Chapter 6:

It was in the dead of winter that he ran the distance between his cottage, and the city he had renounced long ago.

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?

Somehow, I get the feeling you might’ve heard this story before.

But let me tell it again, and maybe you’ll gain a new perspective.


It was in the dead of winter that… well, you know.

The scruffy, middle-aged man was headed for Talisburn again this year. It was the eighth year he had made his way down, bringing loads of storage crates hoisted upon his back; mostly containing Carnations; along with him.

And of course, like previous years; he planned to return empty-headed, having used up all of his luggage in the city.

In his ear was a penny-sized earpiece, entirely hidden from the eyes of any onlookers. He pulled into the snow-covered entrance of the town, laid with worn brick and mortar, and pretty lights. He was receiving pages from his transmission device, but ignored them for the moment. The man’s only desire was to hand out the flowers he had brought, just as his late daughter had done before.

He walked toward the direction of town square, and set up a makeshift bench with his luggage crates. There, he sat quietly and pulled out a cigarette to calm his nerves.

“I hate this damn city…”

Well, that’s more or less what he was thinking, even though he didn’t say it out loud. I’d always found that those who were the most quiet were often the most radical with their thoughts.

But even his inner monologue wasn't entirely truthful, as he took in the intricate stone buildings and dim lights with a sort of melancholy enjoyment. Perhaps he didn’t even realize it himself, that he was sitting down because he wanted to take in the view of town square.

As he unboxed one of the plastic crates, there were stacked bundles of flowers, all carefully arranged so not to fray or fold. He pulled out the first set, and stared intently at their pure white, ruffled bulbs.

A sigh escaped his lips, just barely audible to my human ears.

“Sir, I apologize, but you aren’t permitted to set up camp in the city.”

An officer, clad in a dull blue uniform, approached the scruffy looking man. In response, he stood up from his seat, measuring a few inches taller than the one before him.

“I’m just handing out flowers for the holidays, officer. Nothing to fret about.”

He picked a carnation from the bunch in his left hand, and held it out to the law. His intimidating aura left him, leaving only a soft face behind the four o’ clock shadow on his chin.

“A- ah… May I?”

“Of course. Happy Hollow Night.”

“Well then… thank you. Happy Hollow Night to you as well.”

The man in uniform backed up and fidgeted a bit, realizing his mistake in judgement. In an attempt to regain his professional composure, he uttered a kind warning.

“Be sure to pack up before it gets too late. Curfew is at eight sharp today, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“Sure thing.”

He returned to his regular patrol with his shoulders pulled back, blending in with the light crowd that spotted the main road.

The man, meanwhile, continued to offer his blossoms to the passersby. After his bundle had been spent, he packed up and moved on to the next location. Some happily took the flower and intended to take good care of it, while others simply ignored him, not wanting to play along with a poorly dressed stranger.

And while he wasn’t too fond of the townsfolk, the outsider still held some sympathy for the residents. Many were in a hurry, after all; to get back to their families and have their extravagant Hollow Night feasts.

But the ones who walked slowly; who took their time; those were the people who most often took a flower.

He didn’t actually realize that that singular, white carnation held out to them in kindness made the entire night for many of those lonely souls, year after year. He never stopped to consider that all of these pedestrians which passed him by were people too; it was just routine for him. Some even kept an eye out for the countryside fellow who gave out flowers on Hollow eve, but he’d never come to realize that fact

After all, this would be his last year handing them out.

“A flower for you, miss?”

As the clock struck the nineteenth hour, the flowerman had reached his final bundle; and his final location. He was sweating a bit, and his arms had more weight to them than when he had begun. Or at least, that’s how he perceived it. After all, he had made all of the preparations necessary. Now, each blossom to leave his hand became a countdown to doomsday.

For each pedestrian that passed him by, he felt slightly relieved that he could stay idle for just a little longer.

“A flower for you, miss?”

A particularly lonely young lass caught his attention.

And no, I don’t normally say things like “lass”, but such a word just came to mind after seeing a girl like herself.

Incidentally, I could break character too, once in a while.

“Sorry dear, I’ve got no change to spare.”

She was kind in her tone, even when telling off a bum. The two looked at each other like a little less than a fellow human, yet still more than just a ‘thing’.

Well, their preconceived notions wouldn’t last long. You could see the look in their eyes; that something more than a flower had brought the two to each other’s attention.

“Free of charge; for Hollow Night.”

“My, then I suppose I’ll take one...”

He didn’t think much of her taking it, but when she brought it in close to sniff, the way her eyelids fell seemed to instill a sense of nostalgia into his expression. The way she closed out her other senses to fully envelop herself in its’ fresh scent, was familiar to him. Though, he stiffened as he caught himself enjoying the moment.

All it took was a singular white bloom and a nice smell to release the young lady’s guard. She must have been quite pure, being so trusting.

A product of the city’s customs, indeed.

“You must plan to be out all night with such a large bundle. The city gets quiet at this hour, on Hollow eve. I’m sure you know.”

Her voice was soft.

“I’m used to the cold. I’m no regular cityfolk, but I trudge up to Talisburn every year. So I’ll manage, somehow.”

She giggled at him.

I wondered what it must have felt like, for somebody to make such a face at you from no more than light banter.

I couldn’t imagine.

The woman offered her free hands to grab some flowers and hand them out herself. Of course, he didn’t want her help, but she didn’t really take no for an answer either. She made quick work of them, in contrast to her unappealing partner who couldn’t seem to catch others’ attention. A soot-covered jacket and unkempt hair was no match for her glistening skin, styled bangs and frilly dress. Exposed arms which glew bright red in contrast to the white which fell around her; she seemed to fall into the scenery so naturally.

I took a carnation from her bundle, and held it to my nose. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate such a scent long ago, but now I could understand the appeal of flowers. Especially as they began to dwindle in many other locations.

The man lost himself in the activity which he usually didn’t give another thought to. He had forgotten his guilt over smiling in the city where he lost his daughter. Something in his brain must have been so tired of handing out flowers; so tired of scouting out the city; when he really just wanted to forget about all of his past regrets and enjoy himself. Perhaps because it was his final year, he thought it okay to do so, if just for a little while.

Because he knew that he would be able to snap himself out of it.

The carnations dwindled.

There were only five left.

Then three.

Then two.

And then only one.

She held it out to him, after a somber conversation about those who they had lost.

“I see… that your own daughter was chosen too, along with my little brother. What a wonderful blessing for the both of us.”

His safety net caught him.

“Happy Hollow Night!”

Her cheerful, innocent smile persisted once more. She didn’t have a clue what she was saying to this man; what her simple, positive words weighed to him.

They dragged him down.

Or perhaps he thought that they pulled him back up to the surface. Back to reality.

“You too, miss.”

He pushed her hand away and left her gaze, looking back towards the direction he had come from. His legs pulled him away, before she could respond. And though she wanted to catch up to him; though she wanted to keep talking, she could feel it. That he needed her to stay put, for his own sake. The sensation was just strong enough to keep her feet planted, as stealthy tears escaped from her eyes.

Why was she so sad? She couldn’t understand it, but surely he knew. And that’s why she had to stay put.

That was all the poor girl had to understand.

“G- go after him!”

The words escaped my mouth, before I could think to stop myself.

Her feet began to move.

Step after step, picking up her ankles in the direction of the fading silhouette, which she wanted to draw back to her.

But she wouldn’t reach him, so I didn’t have to worry.

She wouldn’t.

Her steps hastened. She was going to run.

She was going to reach him.

I messed up.

I pinched the back of her dress and stopped her. But she had already become desperate.

“Why! He should be in a better place; he was chosen! But you looked so solemn! So miserable! You know, don’t you? Why I’m so eager to see him again, even though I should be happy! Why I’m so lonely without him?”

I kept holding onto her, as she continued to force herself forward. It didn’t even occur to her that some outside force was pulling back against her. She must have thought it her own will; her own fear of finding out the truth.

But I interfered, so I had to hold her there.

Just for a little longer.

She looked at the carnation, breaking down in a flurry of guilt and confusion. The man she had spent the hour with was no longer in sight. The bell of the clock tower up above had long since rang for eight o’ clock, yet she didn’t hear it. She could only focus on the fluff of white in her hand, as tears flowed in her eyes still.


That final flower, though he didn’t want to, he decided to let her keep. It was his apology for what was about to happen.

In his hands, a radio transmitter and a button.

He spoke the beginning words into his microphone.

“Happy Hollow Night, everyone.”

It was code. Code that meant, “time to begin the operation.”

Bombs went off all across the south side of Talisburn. They hit major living facilities, ripe with potential casualties.

He thought it necessary. They were just lifeless products of the city, after all. Brainwashed for their entire lives to raise children, only for them to be stolen away year after year. Like cattle, bred to produce product.

The secluded little countryside town was in the business of child trafficking.

Amidst the chaos of explosions, dead bodies, and first responders, several terrorist squads shuffled in to infiltrate the city. They aimed to enter the entrances to the underground trade routes which their leader had been coming to the city to gather intel on, year after year.

The man’s radio was cut with loads of static, between transmissions about checkpoints secured, entrances located, and soldiers lost. He monitored the entire situation from just outside the town with bulky drones, all of the information being sent to a handheld tablet.

“Sir, the squad f has secured-”

The piece was knocked out of his ear by no visible cause, as if a gust of wind had forced it to the ground. His pad too, hit the dirt with unprecedented force and cracked.

“All of these frequencies are bothersome.”


They were here too.

“Who’s out there!?”

There wasn’t another being in sight. But the voice still rang in his head, as if coming from his own mind. Naturally, they were here. Though not even I was entirely aware of their location, aside from a vague sense.

“You have a wish. I can grant it.”

Yep, it was them alright. The Chaotic.

“Show yourself!”

“You long to bring them back to life. I can do that for you.”

“Shut up! I said show yourself!”

He began to furiously pick at his ear, checking to see if there was still an earpiece stuck in it after all. There was no other explanation for the mysterious voice, after all.

“You need only say ‘yes’. And I will take care of the rest.”

A few rounds went into the air, but still nobody revealed themselves.


“And what happens if I say yes?”

“Find out.”

Once again, they were cryptic. They had to be, for their abilities to work. Though said abilities were the only ones the Record and I had not yet quite gotten a grasp on, I understood that they had strict conditions.

“Don’t waste my time! Are you an enemy? Or an ally?”

“Would you like to find out?”


What could possibly happen because he uttered a single word; if he made a single verbal agreement? If this were some sort of cliche story, the protagonist would likely ask himself such a flag-ridden question.


And that was all it took. As he said it, his thoughts flooded with the voice of the young woman whose name he never learned, as she cried out towards him. As he cried for her, knowing what lie behind the curtain of her clueless sorrow.

He had heard her cry out to him the entire time, of course.

“Yes, please grant my wish…”

For a moment, the Chaotic appeared in the flesh. I could only see the silhouette of their face under a crimson hood, but their skin just barely glistened amongst the darkness.

My senses were cut.

“No peeking!”

I could hear the voice in my head, as all of my worldly sensations left me.


“Did you think that you wouldn’t get found out?”

They giggled a bit. It was distorted.

“Well, this isn’t our first meeting, so no. But I wanted to see.”

“But I don’t have the ability to override your power. I never have.”

“Sure you do.”

“My, you can be surprisingly naive, for one who seems to see everything.”

I didn’t respond. There was no reason to, for jabs like that. I figured that they were trying to get under my skin, but their words didn’t mean much to me outside of the context of being a character in the story.

“So did you see?”

“I did.”

“Well, that’s perfect then. Why don’t we make a deal?”

“I’m not really-”

“Keep my identity a secret. Or at least, don’t let the Record find out that you know it. And in return, I’ll grant your wish too.”

This was the most I’ve talked in decades. And the first time I’d been interrupted in just as long. I didn’t like it.

“I’m not interested.”

“You are. You will be.”


“What happened!?”

Back in reality, the man was suddenly confused. He found that despite how he rationalized her words, he had expected something.

But nothing had changed.

“Did you bring Charlotte back? Of course not, right? Did you lay this city to rest? Save the civilians? The children? Hello!?”

They had long since left already. I felt a little bad for him.

“A dream.”

He rationalized it.

“Just a dream.”

Then he forgot about it.

Leaving the broken tablet and earpiece behind him, the father, terrorist, and botanist went to go report to his squad in person.

Unbeknownst to him, the young gal he had met earlier that night had reunited with her younger brother, against all odds. That’s what had really changed.

That’s what he had wished for.

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