25. Adulthood

Slowly, gradually, sensation returned. Then thinking, then hearing, and finally breathing followed. My eyes opened. I was still laid out on the carpet just in front of my bathroom. Within seconds I was on my feet and hurried into my room. But as my clock radio grazed through my field of vision, I discovered that the time was now 11:33 PM. And it was the next day. Even though the whole ordeal that I had just experienced only seemed like a few minutes, I had actually been out for over twenty-four hours. Despite that, I could only think of one thing. The Monstrosity. After defeating Id, I could clearly remember that thing, how it beat me nearly half to death, and most importantly, what it had said to Id that one night. But what stuck out the most was what it said afterwards. Id didn’t understand it, all he heard was a mumble. But I could. It said,

“AND I KNOW THAT YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING; WE BOTH ARE…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            …AND YOU WILL LEAD ME TO HER.”

I remember how angry I was at Id in that particular moment. How could he not have seen this? How could this have flown right by him? Now both me and Monique were in grave danger. But then again, he told me that when my abilities were fully mature, they would be greater than his. I guess that meant now.

I ran upstairs to the living room and saw Al and Troy on the couch playing Golden Eye on the old 64. Both of them had their eyes fixed on the 27” T.V.

“Hey, you guys seen Monique?” I asked.

“Nope,” said Al.

“Well, you know where she went?”

“Nope.”

“You seen who she went with?”

“Nope.”

“You know what time she’ll be back?”

“Nope.”

“Do you have a nut sack?”

“Fuck off.”

After realizing that this was going nowhere I went back down to my apartment. If I was going to find Monique I’d have to do it myself. I began running around my room trying to remember where Id stored my chest. I came across my cell phone and checked my missed calls. There were three from Monique; she had left a message. I had a listen.

“Hey Anthony,” the recording said. “I’m guessing you know who this is. But I’m just calling to say that you still owe us for not coming out last night; we decided to hold it off for tonight. But this is like the third time we’ve called you now, so we’re just lettin’ you know that we left without you. Anyways if you do get this message and decide to chill with us, we’ll be at Black Out down town. See ya–”

Now I knew where to find Monique. The question was did the Monstrosity know also.

I found the chest in my closet and pulled it down, looking for that one thing. Slowly I opened it, and there it was, the Knight Suit, lying there silently, folded up like a sleeping bat. As I laid my hand on it, more memories of the Ghost instantly came flying back. They were no longer shattered fragments of dreams, but complete memories and experiences now. I was able to recall every event, every name, every place, every sound and sensation. The suit adhered comfortably to my skin as I slipped into it. I was ready to face the night.

Atop a speeding maglev I sat, allowing the wind to breath for me. It was anything but quiet that Saturday night, and the music of the city was vivacious as lasers and search lights danced across the sky. With my enhanced hearing it was as if the city was providing me its own soundtrack.

I wanted to pay this Eva Daniels character another visit, hoping to ask her a few more questions. But seeing how she would have already been in another state by now, going after her was out of the question. That left only one person.

Him.

It was time to face my father. Now there were no excuses to avoid him. No more hesitating. No holding back. I leapt from the maglev and onto another as it slid past below. Now I was heading north-west toward Gellen Island, my home.

When I arrived, I expected to find a dead fortress, a place of haunting silence where the air and shadows were one, and the night sky above was devoid of stars. Instead, I was met with brilliant lights. Around the property there were cars parked where ever there was cement. People were walking in and out of the house dressed in their finest clothing. I could hear the people inside, either talking up a storm or laughing at some dumb joke. I could hear wine glasses clinking together, and champagne bottles popping and the bubbles fizzing. Music was playing and even though it was dated, the high quality sound system made it as pristine as this week’s number one hit. There appeared to be some kind of shindig going on inside. I crouched down on the tall gothic brick wall that surrounded the premises, and listened in to hear what the party was about.

It was a gathering of friends and family in support of my uncle’s campaign. Ninety percent of the people there I didn’t know or just couldn’t remember. From where I sat I was able to count at least two hundred people. I scanned to house for my father but couldn’t locate him, and if I were to venture in, there was way too much light inside for me to cloak myself successfully, even in my phantom state. But suddenly I heard his voice coming from the wine cellar, separately housed adjacent to the mansion. Staying close to the shadows cast by the wall, I ran towards the wine cellar and was there in seconds. It was a small stone house built in traditional Tuscan architecture, complete with a patio and a small field in the back that used to be a vineyard.

Four of his friends were outside enjoying a smoke and a few drinks. They were gentlemen, all over the age of fifty, some with receding hairlines others with streaks of grey, all wearing suits and shoes that were almost worth as much as them. My father’s voice was coming from the inside, he was probably in there pouring himself and his friends a few more rounds. It seemed that his friends were well distracted by their loud banter and the alcohol building up in their blood, so being seen while I inviting myself in wasn’t an issue. There was a maze of shelving inside the wine cellar, each stocked to the brim with bottles of the finest vintage imported from all corners of the globe. With only a few steps I could visit Bosnia, than Germany, Italy, then on to Russia, and if I really wanted to, Ireland.

I navigated my way through the labyrinth eventually making it to the back. Here it was dark and a bit cooler, and I saw a man standing there alone by the counter. Silently I glided over to him. The sound of my heart pounding was deafening to my enhanced hearing, it seemed to be echoing in the cold cellar air. But something was off. This was not my father. I slid behind one of the wine racks just before the man turned around. It turned out to be my uncle Joseph, and he was talking to my father on a cell phone. The voice that I was hearing was actually coming from the other end of the phone. I was momentarily amused by this little surprise and decided to listen in on their conversation. Now my uncle Joseph was roughly the same height and build as my father, only his hair was a little shorter, and his face was less chiselled and more rounded. He was saying that Nathaniel, the uncle who was running for president, had arrived nearly three hours ago and was getting impatient for his older brother to show up. My father insisted that he would be arriving shortly, and for Uncle Joseph to keep the guests entertained until then. Joseph being the youngest out of the three, it was difficult for him to protest. My father was heading down Route 590 and was experiencing some heavy northbound traffic due to an accident. I saw this as the perfect opportunity.

I breezed out of the wine cellar, sipping from an eighty-six year old bottle of wine to fire up my taste buds before I left, revving me up for the night. I would need that extra burn. Similar to what Id used to do, I hitched a ride atop of a truck heading towards the Frankford Tunnel. Within minutes I had crossed the Gellen Channel and was on Main Island. I could already see the traffic on Route 590, and I counted on that to slow my father down.

The traffic heading southbound, toward the city, was cool and rapid, and it was not long before I picked up my father’s presence in the opposite lanes. But before I knew it my father’s car had whizzed past me in a blur. He must have made it through the congestion. I had to catch him quickly. And in a fraction of a second that amazed even me, I had calculated the trajectory of a jump that would allow me to land perfectly on a speeding car. I leapt into the air and landed on the moving target. None of the passengers noticed me. However, the car that my father was in was still a ways ahead of me, and my  vehicle was going nowhere (it was obeying the speed limit). Realizing I could reduce my weight by partially shifting to phantom state, I leapt off the car and onto another that was speeding by. From there I hopped on to another, then another, then another. It was almost like jumping from rock to rock across a river. And finally I landed on top of my father’s black Chrysler 300C.

Separated only by this alloy of aluminum and fibreglass, I pressed my sleek body against the roof of the car and listened to the interior. My father was still on his cell phone but was now talking to someone else. Judging by the background noise on the other end, I could tell that the caller was on board a large aircraft, perhaps a 747. I found it strange that my father was not speaking to him like a subordinate, but more like a colleague.

“So have you spoken to Eva Daniels?” asked the man on the other end.

“Yes,” answered my father. “But she’s not important right now.”

“And what of the Knight Suit?”

“It’s on my to do list.”

“Then I’ll just cut to the chase,” said the man. “Concerning the Archangel, we’ve identified what made it conscious. Before he was sent to fight in operation Red Sea, Omar Jones had a daughter with a woman whom he never married. After he went mad, the thought of being with his daughter became his absolute driving force. His soul purpose for living. While you had him in your possession you managed to erase most of his memory, I’ll give you that. But you morons couldn’t see the most important thing!”

“You watch your tone with me,” said my father “You forget that the office you sit in will soon be under my pay roll.” Whoever this man on the other end was, he seemed to have profound knowledge on the Genesis Program. I was waiting for my father to say his name.

“Mr. Apollo,” continued the man, “the memory of his daughter is what triggered his awake. If he makes contact with her, you know what’ll happen? It’ll set off a mental chain reaction that will fully awaken Ahmed Elijah. When this happens–”

“He’ll be driven to complete his terrorist acts,” my father coolly interjected.

“And with your new augmentations, he’ll create hell on earth.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“You knew about this?”

“Yes.”

“And precisely why didn’t you notify us?”

“Because I know what you intended to do with the girl.”

“What does it matter?” asked the man. “I’m advising you to have your people get rid of this girl and contain the situation before it’s too late.”

“This girl happens to be a close friend of my remaining son. He’s already lost someone, and I would prefer that he doesn’t lose another.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Apollo. But this is hardly the time to allow your personal interests to interfere with what must be done. Millions of people are about to die and I don’t intend on that happening. At least not on American soil.”

“There are alternatives.”

“Like what, Mr. Apollo? Like what? You’ve left me no choice. I’ll have a team dispatched to extract this girl and get her out of the picture. That would buy us some time to deal with the Archangel.”

“Actually, I’m afraid you’ve left me with no choice. I’ll just have to take care of this matter myself.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the man. “Apollo? Apollo! Don’t you hang–” my father ended the call.

I still wasn’t sure who that man was. Whoever he was he had power, power that matched or even exceeded my father’s. And he was about to use it to have my friend killed. But at that same moment everything focused into perspective. My father knew that Monique was the Monstrosity’s child and that she was the key to its psyche. How long he knew this remained a mystery. She was what kept him alive on the battle field, brought him back from death as Elicia did for me, and she will soon unleash the killer within him. Why didn’t my father say anything? Did he care that much for me and my friends? Perhaps there was a human being inside of him after all. The human being that my mother must have seen. And as I looked at him through my aura state vision, the roof of the car becoming transparent, I saw that he was no longer drenched in that fiery orange glow, but was now kindled with a fluorescent lime.

My father sat there for a while as if in deep thought. He then ordered the driver to turn the car around. He made another phone call on his cell. “Yes, it’s me,” he said into the phone. “I need you to find someone for me. A seventeen-year-old girl by the name of Monique Smith. I’m sending you her social security number.”

“Okay, sir,” said a voice on the other end.

“When was the last time and place she used her debit card?”

“One moment, sir…. Two days ago at Popeye’s Chicken, Burlington Mall.”

“Hmm,” responded my father. “Tell you what, try this. When was the last time and place she used her cell phone?”

“One sec…” said the voice. “Actually she’s on it right now. Our satellite feeds show us she’s in the entertainment district at a club called Black Out.”

“Thank you,” said my father. “Keep me posted in case she leaves.”

The car slid off of the highway at the very next exit and jumped right back on heading south. What are my father’s intentions with Monique? I wondered. And at the speed that the car was going at, I doubted if I would reach her before my father did. I decided to sit tight and enjoy the ride, allowing the 87 mile an hour breeze to rush by me.

I now understood this thing that was the Monstrosity. They succeeded in creating a mindless killing machine. But they failed to create a soulless killing machine. All this time he’s just been stalking the dark, back allies of the city, never coming out into the light, feeding on those he came across, strengthening himself. He’s been preparing for when he finds what he’s looking for. And when he finds her, his long lost daughter, he’ll remember who he truly is. The mass murderer Ahmed Elijah. And he’ll continue where he left off, killing thousands of people. I had to stop him before he could find her.

When we got into the city I knew the traffic would slow us down, so I decided to take to the rooftops, my domain. From there I could see and hear everything and easily traverse the obstacles. But first I had to collect my bearings and locate Monique. Id had done this many times before, finding people and homing in on their exact location. I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but I had to give it a shot. I recalled the time when I knew about Beverly’s friend Andrea and the seizure that she had. All I did was think about her and the answer came right to me. This was no different. I jumped four stories on to another roof top and climbed onto a ledge overlooking the cityscape. I stood still and drew in a deep breath, and this time the air felt warmer as I exhaled. I closed my eyes and said her name aloud. Monique. I silenced my thoughts and focused outward. Then gradually a host of ambient whispers seemed to manifest in the air. Once again they were incoherent and disorganized. But then I stretched out with my mind and gathered them into one unified voice. Then the most amazing thing happened. Even with my eyes closed I saw the entire city. Millions of lights and colours appeared before me on a violet and cyan landscape. Then all the lights and colours began to fade, the voices never ceasing, whispering in my ears. And when all the lights were faded, one stood out. A shining beacon off in the distant twilight of the cityscape. A beacon that the voices were now directing me towards. As I opened my eyes I could scantly feel that familiar presence of Monique, even though she was over a mile away.

In a single leap I soared over to the next building and broke into a sprint across the rooftops, never getting tired, my legs never getting sore. Lactic acid was a thing of the past for me. And from there I connected back onto the network of maglevs that crisscross the city.

I watched from on high as Monique walked along the wet sidewalk. I had followed her from the club after she parted ways with her friends. The sound of her high heels knocking against the pavement kept a constant rhythm with the usual skip that follows in the female gait. As expected my father’s car silently came from around the corner and pulled up to her as she walked. She was slightly startled by the advance but kept walking. As the car slowly moved beside her, the rear window slid down to reveal Michael Apollo’s face. He called out to her in that solid voice that only a corporate exec can possess. “Aren’t you Anthony’s friend? Monique, right?”

“Mr. Apollo? What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I was just in the neighbourhood on my way from the office,” he replied. “Do you need a ride home?”

“Yeah, I’d love that.”

“Get in.” The car eased to a stop, allowing her to enter.

I’m not sure why Monique took the offer as there was not much dialogue between the two of them. Maybe she didn’t want to walk in the cool damp air, or maybe she just didn’t trust the subway this time of night. Or maybe she was intimidated by the man inside. Nevertheless, Monique climbed into the spacious interior and made herself comfortable. The car drove off into the mist rather silently.

“Great that you could show up like this, Mr. Apollo,” said Monique. “All my friends live downtown so I would have had to make it home by myself.”

“Don’t mention it,” he replied looking out the window. “The city can be a dangerous place, especially when the sun goes down.”

“Well, I would have just called a cab.”

“Oh, I couldn’t let you do that, now.”

I stuck close by and followed the vehicle, not allowing it to leave my sight. All the while I kept an ear out for that familiar hum of those helicopters, knowing that if they returned they would not be coming for me, but for the girl in the Chrysler. The car sped down Pilgrim Ave, leaving a trail on the soaked road as rain started to pour. I followed via a truck not too far behind. The area became less urban and more industrialized, signalling that we had come the narrow strip of industry that bordered South Lucicrescens.

Momentarily, I became lost in the eternal sound of the rain, my ears began to cancel out every other sound and all I could hear was the pouring. But soon the sound of a peculiar explosion interrupted me and I noticed a white cloud surrounding the front left tire of my father’s car. The tire had burst, causing the vehicle to lose control. The driver struggled to keep the car steady on the slippery road, shifting his body weight into the wheel as if that would help. The rain was pouring so heavily against the windshield that visibility was distorted. At this speed the car skid and swerved off the road until it plowed through a perimeter fence and into a parking lot. The car drifted and swerved hard to the left causing Mr. Apollo’s head to slam hard against the window.

The car had finally come to rest in the empty parking lot of an old nuclear power plant. Michael Apollo came to with an ache and a groan. “Driver, what just happened?” he asked.

The driver who was still shaken and in a daze replied, “I think a tire popped.”

“Monique, are you all right?” Mr. Apollo asked. “Monique…” He alone remained in the back seat. He looked around the car but did not find her. The rain was still pouring heavily denying him a clear view through the windows, and a spot of blood could be seen on the glass from where his head hit. He was the only one in the back seat.

As soon as his head cleared he noticed that the door was now open where Monique had been sitting. The seat had now become damp from the water spraying in from outside. He slowly crawled out of the car and into the rain. Once again he called out to her and received no answer. But soon he heard a voice call out his name. And although it was heard clearly against the rain, it sounded small and meek like a mouse. Mr. Apollo spun around but he immediately froze, as if the film of water covering him had turned to ice. Standing there not even ten yards in front of him was Monique. And she was not alone.

A grave shadow had been cast over her, so dark that Mr. Apollo could barley see her. It was the shadow of some towering figure silhouetted against the flood lights. All Mr. Apollo could make out was its outline: an immense humanoid beast wrapped in some sort of poncho, hovering over its helpless victim like a baboon spider that just caught a fly. It stood there right in front of her, its massive chest and shoulders rising as it inhaled and exhaled; its breath was like steam coming out of a chimney on a cold winter’s night.

Mr. Apollo must have known what that was as he remained calm. However, the driver was a whole other story. The moment he saw the Monstrosity he promptly freaked out. And in a blind haste, the driver leapt from the disabled vehicle and ran off into the rain, stumbling along the way while yelling for his God. With its attention now drawn to this fleeing prey, the Monstrosity shot out those metallic tentacles from its hand and swiftly captured him. The tentacles snapped back whipping the man towards the predator and into its awaiting grasp. From there the Monstrosity proceeded to feed, driving its talon like fingers into the man’s spine and draining away what it needed. Monique stood there in utter horror as she watched this nightmarish feast take place and end with a lifeless body left on the ground before her.

But then the most remarkable thing happened. As the energy began to course throughout the Monstrosity’s massive form, the beast seemed to awake, as if it became aware of its surroundings and its circumstances. It was as if the feeding had somehow restored its sapience and it was now capable of true thought. It looked down at Monique, but this time its eyes were no longer drenched in shadow, but they were now open wide and with a wonder that might show in a father’s eyes after watching the delivery of his first born. Monique could only stare back, becoming entangled in its gaze. Once again that pesky women’s intuition was about to tell her that there was more to this being. It was the same thing that Id had seen when he gazed into his eyes, and now it had become apparent to Monique.

“Monique,” said Mr. Apollo. “Don’t move. Don’t move a muscle.” Slowly he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “Get me a strike team down here now,” he whispered with a command. “You here me? Get me a–” The tiny Motorola was shot out of his hand by a bolt of electricity. I finally appeared, fearing most what would happen next: the Monstrosity spoke to her, his voice was like a gentle quake.

“MONIQUE…” he said. “I’VE FOUND YOU. I’M HOME.” The beast got down on one knee but was still a good twelve inches above her. And with a shining claw, which at some point could have been a middle finger, he caressed the side of her face saying, “MY LIL’ ANGEL…”

The look on Monique’s face alone almost brought me to my knees. Never mind the raging torrent of emotions that I felt erupting from her. Prevalent among these was confusion and disbelief as everything she thought she knew was collapsing around her. And as the Monstrosity basked in the memories of his past life and the presence of the daughter he never had, he caught the stirring of Mr. Apollo in the corner of his eye. I watched as he shed away that momentary benign appearance, replacing it with that predatory stance and anguish ridden stare that I was familiar with. Like a waking giant he rose.

“YOU!” he said. In a silver flash the Monstrosity grabbed Mr. Apollo with its tentacles and secured him in his talon grip. Holding him up, the creature looked him square in the eyes. “I REMEMBER EVERYTHING. YOU TOOK MY CHILD FROM ME. I TOOK YOURS. YOU STOLE MY LIFE. NOW I’LL RELINQUISH WHAT‘S MINE.” The beast threw Mr. Apollo back ten yards, smashing him into the side of the car, leaving a dent and broken windows. His unconscious body collapsed beside it. “I’LL SAVE YOU FOR LAST.” Before Monique could process another thought, she had been swept up into the beast’s large and powerful hands and carried away.

Too quick for her to realize, she was now atop one of the power plant’s cooling towers some two hundred yards up. She was able to see the entire city from where she stood. The rain was coming down like a clear shower curtain, distorting the bright yellow and white lights of the city skyline. She became wary of her footing as she noticed that she was standing on the narrow rim of the tower. She looked down the gaping mouth of the tower and could feel the powerful updraft of its warm humid breath billowing up from its belly. But then Monique was seized by what sounded like thunder only to realize it was the voice of her mysterious captor. This was different from when she first encountered me- I mean Id. That time she had a sense familiarity with that dark stranger and had enough courage to speak to him. But now she was with something she had never seen before in her entire life, and that reassuring sense of familiarity was completely absent. The fear in her was so intense she couldn’t speak at all. The only thing she could do was listen.

“ALL THE YEARS THAT I SPENT IN HELL SHOULD HAVE BEEN WITH YOU. BUT NOW THAT CAN NEVER HAPPEN, AS I MUST SERVE A GREATER CALLING. I KNOW THAT YOU ARE CONFUSED. I KNOW THAT YOU ARE AFRAID. BUT BEFORE I GO I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT ALTHOUGH YOUR FATHER OMAR JONES HAS DIED, HE DID NOT PERISH. HE WAS REBORN AS AHMED ELIJAH, AND HE IS YOUR TRUE FATHER. THEY CALLED HIM A TERRORIST, BUT YOU ARE A SMART GIRL, AND I BELIEVE YOU KNOW OTHERWISE. WHAT THEY DID TO ME WAS AN ABOMINATION, A CURSE. BUT I WILL TURN IT INTO A BLESSING. NOW I WILL FINISH WHAT I’VE STARTED SO MANY YEARS AGO AND REDEEM THIS WHOLE WORLD, FOR I AM A REDEEMER. BUT EYES AS PRETTY AS YOURS ARE NOT MEANT TO BEHOLD THE HORRORS THAT I WILL UNLEASH UPON THIS EVIL. AND SO I WILL RELEASE YOU FROM THIS WORLD.

“OUR BODIES ARE A PRISON, CHILD. WHEN WE CEASE TO LIVE OUR SOULS ARE RELEASED. EXISTENCE IS OUR BURDEN. LIFE IS OUR PUNISHMENT. THEREFORE, DEATH FREES EVERYTHING.”

I didn’t wait for anything else. Before the Monstrosity could make his next move I tackled him; sending my body into him was like a quarterback trying to take down an elephant. I feared I’d dislocate my shoulder trying to do so, or that I’d simply bounce off of him. His body felt so solid, like a giant California redwood. But the only thing that was going through my head was that I needed to get that thing away from Monique at all costs. And together we went over the side of the tower, plummeting towards the ground. I was surprised by how cold his body was. You’d think a monster like him would give off untold amounts of body heat. But no, he must have been designed so that he couldn’t be seen with heat sensitive or infrared cameras. He was designed to be cold.

Our landing seemed to shake the earth as I used him to break my fall. A cracked outline of a shallow crater was visible beneath him. I quickly rolled off of him and onto my feet, poised to fight. “Omar Jones died thirteen years ago,” I said using Id’s unearthly voice. “It’s time for him to rest in peace.”

Slowly the behemoth rose to it’s feet like an arching tidal wave. Even though I fought him before, it wasn’t me. This was new. And I could feel the fear within me rising like mercury. I did my best to conceal this, knowing that the Monstrosity could smell my dread.

“GHOST EYE!” it roared.

“Why do you call me that?” I asked.

“I HAVE SEEN YOU IN MY DREAMS, AS I’M SURE YOU’VE SEEN ME IN YOURS.”

“How do you know about that?”

“I KNOW MANY THINGS ABOUT YOU, GHOST EYE. I KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT THE SAME HOODED INDIVIDUAL THAT’S BEEN TRYING TO STOP ME. THERE’S SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT YOU THIS NIGHT. SAME BODY, BUT DIFFERENT MIND.”

Now I was scared.

“BOTH OF US ARE MERE PAWNS IN A LARGER GAME, GHOST EYE,” the Monstrosity continued. “A GAME IN WHICH ONLY ONE OF US CAN DETERMINE IT’S OUTCOME.”

“All games are like that, you idiot,” I said indignantly.

“AHH, BUT THIS ONE IS SPECIAL.”

“How so?” I asked.

“BECAUSE IN THIS GAME… EVERYONE DIES.” Suddenly the demon pointed an arm towards the cooling tower and a flash of light exploded from it. The tower collapsed as a ball of energy destroyed its foundation, and a helpless Monique still on top. For me it was as if time froze and I was whisked back to that day at the Misty Canyon. History was repeating itself. And I saw Jonathan lying there dead in my arms. The entire world seemed to be shut out, it was just me and him. There was a trembling urge inside me to start weeping, but my higher consciousness knew that I shouldn’t. I had to focus, master my emotions and put aside my past. I had to mature. It was then when I realized that Jonathan was not just cold and lifeless, but there was an inner warmth coming from him and that rich glow that emanates from all living things. A glow that doesn’t require an aura state vision to see. A glow that we all can see. Jonathan wasn’t dead, he was alive, not in the physical, but in the eternal. In my arms he was just sleeping, but he was awake somewhere else. And so I looked up and said, “For you, Jonathan.”

And before I knew it time began to flow again and I saw the cooling tower collapsing with flames spewing and erupting from its devastated mass. In an instant I leapt, my jump propelling me upwards and forward like a rocket. I caught Monique in mid flight as she began to fall and we landed safely on the other side of the burning ruins. This time she did not run from me after we landed. Instead she immediately grabbed onto me and held on tight. I was amazed by how strong her hold was. But since the Monstrosity was able to tell the difference between Id and I, I wondered if Monique was able to as well. Whatever she was thinking, I just stood there, allowing her to hold on to me, offering what little security I could give. We just stood there in front of the blazing rubble that used to be a concrete tower, the ferocious heat of the fire trying to break free and consume our skin. That moment was interrupted when I heard the crumbling of stones by the approaching footsteps from across the blaze. Through my aura state vision I could see an even deeper fire burning from behind the flames. Slowly it took shape in the form of a dark silhouette, manifesting itself from the flames as the Monstrosity stepped through the fire unscathed, looking like Kingdom Come.

“Get me away from here,” Monique said to me under her breath.

“I can’t,” I regrettably replied. “This thing will pursue you where ever you go. I have to destroy him. And I have to do it tonight.” The Monstrosity stood there just in front of the blazing heap. Although I couldn’t see through the void of his eyes, I knew he was staring at me.

Or was he only staring at Monique?

Regardless, I stepped in front of her, sheltering her in my shadow. “YOU WOULD COME BETWEEN ME AND MY CHILD?”

“You’re damn right,” I said.

“I ADMIRE YOUR BOLDNESS,” said the beast as he picked up a flaming slab of stone. “LET’S SEE IF YOU CAN LIVE UP TO IT.” He then hurled the slab towards us. In a single motion I drew back, grabbed Monique and shifted to phantom state to allow the hunk of concrete to phase through us. But remembering what fire can do to me in phantom state, I leaned over to the side as the rock narrowly missed us. When we shifted back I found that my trench coat had been rendered with tears all along its length. It looked like someone had went to work on it with a knife. The sight of it almost made me cringe, making me think of what that slab could have done to Monique and I. Quickly putting that aside, I told Monique to run and get as far away from here as possible, my voice sounding more like a command than a request. With a moments hesitation, she was out of sight, although I could still feel her presence. Nonetheless, her safety was my only concern, and with her out of the picture I could face the Monstrosity once and for all.

Without hesitation I dove back into phantom state to make my assault. I jumped into the night air that now looked cyan, made a somersault to build momentum, and rained back down for a powerful kick to his face. But somehow, and without warning, he grabbed my charging leg and swung me to the ground. I slammed hard on the wet concrete as my body skid a few feet, realizing that I was no longer in phantom state. I don’t know what was greater, my shock or the amazement. How did that happen? I thought to myself.

The Monstrosity then said, “AS YOU CAN SEE, THAT REMARKABLE TELEPORTING TRICK OF YOURS IS IRRELEVANT WHILE YOU’RE IN MY PRESENCE. I AM QUITE FAMILIAR WITH THE WAYS OF KEFITZAT HADERECH. I CAN SEE AND REACH INTO ALL DIMENSIONS. THAT INCLUDES YOUR LITTLE ‘PHANTOM STATE’. I CAN PULL YOU OUT OF THERE AS EASILY AS YOU CAN JUMP IN.”

By this time there were a million and one questions stampeding through my head. For every rain drop that landed on me there seemed to be a question. I tried sorting them out as I ignored the aches on my left side and rolled back onto my feet. How could he know all this? However, I did not have time to reflect. He was already coming at me at an alarming speed, the slippery ground not even slowing him down.

I began thinking at an inhumanly fast speed. He’s bigger than me, I thought. But that also means I have a lower centre of gravity. I must use that to my advantage. I must use his size against him. Instead of dodging out of the way I stood my ground, and seconds before he plowhed into me I crouched down and grabbed his waist. Then using his forward momentum I lifted him off the ground and sent him flying. He crash landed several yards away, visibly annoyed as he rose. But before I allowed him to fully regain his stature I used that telescopic staff hidden in the Knight Suit to deliver a powerful left swing across his jaw, hoping to put him out. That proved unsuccessful as he just turned his head and stared right back at me, with that same annoyed expression on his face. He grabbed the staff and flung it away just before I let go so I wouldn’t be sent flying with it. It became clear that I would have to use my bear hands; but seeing that his reflexes were just as quick as mine, brute force seemed like a bad idea. So I switched strategies. I had to be passive with him, using both his size and force against him.

The mountain of fire behind us struggled against the heavy rain, but continued to burn strong nonetheless. Meanwhile, the beast came at me relentlessly, seeming like an extension of the fires themselves. Avoiding his swings and lunges took all I had. But I managed to lead him away from the burning, twisted mess of stones and closer to the main power substations of the plant. This was a jungle gym of pipes, cables, transformers, and generators, all enclosed in a large, steel, fence-like cage. In a single back flip I landed on top of the cage, the Monstrosity following and still bringing the fight to my feet. I didn’t know why I went up there, now that I had less room to manoeuvre. Below us, arcs of electricity flashed and sparks of light crackled throughout the miniature city of power coils and conductors. I could hear the soft buzzing and humming from the circuitry and the hot machinery simmering in the rain.

I became tired of dodging and eluding his strikes and blows and decided to send him a few of my own. The next swing he sent at me I grabbed with both of my hands, feeling the sheer force and power fuelling his arm, and drew that into myself, pulling him forward and giving him an elbow across the face. This time my blow got through to the beast, and he stumbled back a couple of steps. Seizing the moment I pulled him back by his mane of dreadlocks and gave him another, this time with my left elbow. I feared that the steal cage would collapse as it shook beneath our feet. These connections would have shattered my arm to fragments had the Knight Suit not been absorbing most of the impact, reducing it to a tingling sensation in my funny bone. And for the first time I saw droplets of blood spatter out from his nose and mouth as my strikes landed. It bled! It had blood! It was bleeding! Which meant it could be killed. I finally managed to penetrate its bronze skin. At last, another sign of this things humanity, another key to its downfall.

A part of it was still human.

But it was the colour of this blood that was off putting. It was a pearlescent black, glossing like oil on water. I wondered what twisted and unnatural methods of science could have done this to it. Had this bile once been a healthy red, or had his natural blood been replaced completely with some synthetic fluid? It was then when I realized that I zoned out again, another mental tangent. But this realization had come all too late, for that few moments was all the Monstrosity needed to turn the tables. And I found myself locked in the creatures arms, his muscles closing in on me like a vice. He was smothering me, crushing me with the body and strength that he had been cursed with, squeezing the very life out of me. I could no longer breathe, and I could feel that oil-like blood pouring down on me, trickling down my mask and obscuring my vision until it mingled with the rain. With the lack of oxygen I began to black out, feeling the Knight Suit succumb to the inhuman strength of this beast.

But this time I didn’t allow the blackness to take me.

I remembered the inhuman strength that still resided within me. And as I stood on the brink between consciousness I heard a familiar voice echoing somewhere in the far corners of my mind. It was barely audible, but I could hear it. It was five simple words, and I said them aloud to get the full grasp of it, for now I knew what they meat.

“My will is my strength,” I whispered.

With that came a soft confidence but that wasn’t enough. “My will is my strength,” I said again, this time a little louder. And with that I felt a sudden jolt of vigour as my muscles tightened and heart rate soared. The Monstrosity’s own strength was no longer sufficient enough to keep my lungs from expanding, and my chest heaved out with an awesome breath, taking in air to fuel my muscles. The Monstrosity’s python-like grip began to loosen and give way but quickly reasserted itself. But I was feeling my power rumbling inside me like an over heating pressure cooker. I shouted at the top of my lungs, “My will is my strength!”

I exploded out of the strangle hold to the Monstrosity’s shock. I spun around, focused all my strength into my left arm then delivered a bone crushing upper-cut to the Monstrosity’s jaw. Droplets of rain and blood spattered into the air as he stumbled back a few feet, miraculously maintaining his balance. The connection sent a slight ringing through my fist. Seeing his daze, I knew he would recover momentarily and would once again have the upper hand, I had to finish this. I recalled that he was somehow able to pull me out of phantom state. How he was able to do this, let alone knew about this was a mystery. Nevertheless, I had to figure out a way to use this turn of events to my advantage. If he was able to interact with me in phantom state, I had to be able to interact with him. I ran towards him and jumped back into phantom state. And in one motion I leapt into the air and descended upon him with a fury, hammering both my elbows to the top of his cranium. My strike indeed connected and was square and precise as the phantom state made my blow more effective. I hit him with such a force that I heard his skull crack and buckle against his brain. He won’t recover from that. And when I came back into the physical I slid behind him, grabbed the back of his hulking body and used a strength that amazed even me to lift him up off his feet and above me. I stood there in awe as I held him high in the cold night air, his body almost like an umbrella against the rain.

And as I held his incapacitated body above me with my arms fully extended, I saw this as a final testament that I myself was no longer human.

In my own voice I said, “It ends here.” I slammed his body down through the steel cage beneath me, and he fell through the webbing of conduits and cables leaving fluttering white sparks in his wake until he crashed into the circuitry and machinery below, impaled on a four foot high power coil. The coil had gone right through his back and was protruding out from his chest. That viscous, black liquid came pouring out of his torso like a fountain, while sparks of blue light flashed from the Monstrosity’s cybernetic-organic innards. I could hear the microscopic nanobots inside him working desperately to repair the damage, but they were soon disabled by the electro magnetic field emitted by the coil. Although silent to a normal human, the high-pitched tone of the continuous EMP was like a choir to me. And as the Monstrosity lay there dying, I stood on the cage above him breathing heavily, looking down at him through the gaping hole that I had left. I watched him, noticing that he was not writhing in agony or struggling. He did not seem to be in any pain at all. For some strange, mysterious reason he seemed content. And I saw that his crimson aura was waning, signalling that he did not have much time left.

He was looking at me, his face fully exposed and no longer hidden behind that forest of dreadlocks. And with his last breath he uttered a few almost inaudible words. “GHOST EYE,” he whispered. “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME. TAKE CARE OF MY DAUGHTER…” And with a sigh, his head fell back as his eyelids closed. The aura did not just fade away this time. It more or less evaporated, almost at the same moment the power coil went permanently offline.

I started to weep uncontrollably. I fell to my knees and buried my face in my hands. I wanted to rip off my mask and scream. It was finally over. How was I still alive? How did I survive that? And most of all, why? The Monstrosity and everything it had told me had my thoughts doing wind sprints. I had to get this mask off. I had to figure this all out. I had to think. I had to breathe.

But there was one last thing that needed taking care of.

Mr. Apollo had came to once more. Slowly he sat up straight and with an effort he propped himself onto his knees. A sharp pain ached his back, preventing him from climbing to his feet. The first thing he saw was the destruction: a cooling tower had been completely levelled, and the caged substations were now on fire. But as he looked up he saw the second thing of his nightmares, the dark, shadowy figure that’s been haunting his operations, eyes burning red under the hood of a black trench coat. I was looking down at him. For the first time in my life I was looking down at my father. His wavy dark hair, the hair that was just like mine, was drenched in rain water and was dripping wet over his face. I was looking into his eyes, and saw a combination of cold fear mixed with burning anger. I didn’t know what to say to him. I didn’t even know if I could speak. But then I remembered that he tried to help Monique, and that changed everything.

I said, “Have your people clean this mess up before you’re connected to it. And if you or any of your people bring any harm of any kind to that girl Monique, I’ll kill you. And your remaining son.” And I was dead serious about that.

I reached into my trench coat and pulled out the small, golden wristwatch that once belonged to my Mother; I still had it with me. A gleam came into Mr. Apollo’s eye’s suggesting that from some far distant memory he recognized the trinket. Without looking at the bracelet, I tossed it at him, and he caught it, fumbling with it in his hands before securing a grip. He opened it and looked inside, seeing both his infantile sons smiling back at him. His eyes laid the most on his youngest child, Jonathan. It seemed that a small tear drop ran down from his eye, standing out and untouched by the surrounding rain water on his cheek. He then gently closed the watch and his hand around it, pressing it tightly to his chest. I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling, even though I could have sensed it if I wanted, but I chose not to. It was obvious that the haunting feeling of guilt was now his eternal companion. And as Mr. Apollo looked up to demand how this shadow figure came into possession of this most valued item, he saw that he alone remained in the lot kneeling in the pouring rain. I had long vanished.

And there was yet another thing that needed to be looked after.

Monique had not left. In fact she was still there and had seen the whole event unfold. I found her hiding near the second cooling tower which was still standing. Before she knew it I grabbed her and carried her up to the top of the tower in one great leap. I set her down and released her allowing her to back away a couple of steps. She immediately broke down and began to cry. “What was that thing?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

“I think you already know,” I answered. Monique was a smart girl. I wasn’t going to sugar coat anything.

“No,” she denied, refusing to believe the horrifying truth present in her mind.

“Yes,” I said, forcing the truth on her. “That thing was Omar Jones. Your father.”

“My father’s dead!” she screamed.

“You know that was your father, Monique,” I pressed. “You saw it yourself. He spoke to you. Your heart knows it.”

“B-but how?” She was panicking. The sound of her heart beating was deafening to me. “This isn’t real! This can’t be real!” She began ranting and raving hysterically. This had all been too much for her. I called her name repeatedly to calm her down, still using that chilling voice of Id’s, but it was hopeless. She was losing it. And I knew I had to do something before she lost her footing and fell over the edge of the tower.

I finally grabbed her by the shoulders and in my own voice I said, “Monique!” Then like a fire alarm suddenly stopping, she immediately fell silent and her and the expression on her face became dead still. She looked at me and there was a long pause. This moment terrified me.

“Anthony?” she said in bewilderment. Slowly and cautiously she raised her hand to my face and gently ran it down the contours of the mask, confirming that it was indeed me behind it. Her heart skipped a beat. I smoothly took her hand and moved it away. With my head lowered I drew back my hood, released the silver collar and pulled off the mask. As I looked up the first thing I saw was the light of my glowing white eyes reflected in hers. And as I willed this bioluminescence to disappear, I saw her face, her mouth just slightly hanging open.

Again that uncomfortable silence filled the cold air as she stared at me, looking like she was face to face with a ghost. I knew she would no longer be able to lead a normal life after witnessing something like this. And my relationship with her was so important to me that I didn’t want anything to ruin it. Not in any way. I didn’t want her to look at me differently, as she was looking at me now. None of this would be explainable. But most importantly, I didn’t want this to ruin her own life. She was doing fine until I brought all of this on her, until my messed up life stained hers with the blood of her dead father. She had a future in the bliss and sanity of ignorance, a future that I forfeited myself. I didn’t want to take that away from her. I remembered that morning when we kissed and how nearly her entire life flashed before me in a single glimpse. Not only was I able to see her memories in my mind for those few seconds, but I was able to feel them, as if they were physically present in my thoughts and I was able to reach out and touch them, grasp them, or even take them away.

Monique was still frozen. She finally attempted to utter a few words, still smitten by the shock, her speech struggling as she tried to remember how to think and reason. I was saddened by this, and as tears began to gather in my eyes I said, “Shhh. Don’t speak.” Again she made a small sound, then I placed my finger on her lips, again whispering, “Don’t speak.” And I went in for the kiss. As soon as our lips made contact the flood of her memories came rushing in. I pressed my lips tighter to hers as I strained to surf through the labyrinth of her mind, a hail of images, sounds, and visions flying at me like leaves in the wind. Soon enough I was able to pick out what I was looking for. The first ones that came to me were the most recent. And I saw the death of the Monstrosity. Then the ensuing battle between the two of us. Monique holding on to me in front of the destroyed cooling tower. The encounter between her and the Monstrosity, and everything he had said to her. And finally, when the car crashed through the fence and into the lot. All of these moments I gathered and swept away from her mind. But most importantly, I had taken away her encounter with me, and when she saw my face. It was all for the greater good, for her.

A moment later I released her. She was silent, left in a catatonic state with her eyes drooping. She then collapsed into my arms unconscious. I feared I had taken too much, leaving her mind blank; but I only erased the memories I seized. Everything leading up until tonight she would remember with no trouble. But this whole event she would only see in her dreams. And even those are forgettable.

The images I had taken from her were already fading in my own mind, and Monique now laid peacefully in my arms. Mr. Apollo’s clean-up crew had already discreetly showed up to get him to safety and to remove what was left of their six billion dollar investment. Without even a word from my father they had already begun making the scene look like some bogus accident to conceal what really happened. All of this was nearly complete before I could hear the flock of sirens flying in the distance to come take care of what was left for them.

I quickly turned my attention back to Monique who was still out cold, but I didn’t know for how long. I would get her home immediately.

Three hours later. It was quarter past four in the morning. I had brought Monique home safely and she now slept gently in her bed. Thankfully, she had slept through the entire trip home, as leaping across buildings and riding atop maglevs may not be the most comfortable ride for my passengers. In the morning she would wake up and remember nothing. For now.

I was sitting high atop one of the towers of the Star Pass East Bridge. It had finally stopped raining, the violet night sky had begun to clear and the city skyline now swam in a ghostly haze. Nonetheless, the ever present full moon was humungous and seemed to be staring directly down at me, illuminating the view with its silver light. The Atlantic Straight was electric as it sparkled and glistened below. And off in the distance in front of me, I could see the Iron Wing, its lights blinking through the haze and the never ending traffic slowly oozing across its arms like golden blood. And I sat at the very top of the suspension bridge, no longer wearing the Knight Suit but in my plain street clothes. It was peaceful up here. I had consciously drowned out the sound of the traffic and was deep in thought. Now I was able to think. Now I was able to sort things out.

When I dropped off Monique I had changed clothes and put away the Knight Suit. I couldn’t stand another second in that thing. Nonetheless, I didn’t plan on returning it nor did a intend on destroying it. I had decided to keep it as a trophy, to prove to myself that I can be victorious against my father and all his creations. But even though I never wanted to don it again, I knew that that night wouldn’t be the last time. The Monstrosity was far more than an experiment gone terribly wrong. It knew almost everything about me and what I was capable of. Id had told me that there was something out there far worse than anything I’ve ever faced in my life. Could it have been the Monstrosity that he was talking about? But how could he have known about it? It was then when I began to wonder if I had been manipulated this whole time. The House, the Old Man, Id, the Monstrosity, even Elicia, all part of some large cosmic scheme that I couldn’t understand. The Monstrosity was dead, but I knew that Id would return. I would have to make peace with him if I wanted to understand everything. Now that would be the greatest challenge of all.

With all of this going on I sat there thinking, do I throw myself off this bridge? Do I end it all here right now? Maybe I should. It’ll make things so much easier. And besides, the night is beautiful. But then I remember the last thing the Monstrosity said to me. In response to what he said, I had made a silent promise. Monique was now my responsibility. And for some reason I was glad.

My thoughts were interrupted when a bird suddenly landed on the railing beside me. I stood up to see that it was a familiar looking great horned owl. It was starring right at me with those large and terrifyingly bright, yellow eyes. The way it was looking at me seemed to suggest that it wanted to say something, but in a gust of feathers it flew over to the opposite railings across from me, and flew away into the cool night breeze and towards the city. Something from within was telling me to follow it, and a new sense of confidence began to stir. I leapt over the railing, descended from the tower and ran down the main cable and leaped again high into the air, nearly catching up to the owl. Yes, all of the questions that I had before were now answered, but only with more questions. Now started the long and arduous journey to find the answers to those, then the answers those, then the answers to those. And knowing that after all of this I sure as hell wasn’t going to prom, I leapt across the Star Pass East Bridge once again chasing the owl towards my destiny, towards the night.

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