronaut not age in space either?” Aiven says, impatiently crossing his arms. “Space, and things in space, are timeless. Humans are not. The metaphysical realm is like a spiritual space.”
“Yea, but this isn’t space, dick face,” I respond sharply, trying to preserve my ego.
“God you’re so simple-minded. The concept is the same, you idiot. Normally, time doesn’t matter to a cloak-bearer, but they still age. Never looking a day over 30 when they reach that age… In my case, I had made certain choices that reduced the time I had remaining as the cloak-bearer. I could have lived as an astral being for thousands of years, even for an eternity, before the cloak separated from me and found another host, but, like I said, I sped up the process.”
“I’d rather not get into that. Let’s just say, I did something really, really, really evil about a hundred times over.”
“Fair enough.” I stare Aiven down. What if I can’t help him? I don’t want to think like that. I can and I will help him! “But that doesn’t explain this place,” I say. “Why do we need to be here for you to die? Aside from obviously being the metaphysical realm, what exactly is the meta?”
“The Meta itself is not the metaphysical realm, but it exists within that realm, which is The Abyss. Both of them have other names, true names, that are inconceivable in the human tongue,” Aiven says. We walk close behind Kanti. “In the physical realm, there’s Space, where all the planets, the stars and stuff exist. The Abyss is like the soul, or spirit, of our Space. It has worlds, stars, and inhabitants like Space. Unlike Space though, there is a top, The Zenith, middle, The Meta, and a bottom to the Abyss, The Depths. Obviously, we’re on The Meta.”
“So, The Meta is the middle of this version of space, or whatever it is, called The Abyss…”
“Just stop, Em. The names are just place holders so we, as humans, can comprehend them. There is no science or classification to them. Meta does not mean middle in the tongue of the gods, and the top of the meta is only referred to as its zenith because it makes sense in non-divine tongue. Take the explanation with a grain of salt and don’t dig too deep into it.”
“The name of this plane and its worlds are ineffable in your speech, Young Emery. The more time we spend explaining such a triviality, the more emphasis we place on what is not important; thus, we risk losing more time and starting you off incorrectly as the new herald of The Cloak of Nothing.”
I shrug. “I get it.” I’ve always felt that a place like this exists, just never thought it would be so plain. Shit, it’s 7:10. I glance around. Marble-white humanoid sculptures frozen in place. Blue light radiates from the smooth ground. “So, what will happen to me when I go back home?”
“Less physical limitations. Your newfound powers may be more natural.” Kanti stands still and scans between the statues.
“My spirit? My soul?” I ask, observing Aiven. He’s abnormally pale.
“Your spirit, Young Emery. Despite human comprehension, your mind and soul combined create your spirit: the essence of your will.”
“So, I’ll be like a super… meta-human?” I shake my fists anxiously and smile at Aiven. He looks even worse!
“You’re already superhuman,” Aiven says wearily. He coughs, slumping over slightly. “How many more questions can you possibly have? Are you writing all of this down?” Aiven snaps, hiding his pain. He clasps both hands together, mournfully eyeing the spirits surrounding us.
“I’m just trying to make sure I get it. I don’t like feeling like I don’t know what’s going on. What’s your problem anyway, Aiven? Are you feeling alright?”
“I’m fine! Let’s just keep going!” He retorts, struggling to keep up with Kanti and me.
“Young Emery,” Kanti begins absently, “remember this: When objects interact, they will always influence one another. The Abyss is that of a counterweight to the physical world; perceivable under unique circumstances. Its effect on creatures who traverse beyond the boundary will soon make sense to you.” Kanti stops, gently motioning his snout at Aiven. “Alas, we have lost the time to squabble, we must find Achron,” he says, slightly lowering himself.
Aiven gets on Kanti’s back. I can’t believe I never thought of that.
“This light, Young Emery, it will soothe you because you are still a living being. I warn you, do not let the glow of the Meta cloud your judgement or remove the urgency of the situation at hand.”
I nod. “I haven’t forgotten why we’re here…” even though I can’t feel anything other than peace.
Aiven’s jaw droops. His head bobs up and down with every heavy inhale. Does he see this the same way I do? If the light in this place isn’t soothing him, will he die hating me?
“Did you hear it?” Aiven pants painfully attempting to lift his head.
“Mhm,” I respond nonchalantly, unaware of what he means. He’s in too much pain to talk. A time check reveals it’s 7:51. I blink curiously. It’s 7:52. “Hey, guys, it’s—”
“— Achron!” Kanti roars through the suspended souls. We get close to a pillar of light.
8:00 p.m. I still feel calm. I look over at Aiven who’s slumped over Kanti’s back like a dead man on a horse.
Aiven’s eyes lazily wander over The Meta. “Em…” He says softly. I place my hand on his back. He tilts his head up and rolls his left palm upward. His empty eyes look through his hand.
Achron’s bones rattle with every step. Thick, black hair covers his massive body. Four neck-less, stone-like faces form a diamond shape above his chest.
His one-eyed face has a flat, slit-like mouth; it’s directly left of a three-eyed head with a thick, black mouth that wraps all the way around it. Achron’s most human-like face is above the other three; the fourth, and most grotesque face has four red, beady eyes arranged in a diamond formation, no nose and sharp-toothed smile. All thirteen eyes simultaneously make contact with mine.
Achron’s effortlessly poised on enormous, black-scaled legs. His tail sways gracefully. Two massive arms rest at his side. Achron’s hands have four fingers the length and width of my forearms. “You know what is to be done child. This one must be laid to rest,” Achron’s faces say in unison: his first face has a simple, child-like voice; his second face sounds like a man; his third voice is deep, omnipotent and emotionless. Achron’s demonic face speaks in a raspy, airy whisper that vibrates my bones.
I nod. We all know what needs to be done here.
“Let’s not dilly-dally then,” Achron responds humbly. His human eyes water while his huge hands gracefully grip Aiven, cautiously lifting him from Kanti’s back. “A fate too cruel for such a delicate child,” Achron’s second face laments. He holds Aiven’s head, torso, and dangling arms in one hand.Gain’s legs and lower body are spread across Achron’s other palm.
I look at my watch: 8:30pm. I look at Aiven, who’s absently grinning in a trance-like state at the infinite abyss above us. What is wrong with him? What the hell does he see?
“Rain,” Kanti whimpers. He stares ahead, letting out a low sigh.
Achron lays Aiven on the ground. Aiven wheezes like he has asthma. His dead eyes droop over in my direction. He smiles. “It’ll be alright, Em,” Aiven whispers weakly.
“Young Emery,” Kanti exhales mournfully, “place your palm on his forehead.” He licks Aiven’s face and nudges his cheek. He utters a deep, painful howl, rattling my soul.
I place my right hand on Aiven’s forehead. His pupils and skin gradually fade. Aiven’s cheeks and eyes shrivel. “Good bye, Aiven,” I say turning my head. The time on my watch reads: 8:37:31.
Light flares up between my palm and Aiven’s face.
“Em… Ree…” Aiven says, tilting his head back. His eyes roll up until they meet mine. He’s whispering something.
“Aiven?” I ask, staring at his skeletal face. What’s he muttering.
“Are the memories I hold still valid?” Aiven whispers. He smiles. Aiven shuts his eyes.
My palm’s glow intensifies.
“I don’t hate you, Em,” Aiven whispers frailly.
I close my eyes inhaling deeply. Light permeates through my eyelids.
Achron kneels on both legs, resting his palms on his massive knees. His thirteen eyes stare down at Aiven’s motionless body. His skin glistens as he turns to stone.
Kanti paces back and forth, whimpering and whining. He circles Aiven’s corpse. Kanti sits tall beside me. I embrace bury my face between his shoulder and torso
I face my brother. He’s a statue frozen in place.
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