Chapter 39: The world within the mask (3)

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The scene before him once again blurred and twisted causing another bout of dizziness. It was not something within Aleks’s control and in fact he felt that someone was intentionally showing him these images. When he could once more see again, there was another scene that he remembered vividly.

“Amazing! Finally…. Hahahaha, it’s done. All those long years finally coming to fruition. Congratulations brother! It’s finally done.”

Ishmael was ecstatic. The long years of hard work were finally going to see results. The core engine was ready to come online, this would provide an endless renewable energy source straight from the core of their world. The last major hurdle had been overcome and the tower could finally be activated. This was truly a momentous occasion that their entire world was celebrating. This would be the moment they finally and truly could begin their journey among the stars.

But most of all… I hope my brother can finally find peace and live normally. Maybe even settle down and start a family.

Ishmael couldn’t help but hold these thoughts in his mind. In fact, if not for him, his brother would truly be alone. How many people were willing to put up with his friend’s reclusiveness and inability to properly socialize with others? If not for his brother’s amazing talent which naturally garnered respect and the efforts of Ishmael himself, An-Namrud would have no one.

Time seemed to stop for Aleks as he watched this scene, he was also even privy to the thoughts of Ishmael who was present in it with his original body. His vision blurred again and it felt as if time was being fast forwarded to the final moment when he turned the core engine on for the first time.

When time started to turn once more, the figure of Ishmael in his vision turned to his former body and said with a serious expression, “you should be the one to turn it on.”

“Okay.” An-Namrud replied.

His former self pressed against the screen which was flickering before him launching the activation process. A loud thrumming sound began to reverberate and the tower successfully activated without a hitch. He had imagined that it would be something amazing, but in reality it was as simple as flipping a switch.

He held his breath, awaiting something, anything to happen. Everything went exactly as planned, it seemed so effortless.

Ishmael too was slightly nervous but when it seemed that everything was fine, he clapped his hands, “Ha! See.. all systems are normal! Everything is working as intended! Hahahahaha.”

He laughed cheerfully as if he was truly letting out all his nervousness and hesitation.

The many other scientists and engineers within the control tower who were watching erupted in applause and finally let loose. They were cheering ceaselessly and Ishmael too was ecstatically shouting. They began congratulating each other and many happily approached Ishmael to shake his hand and offer words of flattery and encouragement. Only An-Namrud still stood in the same spot staring out into space through the control room’s window.

Only he noticed the strange phenomenon that was currently growing, creating a mysterious distortion. There was no sound, there was no warning, just an ever enlarging slit in space.

Ishmael had yet to notice the strange phenomenon and after cheerily conversing with some of the others present, he urgently approached An-Namrud happily. He gently slapped him on the back and said, “Congratulations! We did it! I thought you would be happier.”

He soon realized something wrong in his friend’s expression and turned to look at what he was staring at. He gasped in shock and someone else finally noticed the strange scene unfolding before them and shouted, “What’s that!?”

A blinding flash spread out from the distortion in space causing those present in the room to be instantly incinerated. They all died without warning, without even being able to utter a sound. Only Ishmael and An-Namrud remained within the control room. They were each covering their eyes and screaming in pain. When the pain finally subsided and they could open their eyes once more, they were completely stunned into silence by what they saw.

The distortion itself had grown extremely large, but what truly stunned them was that within the control room no one was left alive but them and a stunningly ethereal beauty the likes of which they had never seen. Their shock only grew from there, for she was clearly suspended above the floor with eight magnificent and glorious golden wings protruding from her back. They were large, much larger than her actual body and they flapped slightly, gently even though there was no wind.

Her clothing was of an unknown material and was of one entire piece which could not conceal the curve and shape of her body beneath which was extremely alluring and otherworldly. Golden silky hair stretched from her head down to her calves like a waterfall and despite the fluttering of her wings, her hair remained still. Her bright shining eyes exuded magnificence and her skin was supple with a perfect complexion. There wasn’t even a slight deficiency in her appearance and in her form. It was as if she were sculpted to be perfect in every way down to the smallest dimension and detail.

The mysterious angelic woman exuded a holy aura that made one wish to kneel and worship her. Both Ishmael and An-Namrud struggled to remain on their feet as this aura washed over them but somehow through extreme effort they were able to remain standing.

“Ho.. you two didn’t die? Oh, I see… that’s why.”

The winged woman placed her hand over her mouth and spoke. Her voice could only be described as heavenly and beautiful beyond measure. Or at least, to the two men standing there it seemed so.

“Wh…who are you?” Ishmael struggled to speak barely able to work up the courage.

Time seemed to stop once more at that moment. Aleks’s consciousness continued to observe this image which didn’t seem to differ much from reality. Once again time fast forwarded and Aleks could now see the last moments he remembered.

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There, he stood behind his friend who he called brother. Ishmael was kneeling in fear and tears were falling from his eyes as he begged that angelic woman for mercy. His former body had a blank expression on its face and it appeared to be frozen in time as if there was no life in it and it was just a puppet.

Aleks remembered clearly that at that moment he had been in such shock at Ishmael’s actions that something seemed to die inside him. The woman was saying something to Ishmael as she gently caressed his chin. She was leaning his head upwards and looking down at him as if he were a helpless child. Aleks couldn’t hear her words and an eerie silence came over the image he was seeing.

Aleks watched as his former body grabbed a sharp object from nearby and stabbed his beloved friend in the back of his neck. His friend’s blood poured out covering his hands and dripping onto the floor. Ishmael’s body leaned forward catching the angelic woman by surprise. She hadn’t expected that the other man would do such a thing. She angrily shouted and made a grabbing motion towards An-Namrud but after stabbing his friend he didn’t hesitate to then stab himself.

The image froze once more.

“Do you regret killing me?”

A voice he remembered well suddenly came from everywhere. Aleks couldn’t locate the source but nonetheless he replied.

“I wanted to leave you with your dignity intact. I didn’t want to remember you as a coward.”

“So you killed me, stabbed me in the back…”

Aleks grew angry at his response and shouted, “You know exactly why it was necessary. If I hadn’t killed you and myself then, they would have obtained everything. I admired you, respected you, and loved you as a brother but you were willing to betray your people for what? Mercy? So that you could save yourself and live as a slave? I could not accept that nor did I want to see you throw away everything!”

“I have been trapped here for an eternity. There is no time in this place but.. at least I get to live a fantasy. I delude myself with these memories of the past before the fall and remember the happiness we once shared.”

The voice of Ishmael was shaky, perhaps even mad. There was also a hint of sadness and grief. Aleks calmed down and too felt somewhat emotional, for this was something that had wounded him deeply.

“I didn’t want to kill you brother. I watched from above as those winged horrors came pouring through that hole in space and rained down destruction on our world killing everything and everyone. There was nothing I could do… I was powerless. And when that moment came… it was all I could think of to stop them from obtaining that which they so deeply sought. Even though I am a murderer that could only watch as everything ended, I was able to at least stop them from obtaining the origin of our world. For that, we both paid a steep price but I do not regret my decision in the least.”

The voice quieted and didn’t respond for a long time.

“Do you know why I knelt and begged?”

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“No, it is something I have long thought hard about but I could never bring myself to understand.”

A faint image of a kneeling man came into view. There was a look of hopelessness as he begged in tears. The shame of that memory was bitter but Aleks didn’t look away. He wanted to remember that moment despite the pain.

The man kneeling turned and looked straight at the consciousness of Aleks which was not visible. His appearance had changed, his eyes hallowed and ghastly looking. It was clear that his mind had momentarily fallen into madness before his visage became one of lucidity.

“I didn’t do it for myself and I didn’t do it for the people of our world. You may think me a coward… but I had no qualms with dying and I didn’t care about the rest… I was willing to give up my pride, my dignity, my life’s work. But it wasn’t for myself and it wasn’t for anyone else. I did it for you.”

The image of Ishmael kneeling on the floor began to fluctuate as if it had given everything to say those last words and was now devoid of life. His brother, who he had held the utmost respect for was fading away in silence and grief but Aleks couldn’t understand his words.

“What are you talking about!?” He said with the utmost haste, scared that the vision would soon dissipate and then he would be left alone once more.

With the dwindling image of Ishmael and the quiet and forlorn darkness beginning to seep in once more, his words drifted as if a fading cloud, “I just… I just wanted you…. to have a chance…. a chance to live.. a chance to love… So, please… live without regrets.”

The voice faded and a powerful force surged through Aleks’s consciousness imbuing him with great power. It was a power that he was very familiar with for a portion of it existed within his soul. It was the power of the Origin, a part of the soul of the god birthed from his world.

“Ishmael…I’m sorry… but the man I once was is gone. How could I ever go back to that naive and curious young man that only sought that ever distant horizon. Now… I’m only filled with the desire for revenge.”

The world within the mask had already almost faded and a deep dark void swirled emitting strange sounds like the cracking of glass. Aleks watched the world being consumed within the void and the memories he once held dear were completely gone.

Only the faint sound of his brother’s words stilled resounded in his mind, “live..”

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