24. Rebirth

I felt a warm gentle breathing on my neck. It was caressing on my skin. A soft warm arm laid across my bare chest. It was silky smooth. Gradually my eyes opened as if weights were lifted from them, and I realized that I was lying in bed with a young woman. I could feel her supple naked body against me, the fine hairs of her genitals pressing against mine. A thick wool comforter hugged over us trapping in our body heat. Immediately, I knew I was dreaming. Ten consecutive months of wet dreams when I was twelve helped me distinguish between reality and fantasy. I also recognized that cold surrounding air, and the anesthetizing aroma of the girl lying beside me.

Elicia.

It was her. And I bet my last dollar that I was in that place again. That place of eternal winter by the House. I looked at her sleeping soundlessly beside me. I didn’t bother to care why she was lying there with me. I just felt like staying there forever, even though I knew it wasn’t real. The bed sheets were so soft, just like her. My arm was around her and I moved it ever so gently down her form. Her skin yielded to my hands so much.

And with much effort I gathered the will to lift her arm off of me, and I reluctantly slid out of bed naked. A lone window appeared in the wall allowing that familiar blue light to fill the room. Something felt strange, however. Not the room, mind you, but myself. It reminded me of when I awoke from the first dream I had about this house, when I first met the Old Man. I felt as if my mind and body had been renewed somehow, like a new life was burning within me. I could once again feel the cold heat coursing through my veins and nerves, but this time it was more dynamic, mature, and ready to submit to my commands and do what I wanted it to do. I drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The air seemed cooler as it poured out from my lungs. It was then when I realized that my body was somehow endothermic, it was absorbing ambient energy into itself. Along with this realization came a new self-awareness. I had experienced an ordeal that nearly killed me, but something brought me back to life with a whole new vigour. Was it Elicia? Was it her who pulled me out from the abyss of death? It had to be. I had been to the brink of death and came back with the necessary tools the take on life. I was a newborn child brought into the world naked with an almost limitless potential.

Before I could step away, a hand reached out and grabbed my wrist. I looked back to see Elicia holding me. She was sitting up on the bed, nearly fully exposed had it not been for her hair that draped itself like gossamer over her pear-shaped breasts; her hair looking silver in the cold light. “Anthony,” she finally said. “Your father’s in danger.”

“From what?” I asked.

“From yourself…” She gestured with her sun bright eyes toward the window. I walked up to it and peered out to see Id standing outside. Puzzled, I looked back at her, and she responded with a silent nod. I found my shorts flung over a wooden chair at the side of the bed and put them on. She once again grabbed my hand before I could walk out. I could feel that the strength behind her grip rivaled my own. “Just leave, Anthony. You can’t face him. Not yet.” Gently, I took back my hand and proceeded out of the House.

As soon as I stepped out, the frigid air began biting at my exposed flesh, yet I didn’t feel cold, as if I was impervious to it. The snowflakes came down from invisible clouds. Id was still there out in the clearing dressed in the usual black. He was facing away from me and had his hands folded behind his back as he stared up at the jet coloured sky. He knew I was there, but he didn’t acknowledge my presence. For a moment I was afraid to approach him. He seemed threatening and menacing as he stood there silent, as still as dead. Not even the snowflakes dared touching him. Regardless of this, I stepped off the wooden porch onto the snow and walked over to him. Before I was even two feet from him he said, “Anthony. I’m about to do something that you will not agree with. But it is in your best interest that you don’t try to stop me.”

I took a moment to think about what he just said. “Now why would I wanna do that?” I asked.

A smirk came across his face as he finally turned and looked at me. “I see you’ve finally shed away yourself,” he said looking at my half-naked body. “A new Anthony now stands before me. This should be interesting.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “And what do you plan on doing?”

“I wish I could tell you, Anthony,” he said. “Believe me, I do. But simply knowing what I intend on doing could pose a danger to you.”

“Pose a danger? From what?”

“From me,” said Id.

“Does this have anything to do with Monique?” I asked.

“Yes,” Id replied. “And not quite. That little epiphany you had about Monique has asserted the importance of this task. It is now urgent that I carry it out.”

“You’re gonna finally kill that monster,” I said.

“No. I said it was something you may not agree–”

“And I don’t agree with it,” I interrupted. “Her father is still in that thing. You’ve seen him yourself.”

“I’m aware of that,” said Id. “And that’s why I don’t plan on killing him. At least not now.”

“You can’t kill him,” I said. “He can still be saved.”

Id simply laughed. “Listen to yourself. Since when were you so heroic? Oh right. This is the new Anthony who I’m speaking to. One who believes that he’s capable of handling anything life throws at him. Please, my friend. Just a few months ago you couldn’t even dial 911 to help that young girl in there. And now you think you can face something that you don’t even understand.”

“Id, look at me. Look at how I stand before you. Everything has been taken away from me. But so much more has been given back in return. I’ve been driven to insanity and my heart stopped beating, by all means I should be dead, but Elicia saved me. The one thing I couldn’t do for her she has done for me. And she has shown me more than you possibly could have.”

“I bet she has,” he smirked, regarding my half-nakedness. “Leave, Anthony. You’ve seen enough for one day.”

“Id, what are you trying to hide?” I asked. “I thought you said there would be no more secrets. Everything would be revealed, remember?”

“I know,” he replied. “But now I wouldn’t have to tell or show you anything. You have the power to figure it out on your own. And you will. Which is why I’m telling you that when you do to not get in my way.”

“I’m not leaving until I get my answers,” I insisted. “And not until you promise me that you won’t kill Monique’s father.”

“That thing is not that girl’s father. At least not any more. And besides, what makes you think you can save him? And what makes you think I would let you.”

I couldn’t quite grasp what Id was saying. Here was the one who was practically my mentor, showing and revealing things to me that I never knew existed. He had always been a cold distant fellow and yet he was always there, shedding light on the deepest, darkest realms of my being and the world in which I lived; and he was there to show me how to do the things I could now do. But now he was someone else, someone I didn’t recognize. It was as if he too had a different side, a split personality of a split personality.

“Id, what are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying it’s time for you to put aside these childish dreams of saving people who are already dead, and focus on the real problem.”

“I’ll ask you again,” I said calmly. “What is it you plan on doing?” Without an answer Id turned away, once again presenting his back. “Why’s my dad in danger, Id?” That was what I truly wanted to know. “You’re gonna kill him, aren’t you?”

His silence confirmed my question.

For some strange reason that didn’t come as a shock to me. Part of me already knew his intentions. Over the past few weeks I had learnt how to read him the way he could read me; and now after that encounter with Elicia, it came almost naturally. It reminded me of the way I read Jonathan.

“So then why were you beating around the bush,” asked Id, responding to my thoughts, “asking all those frivolous questions when you already knew the answer?”

“Because I couldn’t believe it,” I said. “I refused to believe it. So I wanted to hear it straight from your own mouth. I gave you the opportunity to tell me willingly. I even tried switching the subject to Monique to get you to change your mind. But apparently that didn’t work.”

“Well that just goes to show you how well you know me. But I must say, I am impressed.”

“So what happens now?” I asked.

“Well, I’m going to head out to finish the job, and you’re going to try and stop me. Key word: try, as in you won’t succeed.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I shrugged. “But before we get started, you mind telling me why you have to do this. Like, what exactly are you thinking?”

“Anthony, I’m merely returning the favour,” Id answered. “What I’m going to do to your father is what he’s already done to me.”

Huh?” I expressed.

“Your parents never told you, have they?”

“Tell me what? My mom died when I was thirteen and my dad was never around. What could they have told me?”

“That you weren’t their first child.”

That I didn’t see. “You’re joking, right? You really expect me to believe that? If in some way you weren’t bullshitin’ me, and I did have an older brother or sister, I would have known. It’s just been me and Jonathan. If my parents told me anything, it would have been that.”

“Well that just shows me how well you knew your parents,” said Id. “They didn’t tell you because they wanted to forget. As if it never happened.”

“So then where is he?” I questioned. “Was he sent to live with some other family in some other part of the world? Was he sent to be raised in some boarding school in Europe? Or better yet, is he my long lost twin brother, separated at birth, forced to grow up in the ghetto. That one sounds good.”

“He’s dead,” said Id. “Never given the chance to breath air or see light.”

“A stillbirth?” I asked.

“Not quite,” Id said. “He was very much alive, yet never even born. At least he would have been. But when your mother became pregnant with her first child, your father didn’t want any kids and made her get rid of it. They murdered it. To this day I don’t understand why he didn’t approve. It’s a child, a miracle creature. And he had everything in the world to bestow upon it. But he rejected it.”

There was a burning in Id’s eyes as he spoke. I could have even sworn that they were welling up. And that was all I could see of him. Just his eyes. Yet I could scarcely feel the tremendous sensation churning behind them, as if it were being held back by chains. It didn’t take long for me to make the connection. His eyes said it all. And I realized who this dead brother was.

“They thought they killed me, but they didn’t,” Id continued. “I lived on in you. For some reason he let you live, and I saw that as my opportunity. The Old Man gave me a second chance on the condition that I train his warrior, his hero. So I took the offer. Oh yes, I took that offer. Anything to settle the score with the man who could have been my father… and the woman who could have brought me into this world.”

I looked at him suspiciously. Did you… I didn’t complete the thought.

“I never meant for her to die,” continued Id. “It must have been some manifestation of my raw anger. But eventually it sprouted then developed into cervical cancer. That was my little parting gift. So in a sense, we killed her.”

A volcanic rage erupted from my core…

The next thing I knew I was laid out on the other side of the clearing, the right side of face throbbing. I stood up and brushed the snow off my shorts. I looked up to see Id a few yards in front of me, staring at me, cracking his knuckles. I had made a sad attempt to attack him after he made that last remark. Obviously, I was no match for him. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t let that stop me, and I marched back to him. “Must you do this?” he asked wearily.

I didn’t answer. Instead I responded with a left hook, my dominant hand. Instantly he grabbed it, pulled me in and delivered a stone cold elbow to my temple. My body made three revolutions as it spun in mid air before it hit the ground. When I rolled onto my knees, he kicked me in the stomach sending me flying across the clearing. I landed in a tree and crashed down through its branches before hitting the snowy ground. Id was already there waiting for me. He pulled me up by my hair and slammed my face against the tree trunk. Pain went echoing through my skull. He pulled my head back once more and gave my face another hammering. He let go to allow my body to crumble to the ground.

“You’re weak,” he hissed. “I don’t know why the others choose you.” He grabbed me by the feet and dragged me across the snow. I was in too much agony to scream or move. I could feel the blood pouring down my face and leaving a trial in the snow behind us. It came gushing out from my nose and seeped back down my trachea, almost choking me. He stopped in front of the House and let go of me. As he turned and looked at me he said, “Don’t worry, Anthony. I won’t kill you. That’ll be too easy. I’m just going to leave you here alone, with nothing but the cold and the darkness to keep you company. Let the pain and agony sink in good. Give yourself some time to think, because by the time I get back your father will be dead. And you better be ready to truly face me. Or else I will kill you.”

As he turned to walk away, I continued to lie there in the snow, now pink with my blood. I tilted my head to the left so I could look at the House. And there I saw Elicia standing behind the window, her hands on the glass, her eyes commanding me to get up. And I felt the strength in me again. In fact it had never left me. It had always been there buying its time. Waiting for the right moment. Waiting for me, the real me to awaken. I began willing myself to stand up. And I stood there erect with my feet firmly on the ground, my muscles tense.

Sensing this anomaly, Id stopped and turned around. “I seriously don’t have time for this,” he said. An electrical arc charged down the length of his arm and fired right at me. But to his surprise he hit nothing but the snow filled air as the arc passed right through my ghostly form and lit up the distant forest. I suddenly reappeared behind him and gave him a shattering uppercut to the chin, launching him into the night. He gained some serious altitude before landing a few yards away. He sprang to his feet with the look of shock clear on his face. I was right in front of him to see it. He fired a left hook. I grabbed it. He fired a right hook. Grabbed that too. I then proceeded to head-butt him repeatedly, breaking his nose. I struck his forehead no less than five times before he stumbled back, almost falling. Then in an angry rage he charged at me with one last swing that could have broken the sound barrier. In a flash I caught it in mid flight, and I began to crush his hand with three times the power he used on poor Justin. This time he screamed out in agony, and with the same twist of my wrist I popped his arm, that quick snap confirming the break. His eyes went wide as he gasped in pain. And for a finishing touch, I spun around twice delivering two deadly roundhouse kicks: one across the face, the second to the chest, knocking the wind out of him and sending him flying back several feet until he plowed through a tree trunk. His unconscious body collapsed by the tree’s stump.

I drew in a deep breath through my broken nose, allowing the metaphysical air to course through my aching body like ichor, healing all my wounds, physical and mental. The blood on my face vanished and the scrapes and bruises on my skin disappeared. Then something remarkable  happened. All the memories of Id’s escapades as the Ghost gradually revealed themselves to me. Until now, he had only shown me what he wanted me to see; but for the first time I saw everything. From the first night when he killed Elicia’s murderers, up to his last face off with the Monstrosity. They were more than just visions, they were my memories now. My experiences. And along with this came the knowledge on all my abilities and how to wield them. I turned to see Elicia there with a warm smile on her face. I was ready now. More than ever. The night had begun.

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