The 616 Diaries: Entry 31 by Kevin Kauffmann
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November 19th, 2019

It wasn’t a fluke. It happened again. Well, two things happened. One of those times I didn’t even take Lucidity.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’m still… getting used to the idea that I might be Räum, or some reincarnation of him. From what I saw of that conversation between him and Amon, I really just don’t have any doubt about that. I don’t know how far it goes, whether I’m one of those shattered fragments Amon mentioned or if I’m the big-shot who got everything from Räum; there’s no real way to know. All I have are these infernal hints, but there’s at least some part of the Crow hanging around in my head. It has to be. I couldn’t be thrown back into his past like this without having some memories for the Lucidity to reconstitute.

Or that’s how I’ve rationalized the whole thing. I can’t even really get started on how things have changed since that first dose; what I’ve been seeing in my dreams, in my waking thoughts, what is popping out between the lines for all the raw passages.

I’ve started to give Baum and Fennsler what they want, or what I think they want. It’s all misdirection right now; I can’t trust them with how much the drugs have affected me. If they knew, Jesus, I really don’t know what would happen if they knew. All I know is that I couldn’t get away with giving them nothing, by giving them stale rehashes of Penthouse scenarios and skin flicks with my certain flair for the imaginative and embarrassing. Eventually I would have to give them something, show them that the part of Räum in me is starting to have a presence.

So I’ve been going back through the old passages. I’ve been seeing the lines and the symbols, everything that was so dense and impossible to comprehend just a few weeks ago. But that was before the Lucidity. Now? Now when I read the passages, it’s like English. I know the words, I know the subtext; I can tell when Räum was trying to be poetic or just downright esoteric. It’s not new information—it’s really just proved to me that the seers weren’t initially lying to the Order—but it’s what I can give to Baum and Fennsler safely. If I keep regurgitating that information, it buys me time.

Time I can use to look further into the prophecies and find out what the Order is really looking for.

Thing is, I have no clue what that could even be. I’ve been looking through the prophecies from Räum’s second batch—trying to see if the seers before me had been goodie-two-shoes and actually deciphered it correctly—and that kinda seems to be the case. I’ve only gone over four of the passages and most of the annotations—scattered as they are—seem to be on the level. The only odd one was that passage about Castor and Pollux, how it foretold the Civil War.

It wasn’t the Civil War. It was the American Revolution. I wasn’t sure why the seer who had written that one down did that—the notes only said that it was a R. Davies—but I think he was suspicious about the Order, as well. I don’t think it was a mistake. For him to have gotten this far into the text means that he could probably see like I could, but I really don’t know. I only hit this next level—fucking fluency in a demonic language—by having experimental and illegal hallucinogens forced into my system. I’m not sure how much mysticism can be granted from chemicals, but I have no doubt that what I’m seeing is beyond some casual trickery on the brain.

What’s odd is that… well, I don’t think the messages that Räum left for the seers—the people who would inherit his soul, apparently—I don’t think they were meant to give secret clues between the lines of text. I’m actually pretty much certain that it was all a façade to fool organizations like the Order, or even the House of Orphans. It’s all a ruse, designed to attract the kind of people… the kind of people like me. People who would jump at the chance to abandon their former lives, the kind of people who would throw away a relationship that made them happy or friends or family who were supposed to matter.

Because the people like me? The people who have pieces of a demon inside them? I don’t think we have much of a choice in the matter. This was all created by design, by an illusive entity who was able to read the future and warp entire timelines. Part of him was placed in the people like me—maybe… all of him—so that we would have no real connection to the human world, that we would be attracted to the prospect of finding out what made us different.

And I’m guessing that since most of die because of it, 616 may have just been a glorified bug-zapper.

Though that wasn’t the intention. I know it wasn’t. Räum didn’t set all this up just so his descendents or reincarnations would fail. We make it here, make it back to the prophecies exactly how he predicted, or, well, I have faith that that’s the case. I have to. Otherwise, I would have to face the possibility that I could die scared and in the dark like Amin and have nothing to show for it. If I have demonic blood coursing through me, I’m going to put up a better fight. I’m going to use the prophecies like Räum wanted me to. Though I guess that’s just a gut feeling.

Well, that and I saw another scene because of reading the raw text.

This time it was a straight-up butchering of Faust. The original “deal with the devil” guy. Honestly, when I tried to read the actual text, I had to roll my eyes a couple times. It was a primitive translation of the story; missing a lot of the nuance, a lot of the flavor that really went into the final form. Only after reading it a third time did I realize that this version actually predated all the folk tales, especially Goethe’s version, which is what I consider to be the most complete Faust. For being five centuries too early, Räum didn’t do too bad.

But it was all after the fact that I realized any part of that revelation. Once I read the first odd symbol, which I read as “fate” but, strangely, felt like it meant “choice,” I wasn’t reading about Faust anymore. I was in a room, dusty with dim overhead lighting, and I felt this odd recollection; this was my space, my favorite, lonely spot. This was where I could work in solitude, half-buried by a mountain of binders and stacks of papers; surrounded by metal filing cabinets that couldn’t close because of the extra carbon fiber stuffed into each folder. A distinct layer of grime and dust hung in the air along with the ghost of a stale cigarette drifting to the ceiling. I was at my desk, what felt like my desk, but there was no computer. Just heaps of scratch paper crumpled up into little, yellow balls, a half-used notepad, and an ancient, leather-bound book that I had only seen in pictures.

From the look of it, this was not Hell; this looked like an office from the 60s.

“You knew what this was,” a voice came from behind me, but my host did not turn to look at him. He didn’t need to. I had heard his voice so many times before; it would have been foolish to think it was anyone else.

When Baum rounded the desk and sat opposite my… vessel, he looked exactly as I remembered. The only difference was his suit; the tan, rough-looking material had been upgraded by my time. If I hadn’t already had a hunch about him being a monster, his ability to withstand that suit would have cinched it.

“I did not, Peter,” my vessel spoke, his tone clipped, resolute in whatever he had decided. I couldn’t quite reach his thoughts, couldn’t fully become him like I had with Räum. Instead, I just watched through his eyes as Baum looked him over.

“You don’t want to call me by that name,” Baum replied, slowly, making sure the man knew the implications. It was an observation meant to speed this along, whatever it was.

“No, but it was the name you gave me when we first met. Well, excuse me,” my vessel said as he leaned back, placing his hands over his midsection. “The name you gave me this time around.”

My host was white, older, perhaps in his 50s. That’s all I could really tell from the wrinkles along his hands, the puckering of his skin around his knuckles, the croak to his voice. That I couldn’t dive into this man’s brain was starting to affect me, frustrate me, and I was grasping at whatever information I could.

Soon, however, I had to surrender to the scene taking place.

“So you’ve figured that out, then?” Baum asked, earning a dry laugh from this stranger.

“It wasn’t that difficult, Bathin,” my host said, the name seemingly scalding his mouth, the way he spat it out. Baum recoiled from the word; it obviously affected him. However, it did not stop him from recovering his poise and crossing his legs in front of him.

“Randall Davies,” Baum murmured, chuckling before looking back at his audience. “I did not expect you to progress so quickly.”

“Did you? Back when you first approached me, you made it seem like I had the right stuff. You and your friends made it seem like I was the answer to all your questions,” the old man replied, his tone betraying his disappointment. I could tell that Randall felt like this was a wasted opportunity—that he didn’t want to do whatever was coming next—but I could also feel that… that weight. That weight that he was merely following the instructions laid out before him; that he was backed into a corner and he had to keep everything to a script.

It felt very much like that conversation I witnessed and then eventually had with Andrew way back when. Like… I had to reenact it in order to maintain the timeline and make sure I wasn’t responsible for a paradox.

“You were the answer to a question, Randall, and we have been very satisfied with you,” Baum said before inspecting the nails of his left hand and scraping away dirt from underneath a fingernail. “Until now, obviously.”

“And what’s changed about now? I can guess, but I’ve been working with the assumption that you’d be courteous enough to tell me. Thought you might be man enough for that,” Randall replied. Although his voice was rock solid, I could feel the fear nipping at him. He knew. He had to have known.

“Man enough… you have an odd way of mixing up themes, Randall,” Baum replied, sighing out the last words as he set his hand on his knee. “Do you expect a man’s respect from someone like me?”

“No, I guess not,” my vessel replied with a slow shake of his head. Leaning forward onto his elbows, Randall plucked a still-smoking cigarette from the ashtray to his left. He brought it to his lips, pulled in a burning lungful of tar and poison, but it wasn’t the nicotine he was looking for. He wanted to feel that pain, to remember a different time. When he blew out the smoke, he stared Baum right in the eye.

“I’m expecting a different kind of respect,” Randall said, pushing and grinding the end of the cigarette into the ashtray as a sort of punctuation. “Maybe not as equals, but you know what I’m talking about.”

“I’m sure I do,” Baum replied, interlacing his fingers and setting his hands onto the shin of his raised leg. There was a moment of thought—a moment where he wavered—but Baum eventually responded in his usual, direct fashion. “You’ve been writing… poor annotations.”

“Yeah, how do you figure?” Randall asked, but Baum looked at him and his eyes turned to slits. Not imaginary this time; they were positively reptilian.

“I have shown you respect, Randall. I expect it in kind. Be truthful, at least in this moment,” Baum said, and it chilled my blood even though I didn’t have any. Randall balked as well, but he recovered quickly. He had been expecting this.

“Is that what this is, Bathin? This is respect?” Randall replied, lifting one of his arms so he could prop his chin up. “You give me all these promises, you tell me all this bullshit about helping my country, helping my family… but it was never about that. You want me to tell you what’s in this book,” he said, tapping the leather-bound tome on his desk and causing an anxious twitch along Baum’s cheek.

“That’s what you were paid to do, Randall. That is why we recruited you,” Baum said, but my vessel chuckled and I could feel the skin of his midsection rolling with laughter.

It wasn’t pleasant.

“You don’t even know what’s in here, Bathin. You don’t even know the lies between the sentences, or what it says about us, about you, about any of the others. You don’t know what it says about the future or if there even is one,” Randall explained, tilting his neck so he could look at the tiling on the ceiling. The light above him illuminated every mote of dust hanging in the air between him and that likely-Asbestos-lined ceiling. All that dirt, all that filth between him and the light; I could feel it clinging to his skin, his hopes and dreams.

He knew he would never see the light again. This tarnished, dismal view was the best he was going to get.

“What is the point of all this, Randall?” Baum asked, impatiently, which I had never heard from him. It was enough that Randall looked back down and watched his caretaker for the next reaction.

“Räum wanted this to be a secret, Bathin. If I’m a seer—if that makes me, let’s say… attached to him—why do you think I would help? Wouldn’t it be my number one priority to make sure you trip all over yourself?” Randall asked, and I could see how it changed Baum’s stare. It was no longer academic interest or even impatience; there was murder in those eyes.

“Do I need to remind you the consequences of your actions? There is no running, and even if you did, we would reach… the finish line, before you ever could. You know what happens to your family if you try to run, Randall,” Baum threatened, his words coming faster the more he spoke, but it didn’t seem to affect the seer.

“I never intended to run, Bathin. I was never supposed to,” Randall said, and then everything went sideways. My vessel immediately grabbed the book in front of him and stood up, Baum mirroring him. The way our warden was standing on the other side of the desk, it seemed like Baum had grown a foot, his arms looked like they could wring my neck from all the way over there. I almost thought he was going to hiss and snap at Randall, but then something crazy happened. Randall threw the book of prophecies at Baum, which forced him to catch it awkwardly while he was mid-strike.

And just after that, Randall focused on the energy surrounding his hand and it erupted into green flames. If he had thrown it then and bathed my handler in a green inferno, the scene may have taken a very different turn.

But Randall just stood there with flames licking at his fingers.

“What? I thought all you jokers liked fire,” Randall said before he tried to throw a spout of flames at Baum, but the tall man somehow ducked and slinked out of the way. I thought at first that he was just more graceful than I had thought; that it was just one of those surprising movements I wouldn’t expect from such a lanky and gangly individual.

Then he struck, and I realized that it was not grace. From five feet away, Baum dived forward with his torso, which extended and allowed him to close the distance and wrap his arms around Randall’s ample midsection.

“What? How?” Randall asked, his voice already weak; his lungs couldn’t take in new air. Because I was stuck in his perspective, I couldn’t see what Baum had done, but soon his long face was filling my vision, and what I saw terrified me. It was still his face, the high cheekbones, the long chin and nose, but his eyes were permanently slits, his eyes were gold and green.

And when his double-forked tongue flickered from between his lips, when he opened up his mouth and his canines had been transformed to two-inch long fangs, that’s when I had no doubt that Baum was a monster.

“You know how, Randall. You knew my nature before we started this conversation,” Baum said, his voice still the same even after his transformation. I thought it would have changed, there could have been hissing, but it was still essentially… Baum. When he inched closer to Randall’s face, I could feel the fear rending through his every nerve.

“I… had an idea. Thought the fire would’ve… helped,” Randall tried to joke, but Baum squeezed tighter and forced a squeak of pain out of him.

“Perhaps if you had better discipline, it could have gone the way you expected. You may have even seen your family again. Randall… I could be persuaded to let you live and let them live in turn, if you abandon this silly idea,” Baum proposed, but my vessel had no intention of cooperating. He laughed and stared down at his demonic captor.

“Far as I’m concerned, Bathin, they were dead as soon as I took the job. Get it over with,” Randall said before staring at the ceiling light for one last moment of serenity.

“This is disappointing, Randall. I had hoped you would see our side. Truthfully, did you not see this coming? What sort of purpose could you find in dying like this?” Baum asked, and I could tell that he was being sincere. The slight betrayal in his voice… he cared for Randall, or the part of the demon inside him. Yet my surprise only lasted for a moment. When Randall turned and looked at a mirror along the wall, looked into his own eyes… that’s when I realized why I was there.

“Maybe it’s just not obvious to you,” he said, and I knew that Randall was speaking to me. He knew that some demonic part of him would be sent back to watch this exchange, to relive this scene and find out what happened to him.

Then Baum dislocated his own jaw and lunged forward, forcing me out of the past and back into the Zodiac Office. Once I came to and understood that I was back in my own life, I looked at the clock and tried to figure out a reasonable excuse for this trance. It had only been five minutes, so I wasn’t especially worried, but I was still scrambling for ideas before I realized that Baum wasn’t even in the room. Fennsler was still at his desk and reading, but he didn’t seem to have noticed that I had drifted off or had come back.

Effectively, I had gotten away with this trance, which allowed me to really dive in and analyze it.

My theory is that Randall… he read this exact same scene. He knew that this was his future, and he knew that he would be forced to play this part. The way he looked back at himself, effectively at me… I can’t see it any other way. I had just seen his name on the annotations I suspected were fake, then I read this scene about his death because of the prophecies?

Randall Davies knew he was going to die, and he knew I, or another seer, would eventually be there to watch it.

It confirms my suspicions that Baum isn’t human, though I didn’t realize how inhuman he really was. He seemed like some sort of twisted man-snake, like he had come out of some Dr. Moreau setup, but I knew better. Bathin, the name Randall used in the memory… it was way too familiar to me. I had to wait until I was on my own, of course, but eventually I found it in the Wikipedia entry on the Ars Goetia I had saved on my laptop.

Bathin was apparently the demon that specialized in astral projection; even had some aspects of a serpent. Also had a pale horse, but I haven’t seen that one yet. Makes me curious if I ever will, but I hope it never gets that far. Facing a demon who can dislocate his jaw and who-knows-what-else is already a pretty terrible prospect; don’t need to bring hellish pets into the equation.

I… Baum killed him. He killed Randall because he wouldn’t cooperate, because he lied to them. And from what I saw, it apparently isn’t against the Order’s rules to hold family hostage. I’m almost… I’m lucky that I cut all my ties to them before all this happened. If Renee or Andrew was at risk… if my parents… I’m just glad that they wouldn’t think to use them at this point.

I’m not even sure how I would feel about it if I was put into Randall’s position. He considered that they were already dead, whether or not it was because he thought his mission was important… I don’t know. I don’t know if it was because he thought it was a worthy sacrifice or if… or if he didn’t care anymore, but I’m fortunate that I’ll never have to choose.

But I think that was the point of that scene. The original word that triggered all of that was “fate,” but I—as in the one affected by Räum—saw “choice.” For others, that might have been a different kind of question, but for me… I think I understand. It’s both fate and choice, but… not the kind of choice people are used to. I have the choice to run away from my future, from the destiny Räum and all these others have placed on me. Randall didn’t have to die; he just knew he had to. This was his fate, but in the end, he chose it. Whatever it was, whatever purpose his death held, it was more than enough of a reason for him to die anyway.

Räum was obsessed with maintaining a particular timeline. This was the timeline he chose, and his heirs… inheritors—whatever we are—we’re here to make sure that timeline is guarded. We’re here to read the clues he left behind, to piece it together, to collect the fragments of memories that are held between his human vessels. We have the choice to exist, to be the humans we were born—to hold stations meant for others—but to do so would be to abandon the fate we chose.

So, in essence, I and all the previous seers are fucked over into having to support predestination.

And that’s what I had swimming in my head for the rest of the day. I couldn’t read further, I didn’t have it in me to absorb another lesson from my “ancestors.” Baum came back with a box of donuts, so cliché I had to laugh at it.

They were probably delicious, but I only pretended to enjoy them, smacking my lips as I tried to explain a scene and the intricacies and nuances Räum had left. Of course it was an old scene, one that aped A Thousand and One Nights in an effort to relate it to the King James Bible, but more importantly it was before the revised prophecies. I couldn’t give them any real information, or try to trick them yet. After seeing what Baum was capable of doing, I had no intention of going up against him any time soon.

I eventually settled back down into reading the raw text, but when it was about seven o’clock, I tried to act surprised about how long I had been working and how fast the time had disappeared. Did my best not to act too upbeat—I didn’t want to look suspicious—but I definitely tried to give the appearance that things were “clicking,” that my mood was improving because the words and stories were coming to me easier.

They seem to have bought it for now, though I’m not certain. Fennsler is dense as always and was out the door before I turned off my computer, but Baum carried himself… differently. I could tell that he was monitoring me but keeping his distance. He would smile and make eye contact, nodded at me pleasantly before I left, but it was hard to think of him like I did before this last week. Back then, he had been friendly, easy to joke around with, to share a sly look, but it had changed. Now he was my warden, and not even human.

But then again, I’m not human either. At least, not all of me.

Randall’s death scene got me thinking, made me come to terms with the fact that whatever he had, I share. Maybe it wasn’t the exact same thing, the same amount of whatever it was, but I had the distinct feeling that Räum’s inheritance had been transferred from him to me. It brought a deadly fate with it—way more than I can probably handle—but there was something there that I couldn’t deny.

Randall had created fire from the ether. If I shared the same piece of a demon’s soul, I should be able to do the same thing.

Once I got back to my room, I tried to think of the best way I could experiment with that. I couldn’t necessarily do it in my room; I don’t know what kind of surveillance they have on me, or if they are just some automated responses to exposed flames in this complex. I’m buried deep within their little cabal, and I couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t watch me every moment of the day.

So I went to the restroom down the hall.

I know it sounds weird, probably a little stupid, but I had the distinct impression that they wouldn’t watch me in there. Maybe it was just projection on my part—that I personally wouldn’t put cameras in a restroom—but they would have no real reason to other than to have blanket surveillance. I have my own personal bathroom in my little dorm room, so at the very least they might not expect me to go down the hall.

And this is the silly part, but I thought if I was making grunts and disturbing noises that it would be a lot more convincing to excuse myself if someone found me there. I know, I know, sounds dumb, but I figured that if it wasn’t one of the demons that I might get away with it.

But anyway, that’s how I found myself in the restroom down the hallway, my pants around my ankles, my gaze fixed firmly on my right hand.

Typing it now, seeing how I wrote that, it gives me the impression of someone just barely able to stop himself from masturbating.

God, I wish it was just masturbation.

Luckily for me, the prospect of masturbation couldn’t distract me from my goal. I had lost all sexual drive at that point anyway, and I’m only thinking about it now because it’s funny, the framing of it all. Used to care about all that stuff, used to laugh at dirty jokes, but now my mind is obsessed with demons, with trying to figure out the future before they realize I’m not one of them, that I’m not one of their puppets.

Sitting there on that toilet, I wasn’t thinking about bathroom humor or the depravity that used to affect me; I was just staring at my hand and watching the aura of energy flicker and warp around it. It was still there, that amorphous coating to my skin and around my existence; a leftover from the Lucidity dose my handlers had forced on me. I figured that it was the key; that mystical, mysterious presence would be the way I could manifest those flames.

But it didn’t happen. I just watched my hand, felt my muscles flex, my fingers clench, felt the pain of my nails digging into the warm flesh of my palm. I tried to extend my fingers backward, to try to will something into existence, stress my tendons, crack my knuckles. Everything I tried—even gripping my forearm with my other hand so tight that I lost blood flow—it was all met with failure. Just trying to physically force the flames did not seem to have an effect.

But then something… something tickled at the back of my brain. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I tried to focus on it, explore what it meant. A calm took over me, seemed to spread throughout my brain; a cold front sweeping over the landscape of my thoughts. When I opened my eyes—I didn’t even realize I had closed them—when I opened my eyes… it was simple. It wasn’t force that would bring the flames, it would be… I had to allow what I was to seep through the cracks, to flow out and through my skin.

When I looked back down at my hand and let the energy flow from me, I wasn’t even surprised. There, flowing, trickling out of the pores of my hand were green flames. They wrapped around my flesh in a tender embrace, warm, but not hot. I could not be harmed by this gentle blaze; it was as much a part of me as the thoughts that flashed through my head.

At once, the flames brought with them more visions, more memories, more ideas and notions that did not originate with me. In that moment, once I allowed the fire to take hold, my soul was opened up to the fragments buried within me. Räum’s self had been contained blocked behind a wall, but once I acknowledged that he was there, once I allowed his soul to gain purchase, it all came rushing back to me. The certainty, his desires… desires which I realized had already consumed my own.

There is no divide between us anymore. His memories—what little I have—I carry them with me. His power, what I have inherited, is now mine by rights. This is only the start of a new chapter; I had been walking in the dark before, but now there is a light to guide me. By accepting his flames, by walking this path, I have accepted its burden, and I have discovered the choice Räum made for me, for all the seers, a long time ago.

I am Raymond Corvus. I am one of the reincarnations of Räum the Seer.

And… I think I am the last one.



Well, that's a declaration, ain't it? Next entry is on the 24th.