November 14th, 2019
Those fuckers… those fuckers made me take Lucidity. Just like I thought they would.
Luckily, they don’t know who they’re playing against.
Samir wasn’t even the one who did it. I just came in one day, sat at my computer terminal, and then Baum was suddenly standing over me with his hand in front of him.
In his palm was a little, blue piece of paper.
“What is that?” I asked, but I knew exactly what it was. I’d seen what standard Lucidity looked like. Old-school Escape looked like your everyday LSD, meaning that it was whatever you wanted it to look like. The best stuff—the original stuff—had a green infinity symbol on each tab. The pretenders would have whatever decal they’d want, but you knew you were probably getting the real thing once you saw the infinity symbol.
Lucidity and Clarity, on the other hand, were usually just plain; colored blue and pink, respectively. It was because of the chemical compound, whatever it was, and so whoever produced it simplified the whole ordeal by using colored stock. The plainness of it really drove the point home that Catalytics was responsible, so it really wasn’t a surprise when Samir was talking about it last week.
So even though I played dumb, I knew exactly what they were about to force on me.
“This is Lucidity,” Baum started, nodding at his hand and trying to get me to take it without a fight. I did not, so he continued. “It’ll help you focus on the dreams you have, but it should also help with getting you into the right… well, state of mind, we’ll say.”
“So it’s a drug?” I asked, at which point Baum actually sneered at me.
“Ray, you’re smarter than that and we both know it. You probably even knew it was Lucidity,” he said before grabbing my hand from the table and then placing the blue tab on my palm. “Don’t forget, you wrote about it on the blog. No use in playing dumb, anymore.”
“What if I don’t want to take it?” I asked, my skepticism filtering in even though I didn’t want it. At most, I just wanted to play at resistance, but Baum could tell.
“You can guess, Ray. I’m sure you wouldn’t be too far off,” Baum said before turning around and heading back to his desk. I watched him as he did, only taking a second to glance at Fennsler, busy reading his magazines as always.
“Do you really need me to take this, Baum? I thought I was making progress,” I said, not expecting Fennsler to chime in on our moment.
“Not enough, Ray, especially after we’ve lost a seer. You have to work for both of you, now,” the fat man said, and I secretly agreed with him. I was more than willing to pick up where Amin left off.
However, this was the first time either one of my handlers admitted to his “demotion,” so I knew I had to pursue it.
“What about Amin? Is he coming back?” I asked, though I didn’t ask to know. I just had to play the part. I had to seem like I didn’t know what was going on; that I didn’t know Samir had murdered him.
Luckily, it paid off. Baum immediately glared at Fennsler and I could swear his pupils turned to slits again. Once Baum turned back to me and they were normal, I realized that Samir might not be the only demonic warden in my prison, but I couldn’t dwell on that. Playing the fool was working for me so far, so I kept up the act.
“That’s unlikely, Ray,” Baum answered after he composed himself. “The content of these prophecies can burn out the seers, and Amin unfortunately wasn’t prepared. He’s been transferred to a different complex in Washington and will help from there. I’m afraid you’re alone for now, unless we can find another.”
“And can that happen?” I asked, genuinely interested, but Baum’s hesitation was the only answer I needed.
“I wouldn’t hope for it, Ray,” Baum replied softly before looking down at his computer screen. However, he apparently wasn’t done speaking. “Go ahead and set the tab on your tongue, Ray. Might as well get started.”
“I—I’m not sure I’m comfortable with taking Lucidity,” I said, even tried to seem weak and scared with my tone, but it didn’t make a difference. Fennsler grunted and I turned to see him staring over the top of a US Weekly.
“Your comfort isn’t much of a priority, Ray,” he said, earning another glare from Baum. With that look I thought that maybe he was on my side, but eventually Baum turned back to face me. He was stoic, at best.
“Please take it, Ray. It won’t hurt you, and we need to see what kind of effect it will have on you,” he said before sighing. “I’m afraid that Samir won’t abandon the idea until you try it. At least once.”
“At least once, Ray,” Baum repeated, firm, and that was his last word on the subject. When he turned his attention back to his monitor, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before they would physically force the paper onto my tongue. What kindness they possessed would not help me then.
So I put the piece of paper on my tongue and passed the time waiting for it to take effect by reading demonic translations.
For the first half hour: nothing. I didn’t see a thing; I didn’t make any connections I wouldn’t make otherwise. The text was just as difficult to translate. Only a few words popped out at me and made me think there was a clue. I know Lucidity isn’t like the others; it doesn’t hit you in the face like Escape or make everything clear like Clarity. It’s subtle, usually only affecting dreams and other… spiritual kinds of experiences.
However, sitting in the Zodiac Office, it was just like it had been the day before, the day before that, even a week ago. I really had hit a plateau, and I could understand why Baum forced me into this. We were making progress for a bit, but once Amin left I hit a wall. Half of that was absolutely intentional, but the other half? I could read the text, sorta, and I knew there was more under the surface, but it hadn’t gotten any more sophisticated than that.
After that first half hour, though, things really started to change. For a few seconds, I stared at the fluorescents above me and could feel them pulsing. At first I thought it was just a bad bulb—that it wouldn’t be long before one of the bars flickered and went out—but then I realized it wasn’t the lights themselves. I could feel the air, feel something in it, and it didn’t take me long to understand that the Lucidity was responsible. I got excited by that—even though I was taking a drug I didn’t want—so I looked back at the prophecies and thought that maybe I’d see all the secrets throughout.
Except it looked exactly the same.
Disappointed, I looked at my handlers and realized they were pulsing with the same kind of… God, I don’t know how to describe it without sounding like some Nu-Age witch doctor. Fuck it, it felt like an aura. Like their souls or their energy was wrapped around them like some personal atmosphere. I’m gonna go with energy, since the lights above my head were still buzzing with that same feeling.
The odd part, what I didn’t expect from the experience, is that whatever aura or whatever it is that came from Baum and Fennsler didn’t feel… sinister, I guess. After what I’ve seen from Baum and what I know, I would have thought there would be something evil about them. They’ve probably killed people, themselves; I really wouldn’t put it past them.
But when I looked at them—out of my periphery so they wouldn’t notice, of course—when I looked at them, they just seemed… normal. While I was pretending to read the translations—an interesting bit about Castor and Pollux I would have found interesting at a different time—I looked at my own hands and realized I had one of those same auras. If I focused on my right hand, I could see that the energy twist and mold itself to whatever I wanted. Yeah, it sounds like hallucinogenic wish-fulfillment when I write it here, but… I dunno. The more I played with it, the more it seemed like it was a real thing.
And since I seriously think demons exist these days, why not?
After a while, though, I stopped playing with my aura or what it could mean. If I spent more time on it and didn’t actually read anything, I’m pretty sure that would have gotten Baum’s attention and that was the last thing I wanted. So I went back to the translation of Castor and Pollux, reading the story about how one of them died.
Except it was different than the version I knew. If you didn’t know, Castor and Pollux are twin sons of Zeus, but only Pollux was immortal, though his mortality changes depending on who’s telling the myth. As far as their death, what I’d always read in classes and then on my own was that Castor was killed during a dispute over cattle, and that Pollux shared his immortality with him and they traded places on Olympus and in Hades.
In the prophecy version, though? They’re both immortal and they aren’t messing with cattle. They’re arguing back and forth, and only about halfway through does it really provide any context. In order to stop a war, Castor is willing to sacrifice his immortality—has already made plans to do so—and Pollux is trying to argue against him. The annotations say it’s about the American Civil War, but I don’t have a clue if that’s right. Considering that I’m about to start lying like crazy to my handlers, I’m not sure the other seers were telling the truth, either.
When I finished reading the translation, I felt positively odd. I’m not sure what was going on; I couldn’t really understand or even notice that my aura was fluctuating. It’s only in hindsight that I even caught a glimpse of it. All I know is that I flitted over to the menu and clicked on the raw text, hoping that I might be able to find some of those hidden symbols and words now.
I didn’t. Instead, my consciousness was shunted into a conversation with a very angry man that had a raven’s head and canine teeth lining his beak.
“You don’t owe them this!” the raven screamed, the feathers on his neck ruffling and standing straight out against the backdrop of a candlelit room, and I knew in that moment that this was Amon, that I was hearing him for real, for the first time. He sounded different than I thought he would; even as he screamed his voice was clear and his enunciation was distinct. It sounded familiar instantaneously, but I realized later that was only because this was another person’s memory, and I was inside their thoughts.
“We both owe them this, Brother, even if I am the only one willing to pay that price,” a calm voice answered him, making it very obvious that I was looking through Räum’s eyes, that this was the scene I had watched before but had never understood. Although I could do nothing in this memory, I made sure to capture every detail I could and memorize it.
It wasn’t necessary. After it ended, the memory was burned into my brain.
“Both of us? What madness you speak of,” Amon spat out before turning away and pacing to the other side of the small room. It wasn’t any bigger than the Zodiac Office, but there were heaps of scrolls in three of the four corners, and all the shelves were filled with more of the same. Other than the shelves and their contents, there wasn’t much of anything else in the room. Just a plain, wooden table and four uncomfortable chairs.
“It may be madness, Amon, but it is the right course of action. After what I’ve seen, I cannot allow the future to play out any other way,” Räum said, and I was surprised at how calm he was. Already I knew that the seer was aware he was going to die; this was just before he gave the last prophecies to Lucifer. But I didn’t know because of anything I’d seen; it was something I felt.
In that memory, I was Räum once more, and I was already at peace with my demise.
“This future is not one I would want, Brother,” Amon growled at the other end of the room, his canine aspects becoming a little more prominent as drool collected at the bottom of his gums. “Neither of us should leave this mortal coil, we are far too important. We hold the information of the universe in our hands! How could you throw that away?” he shouted, sweeping his right wing across his body.
“We hold the potential truths, Amon, nothing more. And the truth that I have seen is… detrimental to this world. To the creatures living in it. Do you not remember why we were exiled to Hell in the first place? Do you not recall how we stood up and fought for them? This world is not ours, Brother, and we should not pretend to know its secrets and rule from the shadows.”
“Do you even listen to yourself?” Amon shrieked, his feathers standing on end as he asked the question. “It is not pretend. It is not some mistake or fluke. We can see the future. Between the two of us we know almost every outcome, every change to the timeline and the nuances they bring. Our powers are only so useful when we are separate and you know this.”
“Amon, my power means nothing to me if I cannot accomplish what I know is the right action,” Räum argued, but his brother jumped onto the table and flapped his wings, sending a gust of wind that scattered scrolls throughout the room.
“And by your supposedly useful sacrifice, you doom me to obscurity and obsolescence!” Amon replied, dragging three razor-sharp talons along the surface of the table, even going so far as to puff out his chest in dominance. Inside Räum’s mind, I could feel him internally scolding his brother for such animalistic behavior.
“Brother, I love you,” Räum said before looking away, forcing me to look away with him. When he looked back up at the demon on their shared table, I could feel the sorrow spreading through his every fiber. “However, your loss, your inability to use your powers effectively when I am gone? That means nothing in the face of my decision.”
“Means nothing…” Amon muttered, staring down at his brother as he abandoned his position on the table, hopping to the ground and collecting himself before he continued. “It means nothing that I would lose my efficiency, that I would no longer be able to correctly choose the correct future. No, not when it comes to the animals and to Lucifer’s ploy.”
“Please don’t speak of it like that,” I argued—my consciousness had blended in at that point—but I could tell that Amon had no intention of respecting my wishes.
“Oh, you cannot stop me, Brother,” he said, almost gagging on the word. “You can make your decision, but you cannot ask me to respect it. You cannot expect me to go along with this insipid plan, for you to join our weak brothers and succumb to the beast inside you. You cannot possibly expect me to ever support your death, however meaningful you think it will be.”
“And you certainly should not expect me to think highly of this plan,” he interrupted, forcing me to swallow down my conciliations. “To give your power—your… immense strength—to the humans. The humans… of all the creatures on Adonai’s pet project... Not only would you dismantle your soul, you would give the—you would give the greater portion to—to him.”
“He would make the best use of it, Brother. He would change this world, if given the chance,” I explained, but Amon let out a yelp of laughter, shook his head and slapped his wing against the wall before grabbing a nearby shelf and tipping it over, toppling it on top of hundreds of largely-useless prophecies. Thinking as Räum, I knew they were far outdated.
“I care not for his change! I care not for what a human may accomplish, no matter what portion of your strength you choose to give him! If given the chance, I will thwart whatever plans and whatever destiny you have decided!” Amon shouted, and I knew that it was not entirely selfless. Amon did care about me, well, about Räum; this was not just because he would be less powerful. However, I knew that his love for me… Räum… I knew that was not his ultimate priority. At his heart, Amon could not be anything but selfish and self-obsessed; because of that, Räum had a thought that surprised me out of sharing his mind.
He knew, even then, especially then, that they would be rejoined eventually. That Amon could never succeed against Räum’s chosen heir.
“I am sorry, Brother. I had hoped that we could have reached an understanding before the end,” Räum said, turning and forcing me to turn my back on Amon. I thought that maybe there would be another exchange—some sort of bittersweet farewell—but the vision ended just as soon as Räum touched the door handle with his dark feathers. The last thing I felt was the overwhelming sadness, the certain feeling of doom.
At the same time, however, I knew that everything hinged upon my sacrifice.
When the vision stopped, I was back in the Zodiac Office. As soon as I took in a sharp breath—remembered that I was human and needed air—I realized that the Lucidity had definitely worked. I had been back there in Hell, having a conversation I had only half-remembered beforehand. At once, I looked at the clock on my computer monitor, pretty certain that it would still be the same time as when I “left.” After all, it was practically instantaneous the last time.
Except this time… it was ten minutes later.
I was afraid, knew that I was probably about to stumble over myself into something with a lot of pointy edges, but I had to know. I looked first at Fennsler just to see if I had caught his attention, but the fat man was still flipping through the pages of his magazine. I let out the slightest breath of relief, but I knew that Fennsler was going to be the easy victory. Warily, slowly, I turned my neck just enough so I could look at Baum out of the corner of my eye.
He was smiling at me; I never had a chance.
“Want to share with the rest of the class?” Baum asked, calm as could be. The bastard knew that I had gone somewhere; I was probably sitting comatose in my chair and I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been crumpled-up pieces of paper all around me because Fennsler was bored and wanted to play a game. I felt like an absolute idiot, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do about all this.
Still, I had to say something. Baum wasn’t going to let me get away without a fight.
“I remembered… I remembered…” I paused, doing everything I could to stall for time. For the very shortest amount of time, I thought about telling the truth. They already know I’m connected to Räum; it really wouldn’t hurt me too much if they knew a little more about that.
But it was only for the very shortest amount of time, remember? I almost immediately knew that confessing was a bad call and desperately tried to think up another plausible scenario. I thought about going back to the conversation with Lucifer, trying to find some other hellish substitute, but I kept shooting down ideas as Baum stared me down. He was positively famished for a story, and I couldn’t give him one he had already tasted.
So I made one up.
“Well, I,” I hesitated again, hoping that if I acted spacey enough that it would fit in with the whole “Lucidity for the first time” aspect. When I spoke again, I tried to look at him but not make eye contact.
On purpose, of course.
“I was a teenager again,” I said, biting my lip and chuckling from mock embarrassment. “Midway through reading an annotation I gave up and started daydreaming, and all of a sudden I was in an old wet dream, and not one that really went in my favor.”
“Really?” Baum asked, his voice lower than normal, but I tried to sell it. I turned back to him and rubbed the back of my neck and tried to seem as mortified as I could.
“Y—yeah… I wasn’t even really part of it. It was one of my friends and he was hooking up with one of my childhood crushes. And they just kept… going at it. They even changed costumes a few times, which was new. God, midway through, clown makeup just appeared on them and it didn’t go away,” I said, looking at him like I had seen something tragic. “It wasn’t just on their faces, either.”
“That’s what you saw?” Baum asked, and I could positively feel the skepticism flowing from him.
“I wish I hadn’t. Fuck, I think I repressed ninety percent of it, but now it feels like that’s what happened way back then. Andrew was just going full force like he was gonna die otherwise, but I could tell that he felt really bad about it,” I added, looking into the middle distance with disgust. “The worst part of it all was that she wasn’t even attractive.”
“God no, I had really low standards back then. And God, when it went into the clown motif her boobs just got… you know the long, thin balloons, right?” I asked, hoping that it would cause Baum to get embarrassed or… something. I don’t know, I was desperate and Baum was the serious type.
I felt like it was a small victory when he shook his head and sat back in his chair with a shudder.
“Alright then. That doesn’t sound pleasant,” he said, sighing as he looked back at me with disappointment. “We can call it a day, then. We’ll try again, but I doubt you would get much quality work done with that hanging around in your head.”
“R—really? I could keep going,” I suggested, but I was trailing off like I really would like to stop. Luckily, Baum shook his head.
“No, there’s no real point in continuing. Take a break, Ray,” he said before breaking eye contact and getting back to his own task. I stood up and tried not to seem too happy about it, but I wanted to get back to my solitude and away from them as soon as I could. I was almost at the door when Baum cleared his throat and I turned to face him.
He was staring at me hard out of the corner of his eye, his expression cold, and I distinctly felt something other than human in that moment.
“You know if you lie to us that the punishment will be severe,” Baum said, and I almost replied “yes” to the question, but then I realized it wasn’t a question. This was a statement of fact, and from all appearances, Baum was certain that I had lied to him.
But I couldn’t cave on him then.
“Yeah, I figured. Trust me, I wish I was lying,” I said, shuddering as I walked across the threshold and knocking on the doorframe twice. “Later guys. Hopefully next time I’ll see something worthwhile.”
I didn’t check to see if they believed me; I knew Baum didn’t. At the same time, I don’t know how far that will go. I don’t know if he’ll check up on me; I don’t know if there will be any repercussions.
All I know is that, for all my great and numerous efforts, playing dumb was not going to be the best tactic anymore.
Fucking Hell. I’m in way over my head. I don’t even know how to process what just happened to me. With the way Räum and Amon were talking I… don’t know what’s going on. There is so much happening right now, and then this curveball comes at me and I’m definitely not prepared for it. I mean, with everything going on, it’s totally possible, but… I don’t know if I can wrap my head around this one. I thought I was just connected to Räum, that I had just become some accidental child of destiny…
I… guys, I’m really leaning toward the theory that I might be Räum, and that should scare me.
But it doesn’t.
END OF ENTRY
There's Raum and Amon for you. If you've read my Forsaken Comedy, they should sound really familiar. Next entry goes up on the 19th!