Blake is a Senior and this is his second year in Journalism. He is the editor of The Fluco Beat. He likes to play video games and likes memes.
March 28, 2019
The worst thing in the world is not being able to express yourself. The pressure of an impending headache signaling more and more sorrow. The hopeless spinning of worthless ideas. They hang like a shadow, lurking behind the writer to haunt them with failed and miserable, unfinished plans that come to no true form.
But, there is one safe haven I have. A place to pour out my mind.
I’ve found that peace come in the garden. It’s a placid labyrinth with tall, green walls of foliage and flowers. It’s the source of all my inspiration. I sit there for hours watching the coming and going of buzzing bees and bouncing bunnies, listening to the low dripping of the marble fountain in the distance.
It is tranquility. The garden is fruitful.
But as the days wind down and the sun dies a miserable death of night, I must recede from my one place of happiness, returning to the hellscape prison of a home that lies in wait.
Similar to it’s floral counterpart, the Reconstruction Era home before me sat quietly and drearily. Peralescent cobwebs adorned faded windows, stretching down onto creaking, darkened wood that adorned the exterior.
Its macabre exterior translates directly into the interior; halls of splintering wood and candlelight sending shadows cascading up and down the abyssal halls.
Timeworn tapestries of bloody conflicts and artistic representations of the lost and damned adorn the hallowed walls with purple-brown carpet draped across the floor, creating a thin walkway from the front door to the upper floors.
Ascending up the creaking and crackling stairs, I ventured towards my study, the only solitude in my own nightmare of a home.
The lack of electricity in this run-down antique of a house would be unappealing guests–that is, if I ever had any. But it doesn’t bother me. I’m used to the feeling of loneliness. Bracing myself to face what lied ahead of me, I slowly slid the door open, reaching up to light a partly-burnt candle with a pre-lit match, The only source of light in the shadowy night.
I wandered in, settling down into my armchair as I dropped the stack of scrawled-on papers onto my desk. I stared at the foreign handwriting that glared up at me. Not my ideas. Not my words. They were his.
It disgusted me. It was worthless.
I reached for a lit candle, holding it above the mess of papers scattered across my otherwise clean desk. Some wax dripped down, falling on the dark wood and cooling into a solid puddle.
With bated and sputtering breath as tears of sheer anger rolled down my cheeks, I dropped the candle. The candlestick descended down like a drop of rain, the flame flickering and dancing with the sudden movement. The candle collided with the desk, sending shards of previously melting wax spewing through the chamber.
The flame slowly began to consume everything in their path, devouring the helpless paper and worthless words. It crackled as it hungrily ate at the piece, cackling like a predator who had caught its prey.
And then it was gone. The light died out. With a chilling gust cascading through the empty room, the candles went out one by one until there was nothing but the moonlight.
“Again, Callum?” The voice of a man emerged in the chamber. “I’ve given you a gift. And yet, you squander it time and time again.”
“I’m sorry,” I weakly let out, tears streaming down my face as I buried my head into my hands.
“You’re the sorriest thing I ever saw.” The voice echoed in my mind, the resounding crackle of flame in his voice. There was a pause. I felt his eyes burning into the back of my head.
“We had a deal,” he said. “You wanted to be an author, so I gave you the words. You wanted to be successful, so I made you a success. What a waste.”
“You’ve cursed me,” I muttered, “you’ve ruined me.”
“You are ruin. You destroy everything you touch.” The clacking of hooves cried out as he approached me. He grabbed my chair and threw it to the ground, shattering the antique as I fell to the ground with a yelp.
I looked up at him, a grotesque creature with red scaly skin. Dark brown horns protruded from his skeletal head, twisting and turning into a crown of hellish thorns. He had black, void-like eyes with faintly-burning embers as pupils. He reached down to grab me with his ruby claws, piercing through my fragile body.
He looked me deep into the eyes, the mesmerizing dance of the flames strangely enrapturing me as his grimacing face looked upon me. “You feed me. I feed you,” he said. “Finish it before I cut this deal short.”
He dropped me, and I fell not to the floor, but into an endless inferno which circled around me like a cyclone of immeasurable intensity. The heat that radiated around me consumed my body, the flames trickling up my arms as the ashes of my form drifted off into the fire.
I shot up in my armchair in my well-lit office. The chair wasn’t broken. The lights were on. I wasn’t burning. And he was gone.
Sighing, I sunk into myself, reaching up to the new, burning pain in my shoulder. The burnt portions of the papers I tried to sunder were purely reformed, made anew. The title, which I had previously burnt away, stood defiantly on the parchment beneath my eyes. The Reckoning it read, in fanciful cursive. The lines of the two words danced with each other, interconnecting and looping.
The thunderous noise of the slamming of ancient wood suddenly invited itself into my ears. My head shot up. The door? Someone was here?
I flung myself out of the armchair, sending it screeching across the oaken boards. And then I froze. Someone was here. Why was someone here?
The knocking continued. I followed it. Walking down the spiral stairs gently, I slowly traced the location of the incessant knocking. And it was indeed coming from the front door. I peeked out through the stained glass that adorned the sides of the ornate door frame, looking out into the warped world outside. Something was out there. The knocking continued.
Reaching out for the gold-adorned doorknob, my arm quivered with fear as I felt the familiar feeling of eyes burning into the back of my hand.
I flung the door open to reveal a man and a woman. They were wearing black gear…perhaps some kind of armor?
The woman’s eyes lit up, her voice poured out with the excitement of a tipped bucket of water. A soothing sound. Something I was unfamiliar with.
“Good evening, sir,” she said as her partner straightened his posture. “Are you Callum Tanas?”
A shiver ran up my spine, a cold chill racing through my bones. “Yes. I am him,” I said weakly.
“Excellent, sir. Would you mind if we had a talk?” She pulled out a black badge, which had a dark red bug on it, with wings held out.
I stood in complete shock. I didn’t know what to say.
“Oh, yes of course! Please come inside,” I said with elation. But it wasn’t me. Those weren’t my words. The burning in my shoulder trailed down my arm.
The woman shot a look of minor confusion over to her partner.
“Alright. Lead the way,” she said. I turned around and headed back into the house, moving to the den. But I didn’t want to move.
We sat down in three separate seats, all dark wooden constructs with faded purple adornments.
The woman spoke again. “Mr. Tanas, I’m Agent Rodriguez, and this is Agent Manning.” Manning raised his hand in a sort-of wave. “We work for Cicada.” She said it as if I was supposed to know what it meant.
“Um, what’s Cicada exactly?” I asked.
Rodriguez answered quickly, as if she’d done this before. “Government agency.” She continued, “Now, Mr. Tanas–can I call you Callum?”
“Callum,” Rodriguez said, a soft smile coming across her face, “we have a few questions to ask you, and we’d really appreciate it if you complied.”
“Um, yeah, I guess,” I said, still extremely confused.
“Perfect.” Rodriguez looked over to Manning, who pulled out a small notepad and a pen. “So, Callum, how long have you been living here?” Rodriguez said.
How long have I been here? What kind of person comes to my house at three in the morning to ask about how long I’ve been living somewhere?
“Well. um. As long as I can remember I suppose,” I responded.
Manning, who hadn’t broken eye contact with me this entire time, scribbled something down onto the notepad.
“Alright, perfect. And you’re an author, correct?” Rodriguez said.
“Something like that, yeah,” I said back.
Rodriguez smiled. Manning glanced down at his paper as he jotted more information down.
“Do you live alone here, Callum?” Manning asked quizzically.
I turned to meet his gaze. “I do,” I said, my eyebrow raised at the question.
Manning looked over to his partner. Rodriguez’s eyes were locked on me.
“Callum,” Rodriguez said, her face turning cold, “I think you’re lying to us.”
What? Lying? I haven’t said anything wrong.
“I-I don’t know what you mean!” I sputtered out.
“Mr. Tanas, if you live here alone, then who was that man on the staircase when we walked in?” Manning said, as he slowly stood up and placed his hand on his side.
“Man?” I exclaimed. “What do you mean, man?”
“Well, the same one standing behind you right now,” Rodriguez said cooly.
I froze in fear. Behind me?
A voice entered my mind. A burning cackling. He was here. He was what they were talking about.
“Now Callum,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to need you to stand up slowly and come towards us.”
“Oh. He’s not going anywhere.” The familiar voice of crackling flames filled the room. The fireplace suddenly lit as a clawed, red hand descended onto my shoulder. Burning pain shot through my arm as it connected with my body.
Manning drew a pistol from his side, pointing it directly above me. Rodriguez followed, standing up calmly and drawing her own.
The creature laughed. I felt its burning, warm breath tickle the back of my head.
A blinding light shot off from the other side of the room, and then another. Two loud bursts exploded from Manning and Rodriguez’s firearms, as a horrifying screech filled the air. Manning dove towards me, grabbing me in a fireman’s carry in one swift movement. Rodriguez covered him from behind.
“Get him out of here!” Rodriguez shouted, as the charging stomping of hooves came from behind us. Rodriguez fired two more shots, a booming squeal following the second.
Manning continued to run until a torrent of flaming pieces of wood came clambering down from the ceiling. They formed into an upside down star, exuding burning hatred. Manning kicked the front door open, sending pieces of wood splintering across the marbled ground of the front porch.
The scene before us was far different than before. A large aircraft was parked on the walkway of my house. Multiple soldiers, all adorned in the same black armor with much larger weapons, began storming the house as it became engulfed in flames.
Manning carried me all the way to the aircraft, which was adorned with the same dark red bug painted on one of the large wings. A cicada. He set me down on the inside, placing me gently on a seat as another armored individual approached with a blanket, which he offered me.
The two shared a small conversation as Manning grabbed a nearby helmet, placing it on his head as he picked up a larger gun. The two then headed out of the aircraft, descending down the slight incline of a ramp.
The ramp began to rise, a metallic clunking noise as something locked into place. I stood up as a red light cut on inside the aircraft, and the sound of engines turning on pierced the quiet air. I walked over to a window to see the ground slowly becoming further and further away. I glanced down at the place I had called home for so long, now so tiny below.
Suddenly, the windows blew out in a fiery explosion, a hurricane of glass, wood, and fire as the house began to erupt in flames. Spent, I crumpled to a seat, laid my head down on an adjacent surface, and covered myself in a nearby blanket. I was finally free.
Fluorescent lights hung above my head, their bright glow filling my eyes with sudden white blindness. I slowly raised my head, which felt much lighter than earlier. In fact, my whole body felt lighter. Like a weight was literally lifted off of my shoulders.
“Hey, hey, don’t rush.” a familiar female voice said.
I looked up slowly, glancing around the white facility before me. A potted plant with a single red flower sat beside me next to Agent Rodriguez, who was sitting in a green plastic chair. I was in some kind of hospital room?
“Welcome back, Mr. Tanas,” Rodriguez said with a smile. “You’re safe now.”
“Where are we?” I asked groggily.
“A Cicada facility. Listen, we have a lot to talk about, and it’s not going to make much sense.” Her face hardened, looking deep into my eyes.
“Callum, you were possessed by a demon.” Rodriguez’s cold expression didn’t change in the slightest. I let out a small chuckle.
“A um, a demon?” I looked back at her like she was a ghost. “You’re kidding.”
“There are some more things than just that demon in the house–well, there were, at least. They’re all gone now. But I’m afraid so is the house,” she said.
I laid my head back in stunned disbelief. A demon? What?
“Callum, you seemed to have lost all concept of reality by being in some form of possession. The paranormal became normal to you. But that’s what we’re here for. To annihilate evils and rehabilitate those in need. That’s what Cicada is all about,” Rodriguez said.
“Okayyyyy,” I let out slowly, “so there was a demon inside of me?”
“Technically, yes,” Rodriguez said with a nod.
“Is that why I feel lighter now?” I cocked my head in a confused way, like a puppy.
“Well, yes, now that we’ve removed any signs of the possession from your body,” Rodriguez said, all too good at answering these bizarre questions.
“This has been the weirdest day,” I sighed, staring up at the blank ceiling.
“Trust me. It gets weirder,” Rodriguez said with a small chuckle.
There was a brief pause. I wasn’t used to absolute silence.
“You like writing, right Callum?” Rodriguez said, standing up from her chair.
“Yeah, I do.” I sat back up, propping my back against the multitude of pillows behind me.
“Well, then, let’s get you doing that then, okay? Something fun?” Rodriguez smiled as she turned around, grabbing a red notebook and a pencil. She handed it over to me.
I looked down at the two materials below me. I flipped open the first page and paused.
Ideas. Millions of ideas flowed to my mind. Heroes. Villains. Worlds. It was as if a dam had broken, infinite ideas and plans pouring into my mind. Flooding my head.
I grabbed the pencil eagerly. It spun and danced as two words appeared on the paper.