Chapter 94: Into the mist (2)

As Aleks stared into the mist, he could see almost a wisp of shapes and forms. There were images that felt familiar and yet foreign at the same time. He could hear laughter, and the cries of agony and pain. Even more than anything else, he was overcome with a yearning that he felt deep within his soul. It cried out to him, wishing to be free. He turned back one last time, the only ones who had accompanied him to this point were Lenia and Nelay. They had left the camp and gone ahead alone.

“Beyond this point, you can not follow. After I enter, you must return to the camp. Do not linger in this place, do not heed any of its calls. No matter what, you must immediately leave. Is that clear?”

Lenia and Nelay nodded in answer, they were especially hesitant to see him go. There was something which brought great fear to them within. They were deeply concerned. If something happened to Aleks, they too could not live. Without him, their world had no color, no purpose. They would accompany him in death.

“No matter what! Do not come near, only patiently wait for me as long as it takes in the camp.”

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“Yes master.” They both replied solemnly.

It was only when he heard their response and the seriousness in their voice that he finally nodded and turned back towards the mist once more. His footsteps were heavy, but he didn’t slow his pace. He entered into the mist and soon he could no longer see anything but the fog. He walked for a time, not certain how long nor how deep he entered. There were sounds all around him, laughter, muffled voices, and other human like sounds. They were not clear and there was no way to know what were the words said. One could easily lose their minds in this place, but Aleks was calm.

He was not afraid and he didn’t allow the strange sounds or the unsettling environment to weigh down his mind. He only walked without slowing his steps. After a time, he could feel the sensation of eyes watching him, although there was nothing in sight but the fog. It was a powerful sensation, one which left him feeling fully exposed. It was like those eyes could see straight through him, leaving him vulnerable and weak. Aleks had never felt such a powerful gaze and it was then that he heard a undescernable voice.

“Do you know why I chose you?”

This voice was subtle, like a whisper appearing suddenly by his side. Aleks turned his head rapidly, a reaction to the sound. There was no one there and it became eerily quiet. After looking all around him and seeing nothing, he decided to answer.

“I don’t know what you’re asking me.”

“You sought the truth, not for your own selfish desires, but for the sake of knowing. You hoped that your search would bring you to understand the nature of man, the nature of the universe, even your own nature. In your confusion, in your weakness and uncertainty, you wished to find a sliver of hope. Hope that would fill the dismal hole that lies in your barren heart. You yearned as a child does, with outreached hands and innocence. Injured, cold, powerless and a prisoner.. You were all these things and yet at the end, when everything was within your grasp.. You rejected me. You did not want to rob and steal what did not belong to you and most of all… you did not desire the things that you did not yourself possess, but instead with your own small hands hoped to grasp whatever little you could.”

The voice once again whispered gently beside his ear, speaking cryptic words in a soothing manner. Aleks became serious after hearing those words.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“I am.”

Those words spoken sounded ancient and distant, as if they were from some primordial era. Before Aleks could respond, the gaze he had felt upon him was gone and the voice spoke no more. The fog began to twist and turn, suddenly fading into colors that formed images. It was almost like watching a movie from his original life. However, these were not fictional stories, but memories he had hoped to forget. He approached one specific image and touched it lightly. It rippled, like a pool of water and the rippling soon drew him in, dragging him into the image.

Aleks opened his eyes and a familiar scenery was visible. He remembered this place, it was an abandoned house in the slums of where he once lived. This was not a place he wished to remember. The world he came from was one which was technologically advanced, one where every convenience was at your fingertips. This was only for those who had of course, the few at the top of the pyramid. Their wealth and their luxuries were built on the backs of those who would never enjoy such a life of leisure. That was the ugly truth that their society often tried to hide.

“An-Namrud!! An-Namrud!! I know you are here!”

Aleks searched for the originator of that voice, he recognized it well. How could he ever forget the voice of the one who caused him the greatest of regrets.

“Ah! There you are! How many times have I told you to never come to this place?! Do you know how dangerous it is here? If something were to happen to you…”

Ishmael…

Aleks tuned his words out. He knew he only said these things out of concern, but it wasn’t something he wished to hear. He often did this.

“Are you even listening to me? Let’s go, one of the security teams is outside. They will escort us home. You need to take your medication before something happens.”

Medication? Right, I remember. A panacea for regret, a drug to keep the emotions in check and to forget the pain of the past.

Aleks allowed his old friend and brother to drag him out of the abandoned and partially ruined house. He didn’t say anything, just tuned it all out. Ishmael wouldn’t stop berating him. Outside of the ruined building was an almost apocalyptic hellscape, a ruined city where the poor and destitute lived. Victims of the Great War and those unfortunates who were born into poverty or had fallen to such a state for other reasons.

Outside, a siren was going off and a large armored transport truck was nearby with flashing lights blaring. Several heavily armed and armored security officers were keeping a careful eye on the surroundings. There were many living in the ruined city who were peeping at them, too afraid to show themselves. They were dirty, with ripped clothes and disheveled hair. Aleks remembered looking on them with pity, he could have been one of them just as easily.

“Why did you come out here again? Your parents died a long time ago, this place is not what it was and it hasn’t been for a long time. I keep telling you this, but you won’t listen.”

Ishmael attempted to help Aleks into the armored transport car just like in the memory he remembered, but he suddenly forcefully stopped him. This surprised Ishmael who gave Aleks a questioning look.

“Ishmael… I know it isn’t really you. You are long dead, just like all of these people.”

Ishmael looked at Aleks as if he were crazy and asked, “What are you talking about An-Namrud? This is why you need to stop forgetting to take your medicine. You always get crazy like this when you’re off it.”

“No, the medication was just a just a tool to keep me docile and under control. These people deserved better than what we gave them. I had my own selfish reasons for building the tower, but I also deeply hoped to save these people. For I knew that no god would ever come to our rescue, there was no savior who would take away our sins, and no salvation for our souls. Take a good look at the world we had created and the ones who were left behind.”

Ishmael was shocked by his words. The brother he knew had never spoken to him like this. With such clear headed clarity and with such a stern voice. The looks of the security officers became hostile as they glared at him. His words were truly skirting the lines of what was accepted to speak out. If it wasn’t for his special status, he might have already been arrested and taken in for rehabilitation.

“Ishmael, my brother, you were always good to me. It’s not your fault the world we lived in was a lie. I do not blame you or hold you accountable even if you were a part of the problem. Well, you didn’t do it knowingly. We were all only tools for another’s higher purpose.”

After he spoke those words, some of the pain and regret that filled him was released. This was something he had to let go. Time within the memory froze, except for Aleks himself who could still move. He looked carefully at Ishmael who had a look of concern frozen on his face before turning to look into the distance. He could see the tower even though it was so far away. It reached into the clouds, majestic, but cold and indifferent.

“Just like this world.”

The memory faded and Aleks was once more back within the mist.

“Do you wish you could change it?”

That mysterious voice returned, once again beside him and yet everywhere at once.

“I do.” Aleks responded while still caught up in the memory he just experienced.

“But you don’t believe in miracles, do you? You scorned belief in god. Yes, you threw that notion away. In the end, you didn’t covet divinity or power beyond your means, you only hoped to change everything with your own two hands. But now…”

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The words trailed off as Aleks hoped they would. He didn’t want that voice to finish the sentence he loathed to hear.

“What choice do I have? There is no other way!” Aleks said angrily, losing his composure for only a moment before regaining his calm.

“You can never return back to what was.” The voice said with some compassion.

“Then what should I do?” Replied Aleks in resignation.

“Return all to nothing, bring everything to its end.”

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