Chapter 18:

The Parasite, The Angel, Part 1

Setting Sun Story: Beta

Central Square - Adam - ???

How many of us truly dream of change?

Adam sits dormant and helpless in the city center. With his arms wrapped around his chest-tucked knees, the pieces of his brain refuse to come together, all thought being sacrificed.

The clothes of the Hero no longer seem to fit him, the sleeves draping far over his hands, the legs pooling at his ankles, and the typically adjustable mask dangling around his neck.

His Excalibur lies a few feet away, mercilessly stabbed into the ground... pressed down into a ruby pool forming from the crushed and disembodied hand of his mother, the only remains of her lying outside the hazy rubble.

It's fingers still shake. The last electrical signals sent to it. A failed attempt to call Adam out from his shell.

Behind the back of the humiliated hero, a blue butterfly, whose wing's span the size of Adam several times over, has fallen. Its body is skewered on the erect centerpiece of the marble fountain, and its myriad eyes of black are shut, resting soundly in this calm, sleepy purgatory.

I can't be the only one. As unrealistic as it is, I know I can't be the only one that wanted to get away from this small and terrible world.

The butterfly's hovering Saturation does as it did, rising, twirling, and dancing in response to Adam's inward aggression.

The bulbs, produced by the Saturation, floating lights of gaseous luminescent sapphire, cool Adam's mind as they flutter past his head in waves, increasingly slowing their orbit as they expand outward from the insect.

No. I know I'm not. There have been many, so many who wanted the same feeling, the same adventure.

The actions of the butterfly's once thought impossible light show of colors are valiant, but Adam's lament dips further into the abyss.

Then why does it feel like I'm to blame for all of this?

The ball of  Saturated air spins in place beside him, and after an intense light, both of them are lost in grief, looking down at the countless bodies that surely reside in the training hall; the only place Adam knew Julian to frequent.

From the locker rooms spill out more. This time, not soldiers, but the innocent. Mothers, still clutching tightly the hands of their children... their loved ones, forever unprepared for such tragedy. Mothers...

Each and every one of the bodies that slip out onto the floor is a blonde woman, whose short hair barely touches over her eyebrows. Each and every one... Clara. Clara, Clara, Clara, Clara...

"I've never even been here before... Why am I seeing this?" Adam asks, digging his fingers into the ever-changing shape of the ball of light. The Saturation seems to pulse and off-gas in response.

"Please, take me away."

Adam wants only not to see anymore, as his brain has recognized the patterning of those people, likening the piles and movement of their bodies to the still and soft motions on the surface of the West Park lake.

How many mothers and their children did Adam's wish bring to rest?

We'd be one and the same then. No, I guess not. I was useless, to be pitied. They at least were smart, strong enough to follow their path, even if it meant struggle.

Adam doesn't truly know the life of any other, but from where he stands. The Savior answered his prayers, and brought a reckoning in His voice.

His eyes meet Julian's at the room's center. He hangs, a sickled blade through his heart, suspending him from the ceiling. He seems fake, like his insides are replaced... Stuffed even.

Julian's empty red eyes feel false, yet more so than ever, Adam can feel them, piercing the walls of his cage, crumbling what little dignity he once had to dust.

"So why am I here now?"

With those words, he gives up. The bodies begin to rise, whether piling up, or raising from the floor, Adam cannot tell.

They continue, forced to the roof in whatever position possible. Adam can hear the breaking of their bones as they fill the walls around him.

Rising beyond his height, he can no longer see.

They pack the room to burst, suffocating him where he stands, locking him tight in a little box of his own consequence... then finally, pop.

Nobody deserves this. The hell that's been cast down on us today. Nobody could possibly wish for that. This is a repentance nobody should have to face.

Repentance, the Deacons spoke of it often. Repayment for the actions of living a life against the faith of the Savior...

So this can't be repentance, it really is my doing.

Pounding himself with guilt, Adam finds himself in darkness under a layer of water.

He doesn't care to breathe, instead letting life do as it wishes, the current carrying him through the doors of the training hall, forced open by the water's weight.

It flows into somewhere else. Doors he finds familiar. A floor, its matted grass-green soaked in water.

The library.

Adam is swept in, and let down in the entrance area, just past the front desk.

The room is empty, and the books are gone.

In the entirety of the grand storage of text, only one thing remains.

Adam spits up water, coughing as he leans up, looking ahead through eyes of choking tears. He wipes the water away.

Lying face up in the center of the main room, the old librarian, as dead as can be. His arm, locked in place as his body is burnt into the stone-like shape of a guiding sign, points to the ceiling.

Adam realizes the incorrect vision of the room. The light.

The librarian's finger is erected, and faces the high windows above the second floor bookshelves. What trickles in is not the smoke from this perilous fight, and not the red of dawn.

Adam gets a long look at what could only be the old sky. The vision draws him to his feet. He starts to walk, slowly, one wet stomp at a time. He comes closer, closer, until he passes under the second floor railing, and all he can see is blue.

That blue seems to fall down into his hand, sliding over his fingers, a ray of light that absorbs even his wrist. A beam so powerful that he can almost feel it, like a fabric. What should be the rays of the glowing Sun become a curtain, flowing down from the windows.

Perhaps even, a thin veil, caught up and folding in his soft touch.

He finds it to be exactly as he described. A thin veil.

Looking down from its splendor, Adam is back on his hands and knees, still garbed out of size as the Hero, but his self returning to the city center, the butterfly gone, and the tower still fallen.

He follows the delicate translucent robe to its source. It dazzles with specks of light as his eyes trail upward.

Two legs, paper white, held up just above the ground, appear attached to a bare body behind a long blue veil. Just above his glance, a forearm covers the being's breasts. Adam is too lost in his doubts to even notice the depiction.

" free of this corruption," speaks the heavenly voice. It mirrors his mother's words, but it isn't her talking.

Adam's heart sinks once more, as the memory of the tower's fall replays in his head.

His eyes stop as he recluses back into his shell.

"What kind of selfish dream do we all wish for... To have the world take our lives away. To plant us somewhere out of our control?" He asks the angelic woman in revelation.

"So easily we harm those around us, just for the journey to have any semblance of understandability."

The veiled one does no more than listen while Adam's inner voice grows, assaulting him, drilling into his mind in an endless barrage of desperate blame.

'It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault.

I wished for this. I wished for this. I wished for this. I wished for this. I wished for this.

I’m so weak. I’m so weak. I’m so weak. I’m so weak. I’m so weak. I’m so weak.

I can’t take it back. I can’t take it back. I can’t take it back. I can’t take it back.

Those voices, all his own, all repeating in unison. The pain is immense, his skull ready to crack open and leak the tension over the stone. They finally stop, as their point has been made.

"Somewhere inside me. I wanted this. I asked for this. Even if a coincidence, this is what I longed for," Adam says in a monotone shade of self-disrespect.

Just as he utters those words, Adam feels a force in his head. He's pulled back to the veil.

Like a tart, sweet smell, or the sight of a long lost home, Adam is enveloped in a sensation of nostalgia. Of love.

She... she loved me, and so often I wished her away.

A hand, so pale that it reflects the full force of the blue Saturation surrounding it, descends over Adam's head. As he reaches up, the legs that once drifted behind the veil give way to the cloaked body of his mother.

"Anything to protect you," both the voice of Clara, and the angelic tone ring out.

He takes hold of the hand that emerges from the cloak's sleeve. The robe breezes out toward Adam as he grips tight, never wanting to let go again.

As tears roll from his cheeks to the ground, the brown robes become empty, flying off in the wind spawned from the tower's impact.

'Even the lovely parts of my home are lost,' to think I said such a thing... mere moments before she'd save me again.

In Clara's place is Arrabelle. An imaginative version of her, as Adam has only ever seen her in passing. In fanciful armor, she stands with Zalach's great-sword over her shoulder, smiling down at him.

Her eyes blend with the sanguine sky, and her hair wraps around her torso and legs blowing inches from his face, each strand like a shooting star rushing across the night sky.

What's irreplaceable has been lost. If this is what heroes bear, then I'd rather die having never dreamt at all.

The hand he held is gone, never to return. Love and regret aren't habits to kick, there is no key to fill the slot such a bond once filled. He'll simply have to live with it, or die trying.

Arrabelle's grip digs into his wrist, nearly cutting his circulation.

She locks eyes with him, three voices protruding from one mouth in terrifying harmony.

He can feel Clara's rare mischievous gaze in there somewhere.

"You can't lose yourself yet, Adam."

The angelic call echoes over both Arrabelle and his mother's chant.

A hard pull rips him from the Aethereal realm inside his mind.