8. Infancy: part two

The alarm clock woke me up. Like the previous morning, I was exhausted, but not too exhausted. I must be getting used to this, I thought to myself. I drove myself to school that morning, not giving a crap about my revoked driving privileges.  All I could think about was what will happen after I go to the police. Would I have to face hours of questioning? Would I become a person of interest, being the only witness to come forward? Would I have to testify in court? All this and more went through my head until I heard the news on the radio. Turning up the volume, I heard how two dead bodies turned up in front of a downtown police station. Both males, in their mid to late twenties, were severely beaten and had their necks broken.  Both had the words “I raped and killed Elicia Amina” burned into their chests.

I almost lost control of the car upon hearing that, not knowing what to think.

Al and Chris were at it that afternoon in the cafeteria, debating over the odd turn of events.”This is weird as hell,” said Al. “Her body only turned up yesterday and they already found the creeps that did this?”

“We don’t even know if these are the creeps,” said Chris. “For all we know it was just some maniac who fucked them two guys up.”

“But did you hear what was burned into their chests?’ Al continued. “That’s fucked up. And besides, the folks in this city are angry at how useless these so-called cops are. Someone probably grew some balls and decided to do their job for em’.”

“By killing them?” countered Chris.

“It’s justice if you ask me. Considering what they did to her.”

Chris shrugged his shoulders. “Hard to argue against that, I guess.”

I sat there listening, wanting to confess to them what I saw that night. But Al was still close with Cynthia; telling him might make him feel compelled to tell her or just as guilty as me to not. Regardless, I still intended to head down to the police station after school. As an eye witness, perhaps I could have identified the bodies.

But that would prove unnecessary as I learnt from the news later that day. Forensics had uncovered traces of semen in the girl’s body, and it gave a positive DNA match to the two men found dead. Investigators had a body, the suspects, and indisputable evidence. In no time the mystery would be solved, the case closed. I could all but hope it gave Cynthia and her family some sort of closure. I decided not to go to the police. But now there was a new mystery. Who killed these men? That I had no knowledge of.  At least not yet.

That night I desperately tried to stay awake, afraid of what I might dream. But the harder I tried, the weaker I became, and my bed seemed like a heavenly cushion of burgundy clouds. It was as if Morpheus, the god of dreams, had come after me with the vengeance, tempting me into his realm of sleep, and I could no longer resist. Those three energy drinks were useless, and I was bored of all the online games and porn. Soon enough I gave in and sank down into the night.

There was a long moment of utter blackness, but slowly and surely my eyes began to open. The first thing I felt was cold, freezing cold. Then I could feel the frozen ground beneath me, covered with a carpet of snow, then a soft breeze brushing past my face as it carried delicate snow flakes through the air. When my eyes were wide open and my vision focused, I discovered that I was in a small circular clearing in the woods, and right in front of me was the House. This was the same place where the owl had led me that night, and it precisely resembled the one in my dream. I was there once more. Though I knew it was a dream, it felt so real.

I spotted an opening in the surrounding forest and went through it. As I walked along the trail, weaving in and out of branches, I came out only to find myself once more in front of the House. I saw the same opening across the clearing. I ran through the trail and out the other end. Surprisingly enough, I found myself once again in the presence of the House. I looked back at the opening that I just came out of. I saw nothing but darkness and shadows. But somehow the same trial led back to this same location. I was trapped. There was no way out of this place. Looking around, the place seemed empty and dead, and the House stood there portentous and lonely. For a while, there was no noise except the sound of the sighing winds, or was it my breath? But suddenly a strange feeling began to creep over the back of my neck. That familiar breeze whispered past me. I then knew I wasn’t alone.

I turned around and looked at her, the girl. She looked like a seraph sent from heaven.

I could feel the moisture on my palms, my own body heat preventing it from freezing. “Are you really her?” I finally had the courage to ask. “Cynthia’s younger sister? Elicia.” She nodded her head, looking at me with big, bright, caramel eyes, and all I could see in them was pain, sadness, and strength. “Why do you haunt me?”

“Because you’re the only one that can help me, Anthony.”

“Help you? How?”

“By using your strengths to do for others what you didn’t do for me,” she said.

I took time to think of what she meant. “You… died,” I said. “You died because of me.” I was on the verge of tears. She lowered her head and faced the ground, as if to concede to what I had said. A profound sympathy surged in my heart, and I felt a lump in my throat in response to the deep shame and guilt. I didn’t know what to say to her or if I should even attempt to. It was far too late for apologies. All I could do was understand her wishes. I fought to get the words out.  “You must hate me. How can you even look at me? I practically allowed you to die.”

“It’s not your fault, Anthony,” she said. “I was murdered by two men who made that choice. And in turn you killed them.”

That last bit was more than unexpected. “What?” I gave up and began to weep.

“Don’t cry, Anthony,” she said, gently wiping away my tears. “Your sorrow for the dead is the last thing I need right now. It’s the last thing your brother needs as well. When you saw me that night, you lacked the strength, courage, and will to save me. I understand that. Now you’ve been given the gift to change all that.”

“Are you saying I could change the world?”

She giggled to herself. “You’re so young. So young and stupid. One man can’t change the world, Anthony. Sure, he could inspire change, but it takes a people working together to accomplish that. Your gift can’t change the world, Anthony. Only those you use it to save.”

“What gift?” I asked.

“The one that I have given you,” said a completely different voice coming from the House. Bewildered, I looked to see who it was, and to my amazement standing there was the Old Man.

“You!” I cried.

“Yes, me,” said the Old Man with a smile. “How have you been doing, my son?”

“Oh I’m just dandy, how about you?” I replied. “What the hell is going on?”

“Have you not noticed,” said the Old Man, “how your life has drastically changed since the night you met me?”

“As a matter of fact I have noticed,” I said. “But what the fuck!”

“You can’t remember, do you. Think back, child. Back to the night just like this. Back to this same house. What did I tell you?”

It was hard for me to remember. My mind strained to recollect it. “Something about destiny, and power, and making a difference?”

“Relax your thoughts, boy,” urged the man, “and remember.” I did as he said. I closed my eyes, relaxed, and silenced my thoughts. Somehow it seemed easier in this place, where ever I was. And at that moment it all came flooding back. Then all I remembered was light. Pure light and energy, pulsating through me. And then blackness. It seemed like a sudden flash back, as if I was witnessing the entire event in real time. I found it hard to believe, but it all made sense. I had made a deal with this man, whoever he was, to give up the life I knew for a different one. One that would allow me to change the lives of others. But what did that mean? Was this the explanation of all those strange things that have been happening to me? Did the death of my brother have anything to do with this? Why was I chosen? And was I somehow connected to the deaths of those two men?

“All of those questions would be answered in due time, my child,” said the Old Man, clearly reading my thoughts. “But there are other matters at hand.”

I looked at the Elicia, who stood beside me with a shy smile on her face as she stared back at me. I looked away in humility.“What do you mean there are other matters at hand?” I asked the Old Man.

“Well, you must learn how to use your new gifts, of course.”

My new gifts?” I asked, barely hanging on to what he was saying.

“Yes,” said the Old Man, “But this, however, I would not be able to help you with. I will leave that area to another. Now we must leave you.”

I began to protest. “What! Leave? No! You dragged me into this and now you’re just gonna leave me to figure shit out? Fuck that!”

You made this choice, remember?” said the man. “Or imagine how differently things would have turned out had you bothered to act the night you saw the young girl beside you.”

That alone shut me up.

Taking my hand, Elicia said, “Don’t worry, Anthony. You won’t be alone. And… thank you.” She leaned over and gave me a gentle kiss on the mouth. Her lips were warm and soft, and seemed to invigorate me with a vigour that wasn’t there. Elicia, I thought to myself. I wanted that moment to last forever. I wanted to embrace her completely, and press her delicate, smooth body against mine. But before I knew it, she had already vanished into the mist, and I was left there catatonic with my lips still puckered and my eyes still closed.

I turned to the Old Man who was already on his way. “What do you mean ‘another’ will help me?” I asked.

“I mean that I will leave you in the capable hands of someone else.”

“Well obviously,” I said hotly. “But who?”

“Oh, you know him quite well actually,” said the Old Man.

“Then who is he!” I demanded.

“You mustn’t be so impatient, young one. The man is right behind you.”

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