ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~ [Beta version]
***THANKS FOR READING!***
Hey there, Honeyfeeders! Can you believe it's already June? This year has been weird for me, with fresh ups and downs, so I don't really know what to think now that it's halfway through...
If you enjoy this chapter, BBQ that "Like" button with the flavors of the meteorological summer! If you leave a comment, I'll try my best to respond.
BOOK 2, CHAPTER 26: AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN
Vibrations of disarray overtook the ground and air with an omnipresent energy…an empty, spiteful resonation that Chris himself congealed into. His feet could barely understand the concept of walking atop a sidewalk full of hatred and loneliness, and the tugging of frightful ropes lassoed his mind as he moved forward.
Sandra stuck close to Chris’ side as they kept a brisk pace. He noticed the young woman had pulled her robe tighter around her, probably due to the chilled darkness coming straight up from the sidewalk.
The map app led them to the front of a building with imposing stone steps leading up to the unlit entrance. Chris saw he had the right place, as the source of the deepest red indicator was located inside the building. When he zoomed in on his phone, the name of the business appeared on the screen.
“Agrarian-Schism,” he said to himself. “We’re here.”
Excalibur quickly reminded Chris, “According to Alessandra, that is the name of the company where Regal is employed.”
Sandra confirmed. “Correct.”
“Then I guess he really is here.” Chris looked up at the large headquarters building.
“That is a likely assumption,” Excalibur said. “I will await your visual confirmation before I continue compiling data to request an update. Also, your phone’s conventional wireless functions have been compromised in this ‘dead zone’ due to the interference. Current use of your GPS and other wireless functions require me to push my processing power to the highest levels I have used so far, and may cause lags in my speed up to three seconds per operation.”
The stone steps invoked mental images of a Roman prisoner marching up from a dungeon, longing to taste sunlight briefly in a bloodstained colosseum. At the top, large pillars stood on either side of the modernized entryway of tinted glass doors and windows, loaded with sensitive security technology.
Chris peered through the glass only to get a glimpse of the blackness, which was so dense it seemed to be solid. His equilibrium jostled and jumbled as the excessive negative energy toyed with the concept of gravity and direction, flooding his inner ears and knotting the stability in his legs. He grabbed the handle of the door, realizing his hands were numbed from the vile aura, and pulled it. The door was unlocked.
“It’s open?” Sandra whispered.
“Yeah.” Chris eased inside, feeling less like an intruder and more like he was being lured.
“The electricity may be out,” Excalibur said, “possibly due to the negative energy ruining the infrastructure, among other reasons. If the entrance lock is operated by a cardkey, then it may be malfunctioning due to a type of energy surge impossible to test during manufacturing.”
Chris stared ahead, met with pure darkness.
“We’re dealing with very strange forces here,” he said in a hushed voice. “It makes sense that electronics would malfunction in weird ways.”
“I concur. You should remember that your nervous system functions in a similar manner, so be prepared for damages to your body.”
“Ick.” Sandra rubbed her arms. “That’s a disturbing thought.”
Sandra had lost her smartphone, so they pushed through the dark with Chris’ phone flashlight as the only light source. It was a very active darkness, though, as if it was aware of the duo’s presence, and it pushed back against them. Chris’ and Sandra’s feet waded through a swamp of nightly sludge, although they saw nothing on the floor out of the ordinary.
Through the sizable lobby, the long shadows cast by Chris’ phone flashlight crawled and stretched away from him, just to fold back into the permeated blackness that watched without emotion, only hunger. The ceiling and farthest corners hid away, giving the impression of an expansive hinterland dotted with decorative furniture and gnarled, abstract statues.
Chris didn’t know where to go. His phone showed he was in the midst of a giant, cloudy red spot, and the negative energy bombarded him from all over, inside and out. The shadows continued to step aside, allowing Chris and Sandra deeper access into their lair, distancing the humans from the exit.
Ahead, the lobby continued around a corner. The two proceeded forward, Chris holding his phone flashlight in front of him in one hand, gripping Gunnhildr in the other as they crept around the corner.
A shadow lifted its head. The surrounding blackness rumbled as its king acknowledged the Desphelmers’ arrival, although it had watched them since they had gotten out of the rideshare car.
But this was the confrontation.
In the limited light from the phone, it was difficult to see exactly what Chris was making eye contact with. Yet, the familiar burning red eyes were clearly implanted atop a mighty maw filled with broken-dagger teeth and writhing, yearning fangs aimed in Chris’ direction. The entire head seemed mounted, without a neck, onto a bulbous, gelatinous body, like boiling motor oil inside a rubbery cocoon; its layered rolls pooled around it, flooding the nearby dead elevator, even clinging to the walls and climbing higher.
“Sword & Shield!” Sandra hollered. A bright, golden glow accompanied a flash of flame-like energy covering her right arm, and a honeycombed shield of verdant energy attached to her left.
Chris immediately aimed Gunnhildr at the gluttonous jabberwocky, his adrenaline pumping, and still holding his phone flashlight in the other hand to provide a meager visual of the abomination. The monstrosity’s body attempted to spill forward and move toward the boy, its existence caught between physical mass and nonphysical phenomena, weighing more than ever under tar-wrought obesity. Its approach was gradual without legs, and its wiggling fangs were coming for Chris.
Come on, come on, come on! Find the wavelength…
The boy’s spirit sprung outward, penetrating the surrounding wickedness, and probing it for the matching wavelength. In seconds, he made contact with what was undoubtedly Regal’s soul, but it was despairingly entangled and embedded within a hellish web of foul consorts.
But Chris fought through it.
There’s so much evil energy! This wavelength is so corrupt, and the complexity is insane! But I know you’re in there, Regal…mark my words, I will find you and get you out…
The spiritual bridge between Chris and Regal gradually pieced itself together, but was constantly mangled by an onslaught of anguish, interrupting the boy’s concentration. Gunnhildr quivered and ached, sending miserable signals up Chris’ arm. Making matters worse, Regal’s wavelength seemed to resist Chris, purposely unravelling itself from the loving bridge to assimilate back into the womb of hatred and odium.
Eventually, Chris was unable to keep up with the lashing wavelength, and he could feel his connection slipping away.
No, no, no, no… I can’t let you get away. I have to finish this!
“I will save you!” Chris bellowed at the gluttonous beast. “I’ve seen your heart! I know the deepest part of you wants to be saved! This darkness is not you, and I will break you free…Regal!”
A fire sparked inside Chris, ignited from somewhere beyond flesh and blood. The embers struck the kindling of his soul and exploded, pushing outward past his skin until Chris was surrounded by a dazzling, divine aura of white, yellow, and orange, swirling off him like solar flares.
This sudden blast of holiness lit up the entire Agrarian-Schism lobby, burning and evaporating the encroaching blackness. The shadows screamed and cried like a thousand tortured voices as the negative energy was exiled back to un-traversable realms.
“That’s the spirit!” Sandra called out, clenching her big energy gauntlet. “Your power is so calming,”—she grinned— “but it’s hell for our enemy!”
The spiritual bridge Chris constructed was now reinforced with unsurmountable vigilance, and it buried itself deep into the wasteland of Regal’s hostage soul.
Now they were connected. All that was left was to complete the communication.
A vicious reaction from the darkness shifted it onto the full offensive. The shadows surrounding Chris and Sandra peeled from the walls, disobeying the casting of light. They took on physical forms, assuming the deformed shapes of needles, talons, daggers, spears, razors, arrows, sickles, and fangs of all denominations, aiming at the two Desphelmers from every possible angle. Faster than venomous snakes striking a target, the hundreds of dark points lashed forth without accelerating, reaching top speed instantly.
Each blade of darkness was destroyed as soon as it touched Chris’ aura, keeping him safe. Sandra pressed back-to-back against Chris, her shield effectively blocking the attacks while she received protection from the boy’s energy. However, the phone screen increased in redness by the second, eventually displaying infrared along with the screen’s crimson glow that bled from between Chris’ fingers. The negative energy was increasing in potency.
Still, the strikes of stabbing shadows continued while the foulness replenished itself faster than it was being depleted. Sandra swung her right arm, batting at the attacks with a giant claw of power. After getting familiar with her energy gauntlet’s “weight” and “elasticity,” she learned to fling her ability around; this resulted in an energy whip that snapped through the oncoming darkness.
Seeing what her powers were capable of, Sandra grinned as she ripped apart more blackness with a flurry of strikes stringing from her right hand.
Chris struggled to remain focused with Gunnhildr, feeling the spiritual fatigue as he tried to cross the bridge from his heart to Regal’s. He feverishly chased the elusive wavelength, slowly mirroring its image, all to meet the requirements of a successful absolving bullet.
Pain shot up Chris’ leg. A malevolent spear had penetrated Chris’ glorious aura, scratching his skin before being dissolved. The dastardly darkness was growing stronger.
“These things are getting fast!” Sandra grunted after receiving two cuts on her legs.
Another scratched Chris’ arm. Then his other leg. And then three more. Now five more. Each cut was cauterized by evilness, which instead opened the blood vessels more and promoted enhanced pain. Truly, negative energy was the bane of biological activity.
“They’re getting through my shield!” Sandra watched one of the dark knives squeeze through her protective, honeycombed barrier. It eventually hit her shoulder, drawing a prick of blood.
“Christopher,” Excalibur said. “I detect a rapid increase in the void of signals. If this is perhaps negative energy, then I speculate—”
“Not now!” Chris hollered. He couldn’t be distracted. He didn’t care what was happening. He needed to connect with the man who had to be saved.
The blackness shrouded Chris’ vision as the knives of negativity scratched him, some piercing into him.
I can almost see you, Regal…you’re so close… If I can just…reach out…but you need to reach out to me as well…
“I’m right here, Regal!” Chris shouted through the darkness and pain.
“Regaaal! Please reach out! Please…”
His eyes saw bleak daggers pummeling him, shadowy blankets suppressing his sunny aura, the glowing red of his smartphone reflecting off Gunnhildr’s chrome-like sheen, and the even redder eyes and growing teeth of the titan that oozed ever nearer…
His fright, however, was suddenly whisked away. Gunnhildr relayed a refreshing connotation into Chris, and the storming waves of Regal’s darkness suddenly made sense, trackable and predictable. A break in the esoteric struggle felt as if his soul had sprouted wings and took flight, free from the restraints of damnation. As his eyes watched the hideousness around him, his soul was shown the most spectacular scene:
Blue skies, fluffy clouds…Chris’ soul could see the warmth of the sun. In all directions, wavy, amber stalks of grains filled the space between horizons. It all invoked a sense of something once cherished, lost, and now returned; a semblance of halcyon comfort.
Chris inhaled. He’d never smelled fresher air.
In front of him was one other person, sharing the sentiment.
Regal looked at Chris and smiled. Such a sincere, tranquil expression, forged from deep understanding, from the unfathomable desire of human connectivity, and from the knowledge that this desire…this truest desire…was about to be fulfilled.
Regal stood with his hands over his heart. As the wind sent delicate ripples across the field of perfect crops, he removed his hands, revealing a lightless shine emanating from his chest.
“Do it,” Regal said, exposing his shine to Chris. His voice was of complete satisfaction. He spoke like a man who had indeed ascended, but not into something other than human, but into a regular person honored with fulfillment, kindness, and oneness.
And Chris returned that smile. It was the same experience as when he had shared that very kinship with Erik.
And Chris pulled the trigger on Gunnhildr, shooting straight through the lightless shine in Regal’s chest.
Shattering, decaying, howling darkness resulted from the obese titan being skewered by the silvery beam of the absolving bullet. Terrible screams that ears couldn’t hear were wailing and cursing, slowly fading away into something less than nothingness. The deplorable aura of fear degraded and dissipated, until it was gone.
Silence. Regular, physical silence due to the lack of soundwaves, not from nonphysical energy being negated by evil forces. Chris had lost his dazzling glow, and thus was cast into the blackness once again.
Sandra glanced around with what little light was available.
“They stopped.” She strained her eyes against the immobile shadows, regular shadows. “The negative energy feels gone, too.”
With his phone’s flashlight, Chris saw a large person lying on the ground where the obese titan had been. He attempted to hurry over, but his ankles and knees would not allow it, and he fell to the ground. Struggling to stand up, he was reminded of the many cuts covering his body. Although the dark effects no longer worsened his bleeding, the injuries were far from pleasant. Blood ran down from nearly every inch of him, dripping onto the expensive, natural stone floor.
Sandra attempted to heal Chris, but she was promptly presented with a technicality behind her power.
I can’t use Heal when my shield is out, she thought. Dismissing the honeycombed shield, Sandra said, “Heal.” Her glowing gauntlet, however, did not need to be dismissed.
“Thanks,” Chris said as Sandra’s healing glow covered him.
“You weren’t as protected against those things,” Sandra said softly, finishing the healing process on Chris. She then healed to herself. “You took the full brunt of all that.”
“Pretty much,” the boy replied with a weary smile. “I used a lot of my Desphelmer powers.” He pushed himself up, his arms and legs wobbling.
Sandra’s eyes followed the light beam from Chris’ phone.
“That looks like Regal lying over there,” she said flatly.
They moved closer to Regal, who remained still, crumpled on the ground in front of the elevator. Although Regal didn’t react, Chris and Sandra were relieved to see he was still breathing steadily, as if sleeping, and there wasn’t any sign of injury.
“Regal.” Sandra shook him, not receiving a response. Still, she smiled. “You’re okay…I’m so happy you’re okay…” She hung her head, weakened from the sudden relief as she squeezed Regal’s muscular arm.
“Let’s get him out of here,” Chris said, putting his hand on Sandra’s shoulder.
She looked at him. “Yeah.”
An abrupt sound caught their attention. Chris brandished his phone sword, Sandra’s arm flared and shield returned, and they listened to the running footsteps growing closer.
A flickering orange light approached, and Chris’ adrenaline surged as a short person ran around the corner.
“Chris! And Sandra!” Aleph-Naught hurried over, holding her blazing, ruby red yo-yo body like a burning lantern. “I found you!”
“Oh, it’s you, Al,” Chris said, exhaling loudly. “I was freaked out when I heard somebody coming.”
“Why’d you two leave on your own?” the blonde girl snapped. “You worried us. Sister Farrah had to look for your signal, and she found you in the general area of the most wicked thing she’d ever felt.” She squeezed her restored ruby red yo-yo body, gripping it tightly with a hardened expression. “I don’t feel any wickedness, though.”
“It’s okay now.” With a warm smile, Chris nodded at Regal lying on the floor. “It’s over. He’s been absolved.”
Al knelt down by Regal, looking him over while using her yo-yo’s magical flame to see. Seconds later, Al stood up, her face blank, and looked at Chris.
“We need to get him out of here immediately.” She glanced around at the dark, empty lobby. “No telling when people will show up. If we get caught, it’ll be very bothersome.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Chris said, “Can you help us?”
“I don’t have a choice.” She looked at Chris, noticing his clothes were now more ripped and bloodier. “How are you doing? Can you make it out of here?”
“I’m fine enough. Sandra was here to heal.” Chris searched Regal’s pants pockets and found his wallet, checked his ID, and looked for his address. “He lives close to where we first encountered him,” Chris said. “That apartment building we saw him leave from is probably where he lives.”
“Good,” Al said, “we’ll take him home.”
Chris told Excalibur to add Regal’s address to the GPS, then he and Al each hoisted one of Regal’s arms over their shoulders as Sandra picked up the legs.
“Robbie and Bret are waiting outside,” Al told them as they carried Regal through the dim lobby.
Chris sighed. “The others came…”
“We weren’t gonna leave you alone in such a dangerous place,” Al said. “What the hell were you thinking? We’re supposed to be a team.”
“You’re right.” Chris thought about what Lavi had said prior to reaching Agrarian-Schism. “I need to remember my friends are with me.”
Outside the front entrance, they sat the big black man on the bottom step, Al supporting him upright. Robbie didn’t say anything, although he appeared relieved everyone was fine. On the other hand, Bret couldn’t keep his irritation to himself.
“Well,” the delinquent sneered at Chris, tapping his metal bat on the sidewalk, “you had to go and save the day. Thanks for the damn notice.”
“Eh,” Chris said, shrugging, “it worked out.”
“Barely!” Bret grunted. “You’re the only one with a phone that works. That nun had to try and find you and mark her map again. You’re lucky Robbie recognized this area is where Abra-Shitso is, so we knew to check here first. Otherwise, we’d be lookin’ all over downtown.”
“We’re fine,” Sandra told Bret, stressing her point. “We managed without you.”
“Guys.” The firmness in Al’s voice was clear. “We need to get out of here. The place inside looked messed up, so this will likely become a crime scene.”
“The alarm didn’t work, either,” Sandra said. “Chances are the alarm company is aware of the malfunction, and might send someone out for maintenance. It didn’t go off, though, so I doubt the police were called.”
Robbie crossed his arms. “Even if the police weren’t notified of the alarm, someone is gonna find out eventually that something happened, because it’s messed up in there, as you said.” He looked at Chris. “What did happen here?”
“We’ll talk later,” Chris replied quietly. “Let’s get out of here and get Regal home.”
Nodding, Sandra said, “Yeah, my hotel is close. My car is there, and we could use it.” Reluctantly, she glanced at Regal on the building’s bottom step, unconscious and propped up against Al. “I’ll go get it.”
Before hurrying off, Sandra asked Chris in a glum tone, “Is Regal really all right?”
With a reassuring smile, Chris replied, “Yes, he’s back to normal. It’ll probably take some time for him to recover from the absolving bullet…I’m not sure how long…but he’ll be right again.”
Sandra didn’t reply, smile, nor nod before jogging down the street toward the hotel. While she was gone, traffic and pedestrians gradually returned.
“Who’s…been evacuating these places?” Robbie asked, sounding distressed. Nobody answered.
When Sandra pulled up with her gray sedan, Chris and Robbie placed Regal in the backseat, which was no easy task. Bret declined the ride, saying he was done with fairytales for the day, and wandered off. Chris, Robbie, and Al piled into the car, compressing the suspension almost all the way down, and Sandra followed Excalibur’s directions to Regal’s home.
The four of them carried Regal from Sandra’s car. Robbie tried each of Regal’s keys to open the entrance to the apartment complex, then they hauled the large man up the stairs.
“Don’t knock,” Sandra whispered when they approached his apartment door. “Set him down here. His fiancée might be home, and I don’t want to explain this to her.”With that, they left Regal outside his apartment in the hallway, then they all parted ways. To any normal passerby, Regal appeared to be a drunk who’d been locked out, which was a much better alternative to knowing what had actually happened.