6. Infancy: part one

A beam of sunlight woke me up the next morning. And for the first time in a week I felt something strange- tired. Lately, I’ve been going to bed at the last hours of night and waking up in the foremost hours of the morning, and yet I’d be alert as ever. But today waking up was slow and took effort, and my muscles felt stiff and sore. It was as if the hangover from Jaurel’s party had finally caught up with me. And waking up itself was like swimming up from great depths to the surface above, trying to escape the darkness below.

Darkness. That was all I remembered last night, not a single dream, and yet my mind felt fatigued.

I looked at the time, 3:30 p.m. Sunday. “Maggie? Maggie?,” I whispered, expecting her to be lying down beside me. “Where are you, girl?” But she wasn’t there. She wasn’t even in the room. Odd, I thought to myself. Maggie never let me sleep in this late, even on a Sunday. This morning was unusual indeed.

I went downstairs to the kitchen feeling more awake after a shower. “Hey, Jonathan,” I called out on my way down. But there was no answer. I then looked up and saw an empty kitchen, something I hadn’t seen since I was eight-years old.

At the breakfast table I stared at the empty seat across from me, a blank expression on my face. For ten years I would come down stairs to the kitchen and almost every morning meet Jonathan there already eating breakfast. The untouched pancakes and glass of orange juice just sat there in front of me as I reminisced. The memories did nothing but bring me down. Fuck it, I thought to myself. I grabbed my plate and glass and walked out. I wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast in that kitchen any more.

I decided to go into the living room. This was the very heart of the Apollo Manor, it was also one of the oldest rooms. Many of the other wings were added on after the house’s construction. The entire floor of the enormous living room was covered with an elegant, red Caucasus floral rug from the 17th century, woven with silk pile. This was obviously chosen by my mother, who imported it from Armenia. She also had the walls done, which were designed with beautiful Chinese art work that matched the colours on the carpet. In fact, my mother’s influence could be seen in pretty much all the elements of the living room and throughout the entire house; from the curtains, furniture, even the ceiling. You might say she fancied herself an interior decorator; some of the rooms in the house were quite a piece of artistic expression.

I had a seat on a vinyl couch facing a large flat screen TV. As I switched it on, the channel was already set to CNN. There was footage from a helicopter of what appeared to be some sort of factory or facility. There was an enormous whole in the roof as if the whole thing had collapsed. I listened as the news anchor woman continued.

“What you are seeing,” said the anchor woman, “is live coverage of what used to be a high-tech Apollo Endeavours research facility. This place has been out of commission for the past month or so, but early this morning, night watchmen were attached by a mysterious assailant who broke into the laboratory. Several men were seriously injured, while others were fatally wounded. Although the identity of the intruder is not yet known, a search is already underway. At the moment the police have no leading suspects, however they refuse to tell us the nature of the attack or the attacker. Also, Apollo Endeavours CEO Edward Bains has not spoken out about the matter so far, or given us any reason why the facility was abandoned. Furthermore, we have yet to hear from the chairman of the company, Michael Apollo. I’m Lisa Felpse for CNN news.”

The news hit me like an eighteen-wheeler. Someone broke in to a facility owned by my father and reeked havoc. Like my dad didn’t have enough headaches already. Surly he needed someone to talk to, assuming that he had already heard the news. I decided to go to his office after finishing my pancakes. When I got there I knocked three times. No answer. I turned the door knob to find that the door was unlocked. I peeked in. I wasn’t surprised to see that his office was empty, so I decided to go to his bedroom. I continued on to the east end of the house. Deep down inside I felt that this was all in vain as I made it to the closed doors of my father’s bedroom. I slowly opened one of the two doors and looked inside. And to my amazement, there he was, sitting at the edge of the king sized bed facing away from me as he looked out the window.

“Come in, Anthony,” he said in a solemn voice, without looking back. I stepped in quietly and walked towards the bed. I sat down beside him, but didn’t look at him. “How are you?” he asked.

“Been better,” I answered, still not looking at him. “You heard the news?”

“Yes,” he answered, “I have heard the news.”

“How are you holding up,” I asked.

He didn’t answer. He just kept staring out the window. There was an awkward silence and I wanted to escape it.

“It’s okay if you want to leave, Anthony,” he said as if reading my thoughts, “You don’t have to comfort me.” I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t possibly fathom what he was going through. And I didn’t want to know. But my ignorance to his pain wouldn’t do any good, and he was sending me a message that my presence wasn’t needed. Nevertheless, I was all he had left, thus I believed that he didn’t want me to leave either.

Finally I worked up the courage to look at him. And as I looked at the profile of his face, almost like a mirror image of my own, I saw no tears down his cheek, no moisture in his eyes, and no trembling lips. Not a single glimmer of expression. His face was rock solid. I was terrified by this. Even though his world was crashing down around him, he was inhumanly emotionless. With hesitation I put my hand on his shoulder. “I’m still here for you,” I said. I then let myself out the room.

Later on that day I visited a place where I haven’t been for ages- a church. I decided to go so that I’d be able to think more clearly, because staying in that house was torture. Too many memories of Jonathan in every corner made it hard to concentrate without breaking down and crying. The Gellen Tabernacle was located not too for from my house and was a brisk walk away. The place was old and was the only church on the island. It was of traditional catholic architecture and was located just out of the nearby forest. When I walk inside I noticed its cavernous interior was virtually empty, except for two or three other worshipers that were scattered throughout the pews, and an alter boy cleaning up after the days sermon. The walls and flying buttresses of varnished wood seemed to be breathing, as emerald, ruby, and amber lights flooded in through the stained glass windows. I had a seat in the middle row and closed my eyes. The image of the Girl in my dreams suddenly flashed through my head. I immediately opened my eyes to see an old priest standing over me. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked in a weak Liverpool accent. I looked around to see that only one worshiper now remained. For what seemed like a few seconds was clearly several minutes.

“Uh, no,” I replied as I stood up. “I was just about to leave.”

“Don’t let the death of a loved one close your heart to open arms,” he said as I walked past him. I stopped and looked back at him. “That’s right, Anthony,” he said. “I remember you, although you may not remember me. I remember you quite well actually. Your mother used to bring you here every Sunday when you were a mere child. A very beautiful lady, she was.” The memories came flooding back.

“Father Charles,” I said with bewilderment. “I do remember you. You were presiding over my brother’s funeral.”

“Indeed I was,” said the minister. “And my sorrow goes out with you.”

“Thank you, Father. I really appreciate it.”

“Although I do wish you would have come in more joyful circumstances,” he continued. “But many people turn to our Saviour in these times, my boy. Just remember that like me, He still remembers you and always will.” His lips curled into a smile.

“Does He?” I asked. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

“Don’t let misfortunes and sadness weaken your faith,” said the preacher. “These things happen and you may not understand why they happen, and it angers you. And believe me, you have every right to be angry. But when the time comes you will understand, and you will see why your brother was called away.”

“There’s a lot that I don’t understand,” I continued, “with me, with the world, with everything.”

“Just keep pushing forward, Anthony,” he insisted, “and you will get your answers. You must be strong in times like this. You must never give up. Your will is your strength.”

There was a long pause. “What did you say?” I asked with suspicion.

“Your will is your strength,” repeated the man as he looked me in the eye.

“Your right,” I said with a smile. “Thank you, Father.” With that I quickly turned around and headed out.

“I’ll look forward to seeing you next Sunday,” shouted the minister as I walked out. “Bright and early, front row.”

As I went to sleep that night, my mind was once again immersed in darkness, and not a single dream played itself across my thoughts. I woke the next morning feeling exactly the same way I did the morning before. Tired and spent. It was early that morning, and I forced myself out of bed and into something the least bit descent for school.

The route through the Misty Canyon was still undergoing reconstruction, so the driver had to take a detour. On the way, we passed by that same alleyway where I saw the mugging earlier that year. The alley seemed almost innocent in daylight, a misleading façade. But I could never forget what I saw that evening. And now that my vision had returned to normal with those mysterious auras no longer visible, the world seemed doll and horribly ordinary.

The morning was typical until we learnt that the body of Cynthia’s sister had been found. It had washed up on some reeds from Firefly River. Cause of death wasn’t given, but preliminary DNA tests had yielded a positive identification. From what Al had told me, Cynthia was devastated and didn’t show up for school. Had she came, I didn’t know what I would have done, as I couldn’t bare to look at her, knowing what I knew. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through, and each time I thought about her, which was pretty much all day, the face of her sister Elicia would flash in my mind. I kept trying to convince myself that it wasn’t my fault; there was nothing I could have done. But it was all a lie.

My thoughts were a whirlwind the entire trip home. When I walked in, the place seemed ominous, lonely, and had a foreboding quiet. I immediately went up to my room, which had become my fortress of solitude, and I hit the books to get my mind off my frustration and self-loathing. I studied and studied until my eyelids could no longer bear the weight, and I drifted off into unconsciousness.

But this time I dreamt. It was vivid, powerful, and moved so quickly that there was an adrenaline rush. It was like a series of blurred images, yet they formed one vision, and there was a deep rumbling that penetrated my very being. Out from the chaos and struggle manifested two things. One was the girl, Elicia. The other was that shadowy figure in my other dreams; that creature, large and beastly, like something out of the Devil’s nightmares; the same thing I saw before the disaster that day in the Misty Canyon. They were facing each other as if in a stand off, while fire and chaos raged around them, a  whirlwind of shapes, shadows, and howling winds. The girl stood there, firm and defiant. The beast loomed over her, as if to engulf her. Slowly, she turned her head and looked at me, straight into my eyes. But there was no fear in her own eyes, only an imperative determination, as if she was commanding me to wake up. Wake up…  At that point the rumbling reached its apex and literally tore the dream-vision apart.

I suddenly awoke to the sound of thunder. It was pouring outside. I thought the window was open because the bed was soaking wet, but then realized the moisture was just my own sweat. I couldn’t take it anymore. These nightmares were going on long enough, and I had to make them stop. There was only one way I could think of to do so. I had made my decision. Tomorrow when I finished school, I would go the police station, and tell them everything I had seen the night Elicia was attacked.

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