The 616 Diaries: Entry 34 by Kevin Kauffmann
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November 27th, 2019


I have to leave. Now.


Well, not now, but pretty fucking soon. The visions are coming faster now, more in-depth, the urgency of them all… it’s making me realize that the end of the timelines—maybe one of those powerful, destiny-changing moments—maybe that’s all just around the corner.


Oh, who am I kidding; I might as well be running full-tilt around said corner.


My life is in very real danger right now, but I can’t leave yet. I’m still powerless here; still don’t have the final prophecies. I’m just four or five entries away from knowing everything, just a day’s worth of work and I’d know if there’s any merit to 616, what it means, what Räum hid for me—for us—all those years ago. If I had a full week, there literally wouldn’t be any issues.


But I don’t think I have a week. I don’t even think I have tomorrow.


Every single scene comes with its own trance, its own vision of either the future or some shared moment from the past. The past ones don’t even matter to me, anymore—I believe all I need to believe at this point—but those aren’t the ones that get most of my attention. It’s the other ones, the innocuous ones; those are the ones where I devote my time and effort. That’s where all the hidden messages are, where the breadcrumbs are sitting there molding and rotting and getting three kinds of stale.


The worst part is trying to think up excuses for all of them. Especially the ones that involve my little stable of demonic characters. They end up in all of them, show me their true colors; they show me what’s about to happen in the next… fuck, twenty-four hours, maybe?


Today’s little batch of revelations started with me in the Zodiac Office like before, Baum and Fennsler sitting at their desks as always. I don’t know what they do anymore; they don’t bother to keep up the pretense of being anything other than my jailors. They still sit there reading, but I really don’t know what they’re looking at.


Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of it is just a set of mild distractions so they can jump on me at a moment’s notice.


I was yawning when the first wave hit me. I had just settled into reading one of the last passages—what seemed like something out of a Dali fever dream—when I got thrown into one of Räum’s surprise revelations. It didn’t even really shock me this time—I was already in a weird mood just because of the passage’s surreal content—and, truthfully, I just kinda expect it at this point. I know that if I read something new, something with one of those subliminal clues, I’m going to see something from Räum’s life.


Though this time, it wasn’t so much Räum’s life as it was mine. What I saw was another hallway from somewhere in the complex—it’s like they copy-pasted the blueprints for the entire MedCorps basement for every ridiculous floor—but I didn’t much care about how little imagination went into the architecture.


What I cared about was that Samir Almasi was standing in the hallway next to Teresa Slagen, watching as fire poured out of broken windows from a devastated laboratory.


“He must have planted it weeks ago. We should have swept the entire complex after he came at me with that bomb,” Samir muttered, crossing his arms as he watched the fire licking the walls and ceiling of the hallway. I was floating freely, then—apparently this vision allowed for my astral wandering—so I drifted forward until I could see Samir’s face. I wanted to see what Amin had been able to do, to see what I was up against with that monster.


He was unharmed, almost completely. The only thing he was missing was neatly-trimmed facial hair. My vision of Amin’s death had already told me as much, but it was different when I could see him like this.


For all of Amin’s efforts, Samir just looked like he had taken a couple weeks off work. Even looked well-rested. Only the reflection of flames haunting his dark eyes made it seem like he was even affected by any of this.


“Yes, you should have,” Teresa spoke, breaking me out of my analytical mood. I pivoted in the air so I could watch her face, watch the rage and disappointment fight for dominance. When she looked at Samir and spoke again, disappointment was the victor. “We have no idea how much work we’ve lost on the project.”


“It shouldn’t be all that bad,” Samir tried to argue. “We still have all the data, we just need to rebuild the lab and—”


“And get another genius scientist with his own matching set of genius assistants?” Teresa interrupted him, and I could see shame flash across Samir’s face. “Duvall had a knack for this. He’s not going to be replaced easily.”


“But he can be replaced,” Samir said, earning a glare from the smaller woman.


“Not without some great effort,” Teresa said before looking back at the flames, watching as cleaning crew in hazmat suits poured out of the far elevator. “Bringing someone up to speed on this would take a lot of time and, frankly, we’d have to get someone who’s a little nuts and is willing to… well, willing to believe a whole load of horseshit.”


“Horseshit, huh,” Samir muttered before rubbing his chin with his thumb and index finger. Clearly he was deep in thought, and it was a few seconds before Teresa looked up at him with a nonverbal question. Cracking an easy smile, he looked down at the woman and positively glowed with appreciation for his own genius. “You know who’s good with horseshit…”


No,” Teresa declared, even turning and setting her foot on the ground. “I’m not bringing him in on this. If that old fool knew we were even trying, he’d get everyone involved. This has to be done in secret, even if we’ve been terrible at keeping those, lately.”


“Hey, it’s not all our fault,” Samir argued, backing away and nodding at the laboratory. “The House is just much better organized than we thought they were. Amin was way more effective than he should have been, especially for just a normal human. They had information they shouldn’t have had, and you know nothing gets out of this complex if I have any say in it.”


“Nothing, huh?” Teresa asked with a small amount of venom, but Samir wasn’t having it. Standing up straighter and earning a few inches, he looked down at his boss and glowered.


Nothing. We made sure that Amin wasn’t able to get any information out of the building. Monitored him strictly. And when it came down to it, I did what I had to,” Samir said, leaning down to seem even more intimidating. “I didn’t want to do that, sweet stuff. I liked the kid.”


“You’re going to want to back away,” Teresa almost snarled, and I thought for a second that this tiny woman was about to jump on a man three times her size, but another burst of fire blew out of the laboratory windows and distracted them.


“What is going on here?” Baum’s voice followed, and I turned to see him approaching from the other end of the hallway. I didn’t know why my handler would be outside of the office, and apparently I wasn’t the only one.


“Bathin? What are you doing on this floor? Who’s watching Ray?” Samir asked, but my demonic warden waved off the question as he slowly approached.


“Fennsler is watching him. Ray is currently drooling off four doses of Lucidity and there is no need for two of us when he is in that state. I am much more curious about an explosion that shook my office from three floors away,” Baum explained, and a yawning pit appeared where my stomach should have been.


Four doses? Four? That was going to turn my brain into congealed fat and grease, and it was almost certainly going to happen. That’s when I knew I needed to leave, that this was going to be one of my last posts in my stupid diary, but I didn’t have much time to really think about it.


My vision of the future continued with no regard to my feelings on the matter.


“Our recruit from the House of Orphans left us another present,” Teresa said, nodding back at the diminishing flames. The hazmat crew had been busy, and it wouldn’t take long before the fire was fully under control. Sighing, Teresa threw out her hip and patted Samir on his elbow. “Same kind of improvised bomb he tried to use on our friend, here.”


“And it only just activated now? How was he able to set up something so sophisticated in a restricted area?” Baum asked, and I had to admit, I was curious. However, Samir and Teresa only shrugged at the question.


“He had more and better ways to do things, apparently. Ways we couldn’t anticipate. We’re going to have to—” Teresa started, but then a shockwave hit and all three of them had to brace themselves against the walls or even the floor beneath them. As they struggled to stay standing, a new set of flames flowed out of the broken laboratory windows, but all three of them were distracted by the alarm that started blaring as secondary power shuttered on.


What was odd was that the alarm started before the ground stopped shaking.


“What happened?” Samir asked, and I looked at him to find that he was speaking to a silver band on his wrist. It only took a second for me to realize that it was a high-end eWatch. Didn’t know what company made it, but then I became almost certain that it was probably created specifically for Samir.


“What’s going on? That’s not the fire alarm,” Teresa asked hurriedly, but Samir just put up his hand as he listed to the man speaking on his watch. I thought that Teresa was going to slap him for it, but eventually he lowered his hand and turned back to them.


“There’s been a breach on the 16th floor,” Samir said before glaring at Baum. “They can’t reach Forneus.”


I would have loved to have seen what happened next, but as soon as Samir said the name, I was back staring at the ceiling of the Zodiac Office.


My initial reaction would have been to lurch forward and gasp in air, but I knew that would only raise suspicions. Instead, I tilted my head back and tried to wipe away the partially-dried drool leading from my mouth to my chin. Used the back of my sweatshirt to do it, too, but that was all part of the act. I couldn’t let them know what I had seen, couldn’t even betray the tone of it. When I finally turned to face Baum, I had to really sell it that I hadn’t just seen him cavorting with his demonic bosses.


Still, when I did turn to face him and I saw him drinking in every detail of me, I had to fight the panic rising from my gut. He was always so eager now, hanging on every detail and hounding me for every piece of information. It’s because he thinks he’s getting something new every time. Thinks that I’m so scared of having my brain taken from me that I’ll give up the information I have.


Or at least I hope so. If he’s somehow playing some sort of meta-game and knows I’m still lying, I’m pretty much screwed. I can trick Fennsler—I might even be able to trick the others—but Baum’s too smart, knows me too well. That, and I know how he’s personally taken care of my unruly predecessors.


So, knowing all that, I was prepared to give Baum quite the story. Even opened up my mouth to speak, but I never had a chance to utter a single word.


As I was looking at Baum, the present fell away, almost pixel by pixel, and was replaced by some demented, corrupted version of the Zodiac Office. The desks were all still in the same place, the bookshelves still lined the walls, the computer monitors were all in their designated areas, but it was tainted. Dark webs of slime were lacquered onto each piece of furniture; when the computer monitors flickered to life, it was flashes of monsters hidden behind the static. Fire leaked from breathing, fleshy openings along the wall, but what scared me… what really scarred me…


It was the creature standing where Fennsler’s desk should have been. It was some greasy, grimy… thing, with tentacles flailing about, wrapping around legs of chairs and tables. I saw one thrust into the ceiling, through and then around the ceiling tiles and frames. I saw the tentacle drag it all down, sending cheap construction material to the charred ground.


But it was the smile. That wide smile filled with rotten teeth, the sucking of its breath as it shuddered forward, flesh rolling in and out of the space between its bones ans any semblance of anatomy forsaken and forgotten. And it approached, its tentacles seemed like broken limbs, flopping about and dragging the creature with it as it smiled and smiled.


I ran. I ran in that vision, clutching something to my chest. Only when I was out the door and halfway down the hallway did I even bother to look at my treasure. It was the book of prophecies. It shined, emitted some powerful essence that centered me, that allowed the fear to flow through me and out of my head. My thoughts cleared as I ran, and by the time I got to the elevator and turned to put my back against its rusted doors, I was really trying to think of some sort of rational escape plan.


The thoughts abandoned me as the blob of flesh lurched out of the doorway and rolled into the opposite wall, its limbs unrolling and its suckers gaining traction on any surface it could find. The entire time as it resumed its shape, the monster continued to leer at me, smile and softly laugh. Sweat and slime rolled off every inch of his skin, let me know who my hunter really was.


This was Fennsler’s true form. This was Forneus.


He did not give me the time I needed. That I now knew who it was did nothing to change my predicament. Instead of slow and fumbling like before, the demon threw itself down the hallway and seemed intent on slamming straight into me. If his tentacles wrapped around me, I would never escape. They had told me what would happen if I tried to steal the book. Now, in the vision, it seemed that Fennsler would punish me for what I had done.


When he launched into the air and spread out his tentacles, all eight of them looking to wrap around my small frame and crush me, I thought briefly that this was a poor way to die. However, my future self did not seem as frightened; as Fennsler dove toward me, I dropped my left arm to the side and… I could feel it change. It felt just like it did when I manipulated the flames; I just had to let the space warp around my willpower, let my energy seep into the world.


But when I brought my hand around in a diagonal up and to the right, it was not flame that followed. Green knives had formed in the air, and I watched with anticipation as they were about to meet one of Fennsler’s many appendages.


Except that I did not get to see it; I was back in the Zodiac Office and looking at an expectant Baum.


Well, for all of half a second. As soon as I was gut-punched back into the present, I promptly fell out of my chair and vomited out a fair dose of last night’s bile. Eating had become a rarity, so it wasn’t like I had anything else to void from my system.


“What did you see?” Baum asked, far too calm for what had just happened, and I looked up from the slush I had left on the ground to find that Baum was still just staring at me. He didn’t seem to care that I had lost the contents of my stomach, or how the smell was already starting to make my eyes water. All he wanted was what I knew, and his demands came before any consideration for common decency.


“Parts of… the end,” I said, lying to him and telling the truth to myself. Because of that, I didn’t even have to sell it. I climbed off of the ground, shakily supporting myself on the armrest of my chair, and eventually shoved my unwilling body back into its embrace. When I swung around the chair to face Baum, I probably looked like I belonged in a concentration camp.


“This segment… the one that looks like a surrealist’s wet dream,” I said before burping, forcing me to fight the next wave of bile that clearly did not want to be in my system anymore. After an honest struggle, I swallowed again and looked at Baum. “Got to see the Apocalypse.”


“You got to see the Apocalypse?” Baum asked, leaning in, and I could tell that it was genuine interest. That was the whole point, after all. These last few passages, the secrets they held. That was the reason the Order existed, so Baum absolutely had to take it seriously.


And since he wanted to believe it, it was easier for me to trick him.


“It’s not… it didn’t feel like what you’d… what you’d expect,” I tried to explain, grinding my palm into my right eye socket. It only made it worse, made me feel like I had put some mucus back in to the fucker, but I wasn’t doing this for personal comfort. “It was… seemed… like just another day.”


“What are you talking about?” Baum asked, and I could tell from his tone that he was a little disturbed by the notion. I decided to play with it, throw him for a loop with something ridiculous.


“For all the absurd stuff going on in the passage, the subtext, it’s what it’s like to be a normal person in those last days. It’s not all… it’s not all fire and brimstone,” I ventured, trying to seem confused. Even laughed, to sell how ridiculous I thought it sounded. “Seems like just a bad war.”


“Like a bad war?”


“Not… like atomic bombs and stuff like that, though I’m pretty sure those happened at some point. Saw some papers, trash on the ground,” I lied, blinking hard and then opening them as wide as I could. Tried to make it seem stressful. “Some notions about fallout and radiation precautions. Things that didn’t work.”


“Go on,” Baum said, and I realize that I would have to play it smarter. He had gone beyond simple surprise to pure analysis, and I wouldn’t last much longer underneath that gaze. I had to end it soon.


Which, obviously, was problematic.


“Seemed like people were getting rounded up. Some were getting executed. Was hard to… was hard to know who was doing it,” I said, breathing out deeply. “Half the time it was just human cruelty, but the scene would switch on me and it would be someone more… more…”


“More what?”


“More demonic, okay?” I snapped back at him, dropping my head so I could hold it up with my hands, stare at the vomit curdling on the floor. “It looked like Hell on Earth, I just don’t who or what started it.”


“You don’t know?”


“No, I don’t!” I shouted, putting more emotion into it than I intended, but I had to keep it up. I just stared at Baum and shook my head, breaking eye contact as I appeared to sink back into the memories. “It wasn’t one of Räum’s memories; it was a pure vision. I didn’t get the mercy of context, Baum, I just got to see… got to see suffering.”


“That’s all?” he asked, and I tried to give him as mean a glare as I could muster.


“Yeah, that’s all there fucking was, Baum. All I got to see was mass murder and cruelty,” I said before turning back to my desk and burying my head in my hand. “Mass murder flits about in my head and all I want is a damn drink to get rid of it all.”


“That’s—”


“It’s the smell that really hit me. I’m about to throw up again just because of it,” I interrupted Baum, shaking my head in disbelief and really forcing the point home. I wanted to make it seem like I was sharing every detail, just so that he would want me to shut up.


Didn’t seem to work.


“Please don’t. We’ll get a custodian in for this, but we can’t make a habit of it. Just take your time and start the next section,” Baum replied as he started to look back at his monitor, but I had no intention of letting that happen.


“No,” I said, causing my warden to snap his gaze back at me.


“Do I need to tell you the consequences of that action?” he asked, but I was ready for him.


“I don’t care, Baum; I really don’t. What I just saw? I need some time to recover from that,” I said, and my handler shifted in his seat and looked like he was about to argue, which I had been counting on. I slapped my desk and pointed at him just to look more hostile. “I’m serious.”


“Ray, what you’re doing is more important tha—”


“What’s important, Baum, is that I do it right. Just reading through the prophecies and giving you half-accurate information isn’t going to help you, and I’m more than fucking certain that if I keep working like this, I’m not going to be any use to you,” I argued, raising my voice to seem even more frustrated. “I just saw people getting decapitated, people getting torn apart by barbed wire, children forced to kill their parents, and I just can’t handle that right now.”


“You saw demons doing all of this?” he asked—even going so far as to raise an eyebrow at me—but that’s when I jumped up, across my pile of aging puke, and slammed both my hands onto his desk.


“I didn’t say that was the demons,” I spat out, almost sending real saliva into the air, but luckily I was able to rein it back in. “The Apocalypse isn’t going to happen tomorrow—I’m certain of that—and there’s only a handful of prophecies left.”


“Which makes it all the more important that we know as soon as possible,” Baum argued, but I shook my head, stood up and gave my best attempt at good posture.


“But that’s not nearly as important as getting it done right. I don’t understand why I have to repeat the point,” I said, crossing my arms and looking back at Fennsler. While I was standing there, I slouched just a little bit, breathed out just a little bit. I wanted to make it seem like I had become softer in just that moment. “It’s almost done, Baum. I don’t want to burn out when I’m this… I want to try to stay just… just a little sane.”


“Ray…”


“I’ll dive right in tomorrow, Baum. I just need… I just need a little time to myself before the end,” I said, turning to face my warden with tears in my eyes. In the past, it might have been difficult to fake tears, but I now have so many tragic memories that it’s become easy.


How’s that for a bright side?


“I… fine,” Baum concluded with a sigh, turning to Fennsler with a dejected nod. Once it was clear that the fat man understood, Baum looked back at me with disdain. “Take the rest of the day, but we’ll have to work harder tomorrow to make up for ending early.”


“Thanks, Baum,” I said before walking over to my computer and initiating the shutdown. After turning off the machine, I shoved my hands in my pockets and stepped around my now-cold vomit. “Sorry about the mess…”


“It’s alright, Ray,” he replied, and I started to walk out of the office, confident that I had gotten away with everything. However, Baum cleared his throat and I turned to see him looking at me out of the corner of his eye. “I just hope you know that in order to work harder, we’ll be forced to rely on Lucidity again.”


“I—”


“You could avoid that by finishing out the rest of this shift,” he suggested, and I realized that it was a bluff. It was all just to see if I was faking my reticence, if this was a ploy or if I had seen something truly disturbing. Once again, Baum had found the chink in my armor; he had found a way to make me waver.


This time, however, I did not give him the satisfaction.


“Lesser of two evils,” I muttered as I massaged my temple with my hand. After an exasperated sigh, I turned to him with a shrug. “I’ll guess we’ll see how the Lucidity works out tomorrow.”


“I guess so,” Baum murmured before turning back to his screen and propping his chin up on his left hand. I left the demon to his devices and walked away from the office, making sure not to betray myself as I approached the elevator, waited for it, did everything I could to just seem sick as I made my way to my room.


In my head, though, that was a whole different situation. All I saw was the future playing out over and over again in my head. It won’t be long now; I would be very surprised if every single event I saw today won’t happen tomorrow, so I’ve been panicking about what it all means. I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to do, what I need to learn before the end, to make sure that I get out of here in one piece and finally figure out what all this means.


If I’m going to make a move, it’s gonna have to be tomorrow, and, unfortunately, it looks like I’m going to be drugged the entire time. That’s what Baum promised, that’s what he said in that vision with Samir and Teresa and… well, I should think that it goes without saying that cephalopod monstrosity in the second vision is going to be a direct result of that. I don’t care how demonic Baum and Fennsler are; they can’t bring Hell with them. What I saw, it’s going to be because of the Lucidity.


That by itself is a small sort of victory, knowing that it’s there because of the drugs they’re going to put in my system, but it still looked genuinely terrifying. Especially since I don’t know what happens, every one of those scenes cut out in the middle. What’s the use of seeing the future if I don’t fucking know what’s going to happen?


Fuck, it’s really sinking in now. Whatever the end is, if I live or die, it’s… it’s all tomorrow. My fate is tomorrow; no choice about it. Räum’s been leading up to it for almost a thousand years, picking apart the timelines, and now it’s up to me to make sure I don’t fuck it up.


But I still haven’t read the last passages. I still don’t know what they mean. I still don’t know all the clues Räum left for us, for me, and I don’t know if I stand a chance without them.


And that’s not even talking about the 616 issue. It was supposed to be all over these prophecies, it was supposed to be the key for me to figure out the end of this fucking carousel of demons and future certainties, but I don’t have one fucking clue about what it means yet. It has to be in the last passage, I’m certain of that, but I can’t translate that here. As soon as I do, they’ll never let me go, they’ll never let me achieve the goals that Räum/I set out for myself.


So, just to achieve my purpose, find out the last prophecy, I’m going to have to steal a book, avoid at least three demons—probably four—and I’m going to have to do all this while they have the financial backing and clout of a multi-national conglomerate.


Right now, I have no clue why 616 brought me here, and there is a distinct possibility that I will never know.




Still beats the Hell out of being an accountant, though, right?




Shit.


Guys, I don’t want to die.


I… I really don’t want to die.




Here’s… to hoping, I guess.


-Ray, perhaps… the last time.



END OF ENTRY

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Here's to hoping Ray can get out in one peace. Climax of the book goes up tomorrow!