The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 19

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

Chapter 19: It’s just Jazz.  

I sigh, struggling to stand Aiven’s stone body.

Achron’s four faces curiously examine me. His massive hands humbly extend toward me.

“I got it,” I respond.

Kanti’s eyes turn bright blue and Aiven’s stone body goes limp, weighing nothing. “His final deeds weigh upon his soul.  Aiven will not find peace here,” Kanti says whimpering. “Unfortunately, Master Aiven does not belong on this surface of The Meta.”

I hoist Aiven’s body from his elbows, calmly ignoring Kanti. It’s too soon to speak about my brother. I struggle to find a suitable position to lug Aiven around in, eventually slumping him over my shoulder. My eyes emptily rest over the horizon, looking through the other souls peacefully placed around The Meta. “What would have happened if I failed?” I ask Kanti, aimlessly walking ahead, toward a massive pillar of light extending to the stars and infinite darkness.

“You bear the cloak, my dear boy,” Achron’s human face says. The end of his sentence trails off into a whisper from his monstrous face. “Tell us,” his first face says with a child-like amusement. “Focus, and you shall see the alternative path you could have chosen,” Achron says in unison.

I look at Kanti expectantly. It doesn’t feel right to listen to Achron. Under any other circumstance, without this light, he would scare the life out of me: he doesn’t feel evil, nor does his personality scare me, but the way Achron looks… the way he talks… that fourth face. No amount of peace could quell the uneasiness that arises from looking at it, much less feeling it’s presence when it speaks. How can I focus on anything else?

Kanti nods and quickly glances at Achron, who’s faces smile simultaneously. “How you focus is something only you can discover; no creature can instill you with resolute concentration if you have yet to comprehend yourself,” he says trotting beside me. “Do not let his unsettling appearance affect you. Achron did not always appear so malformed.”

“A price one must pay for righteousness,” Achron’s voices lament. There’s a deep, implacable sorrow in the lull of his human voice. “Might I suggest staring at the ground and clearing your mind?  I, as I’m sure Lord Kanti is, am quite curious as to what could have been of Master Aiven.”

Kanti whimpers, “I wish not to know, Young Emery, for I carry the incessant turmoil seeping from the very few cloak-bearers who turned to Nothing.”

“But—But, what if it isn’t bad?” I ask, gripping Aiven over my shoulder effortlessly.

“Among the bearers of the cloak, Aiven was the youngest and most dear to me, I watched him grow, felt his joys, pains, and sorrows beyond what is humanly possible. Despite our ephemeral partnership, he was my offspring. My son,” Kanti locks eyes with me. “I take solace in witnessing his peaceful passage firsthand.”

Achron’s evil voice whispers, “My insatiable curiosity grows like hunger for warmth in an empty tundra. Show me, Dear Boy, that which may have transpired.”

Nausea and pressure churn my stomach. I stare at the ground letting out a sigh. Even if what I see haunts me forever, I can’t suppress my own thirst for the unknown. Sigh. This is so wrong… A piece of me keeps chanting, “Do it.”

“There is no right or wrong, Young Emery, only our ability to cope with the shadows that mock us in the darkness. We Divines can see all what was and what is simultaneously; yet with all our might, we cannot envision what will be or what may have been without breaking the natural laws of our omnipotent existence.”

My heart sinks. There’s a slight tingle around my temples: four, bright-red eyes look through my mind. Blankly focusing on the ground, images form in my head until reality quivers. I stop moving. A vivid, grayscale hallucination forms before my eyes: I am calm, logical, indecisive, and apathetic.

In this cold dream, kanti speaks, but i dismiss it, nonchalantly raising my watch. It’s 8:41:03. I blink. 8:46:01. 
“em… please,” Aiven whispers, lying on his back. A frail hand reaches for me, while Aiven lethargically makes a fist with the other. He places his fist over his mouth and begins coughing up a tar-like sludge with brilliant white speckles. 
I sigh staring at my watch. “not doing it. I’m not killing my brother,” i say nonchalantly to kanti. 
“the light of the meta serenades your soul. You lack the mental aptitude to do what must be done,” achron’s evil face whispers amused, while the despair of his faces escapes me. “Aiven was wrong to entrust you with the cloak, it seems.” 
Sludge seeps from the sides of Aiven’s mouth, trailing down to his ears.  Veins in his neck turn black; his pupils and irises blend into his corneas.  Aiven struggles to lift himself.  “please,” Aiven whispers frailly. His breath chops into a low, asthmatic wheeze. “it hurts…”
“such a pity, that i must privy such a horrid sight again!” Kanti roars, glaring at me. “only you can do something!”
I shrug.  “i really don’t want to. When the calm fades, i won’t be able to live with myself. I rather him become a nothing than be responsible for his actual death.” This is wrong. This is all wrong; but, i can’t end the vision.
Aiven convulses, struggling against his seizure.  
Darkness spreads over his skin like black ink in a glass of water. 
He sits up like a zombie controlled by unseen strings; Aiven’s head awkwardly rolls until lazily slumping over his neck. His arms dangle at his sides and his body sags, inexplicably balanced in its drooping erectness. “you selfish piece of shit. I’ll hunt you down, kalook mal. I’ll devour your flesh and wring your soul. I hate you, emery… i hate you,” Aiven whispers violently.
I indecisively step back. The calm fades and fear rises. “i only did what was right!” I cowardly regurgitate.   
“incompetent fool!” Kanti roars, knocking me back with an invisible force that suspends me several feet in the air.  
Aiven tackles kanti, and i plummet onto the meta. He slashes ravenously at kanti. Aiven’s hands look like rakes; he pounces at kanti again.
            kanti growls and suspends Aiven in the air, then gives me a menacing glance. “you did this.” 
Aiven’s joints, creak, pop and crack as kanti lowers him toward me. Black aura radiates from his body. Aiven thrashes and lunges at me, striking the invisible barrier containing him.  His hate-filled eyes focus on me.
I feel fear, anxiety, anything, but am too much of a coward to react.  
Kanti lowers Aiven and constricts his body. “banish him to the void. It is your duty as the bearer of the cloak. You pitiful, spineless, vermin!”
I slam my blue-glowing right hand on his forehead. “i’m sorry!”
Aiven thrashes against kanti’s power. “kalook mal! Kalook mal!” Aiven screeches in two distinct voices: a raspy erratic shriek and his own. “release me, divine!” He absently snaps at kanti, possessed by hatred.
Achron breathes anxiously. “… salvation is a lost dream for a fallen star… you must do it, cloak bearer. Though the benevolent souls on this side of the meta are protected, we cannot allow master Aiven to roam around them. He will instinctively follow the negative energy to surface below, undoubtedly feeding until the keepers subdue him!”
Kanti strengthens his grip on Aiven, and looks at me with pity and disappointment. “the light of the meta was indeed too much for you. I sensed it, yet did not take necessary action to ensure Aiven’s peaceful passage. My actions have placed countless lives in danger, including yours, young emery.  I have betrayed my only son. Forgive me, master Aiven.”  
Aiven glares at kanti and shouts, “za hue-man et du! I will kill you!” His thrashing fills me with fear and the blue light around my hand turns red. 
My heart races as Aiven turns to ash.
“what did i do to him?” I ask in a cowardly panic, watching Aiven struggle to move as he dissolves. 
“you failed to banish what was left of him to the void. Instead, you devoured his soul and all the evil within it,” archon’s human voice laments. 

“Alas,” Achron’s faces say in unison. “My curiosity has been quelled. What an unfortunate occurrence,” his fourth face whispers. “Now, to the task at hand.”

“Hold on,” I say sternly, recovering from the vision. “Is that exactly how it would have happened?” I can see myself doing that, kind of, but that went too far. I look at Aiven’s pearlescent body, dangling over my shoulder. There’s no way.

“It is difficult to surmise the accuracy of a vision that depicts what could have been, since, in reality, such a thing never occurred: one cannot ascertain the validity of something which does not exist, Young Emery.”

…But it was so real. I felt all of it. Sigh. “I guess it doesn’t matter, since it didn’t happen. I’m just glad it didn’t play out that way. I don’t want to imagine where I would be if I—”

“Spare the undesirable details, Young Emery.”

We continue walking straight ahead. It never dawned on me to ask where we were going.

“There,” Achron says pointing to the left of the massive pillar of light; it’s even closer. There are three other ones flickering in the distance, but they’re so far I can cover them with my thumb.

“In between the four pillars lies the entrance to the other surface,” Achron says passively. “In your vision, it is where Master Aiven would have gone.”

Kanti quickly looks at Achron, and then glances at me. “I ask humbly that you do not delve too deep into the details.”

“Apologies, old friend; in the appalling vision, the cloak-bearer heard us mention Olacium Sorti Mordis.”

“What?” I ejaculate. “That…”

“The reason you could not hear the words is due to Achron speaking in our native tongue,” Kanti says trotting diagonal to the pillar in the distance.

“No, I heard it… Siunds like Ola-see-am Sorta More-dis”

“Ola-see-um Sore-tee More-deece,” Achron corrects me, chuckling.  “Olacium Sorti Mordis… Well, I suppose a fragment of Aemon does dwell within you, my dear boy. T’would be rather odd if all of our speech was incomprehensible to you, given the immense power dwelling inside you.”

“I guess. I still don’t know how to feel about it though. Anyway, what is the Olacium Sorti Mordis?” I ask as the pillar to the left comes into view and aligns with the one to our right.

Kanti stares off in to the distance. “Soon enough, Young Emery. Let’s get to our destination.”

“Yea, but if Aiven was going to go there…” I begin, staring at Aiven and rubbing his back with my left hand. “I don’t want to be blindsided by what to expect… I mean to think that I—”

“Patience, dear boy. Surely there are many questions you prefer the answer to as they arise. For now, rejoice.  Rejoice in the truth that you did take the most correct action. Though the alternative was undesirable, the problem was resolved. Permanently,” Achron’s human voice says. “Master Aiven was already between life and death,” his fourth face whispers, “his nullification would have been insignificant in the grand scheme. He is only one.”

I lock eyes with Achron, and squint curiously. “Nullification?” I ask adjusting Aiven.

“Yes, nullification. It is the act of becoming Nothing,” Achron replies.

I stop walking, examining an ocean of red on the horizon. I cringe. “Nullification…”

“The crimson mirage ahead is where we are taking Aiven,” Kanti inserts. “It is directly between the four pillars.”

Red… four pillars… I have so many questions… sigh.

“They will all be answered,” Kanti replies. Thank god, I didn’t piss him off. I wonder what he’s seen. Achron might look scary, absolutely menacing and downright terrifying as hell, but I would rather be on his bad side than Kanti’s. Wonder who’d win an all-out fight… I really hope I never have to see that.

I smile at Kanti, who’s steadily walking several feet ahead of me. “I guess I see what you mean,” I say to Achron. “I just don’t like the idea of my brother being forced to look at the world from behind the eyes of a rampaging monster, with no control over what it does.” What would have happened to all these people, all these souls if Aiven had gone on a rampage? They seemed pretty worried about them.

Achron’s four faces smile. “Not to fret. Aiven would have been fledgling bestial Nothing, unless he fed. Due to the high resonance of Olacium Sorti Vivus, the Topside of The Meta, lesser Nothing would be eradicated from existence after dwelling over it for long: their births, lives, deeds, and deaths would simply fade from the memories of all who consorted with them. Except those on either surface of Olacium Sorti, of course.”

I cringe at the thought of Aiven being wiped from Mom and Dad’s memories, but feel relieved that he wouldn’t have been able to harm the souls here.

Achron continues, “There is no ‘evil’, or low-resonating creature, capable of affecting these souls in their current state.”

We get closer to the crimson edge on the horizon. A time check reveals 10 p.m.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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