Chapter 18 The Road Home
He was inside a very huge hollow mountain, else called the volcano, but without the ash or lava, only an opening very high up at the top, and a bottomless pit. Keith came out from one of the many entrances dug from subterranean paths to a circular platform rimmed inside the volcano. From Illian’s knowledge, it was the Eurushar’s core, where energy was generated from the centre and supplied to the whole structure.
But Kaz had been using it for other purposes – a secret nest to contain his mutants. Indented into the solid walls of the volcano were cages of limbed mutants and ferocious animals, while winged beasts were free to fly around the aviary and perch on the rocky formations.
Keith looked around, searching for whatever that might have been Crystal. Then, his eyes caught sight of one winged creature, which stood out among the rest, perched on a tapering protrusion. It has a sleek and slender cadaver, mostly human-like, except for the hideous webbed wings stuck onto its shoulders, resembling the mythical harpy of Terran folklore.
Somehow his persistent stare caught the harpy’s attention and its hollow, lucid eyes glowed red. The harpy, aroused, took flight and swooped down upon Keith. Keith tried to dodge its pre-emptive attacks, parrying with the Kashykan, but the monster seemed keen to dig its claws into his scalp. Them one wrong footing sent Keith slipping off the edge of the narrow rim and falling into the bottomless pit, but luckily, his strong hand managed to grip the brim just in time.
He clung helpless for his life, trying all his might to climb up. The weight of the Kashykan was not helping either, instead, dragging him down. To what he recalled it was the same situation back then in Neo Harbour – that time, he wanted nothing but to end his life – yet now, it was not the time for him to die, but to save the lives whom were dear to him.
“Crystal! It’s me, Keith! I’ve come for you!”
The harpy froze from its advances, as though it comprehend Keith’s words. Keith knew the soul of Crystal still resided in the monster’s body, but suppressed by the viral strains in her blood. If only he could bring back the human side of her. However, the dominating dark side was still prevalent, fighting to control each other. Just like Keith’s old self that often unstably changes into his Arzankan form.
From underneath him, the pervasive voice of evil Kaz deeply drones, “kill him, my beloved pet. Send him down to my heart, where I can keep him dear….”
“No, Crystal! Don’t listen to him! Don’t you recognise me? I’m Keith! Remember the promise we made, you and me?”
The harpy seemed unmoved. Then with a rickety movement, it bended down, reaching its blunt claws to Keith’s hand and attempted on prying his fingers off its grip. Keith strained to hold on, but every minute passed weakened his grasp, and tormented him with the sight of his once beloved turned into an abomination wanting to murder him.
Why was I holding on? It was a broken promise never to be mended again, living on false hopes, empty dreams. It was an existence too prolonged, and this might be the time I should free myself, and return to from where I first came, from nothingness.
And finally, so did he let go, unchaining his heart from a forsaken delusion. Down he fell, further and further into the chasm, feeling only weightlessness, falling, falling….
Death – was it such a horrible thing? Why did people fear it, avoid it? Life is sometimes as cruel as death itself, yet people still struggled to survive, to continue the sentience of pain and strife.
All existences were based on hopes, to continue on to realise it. To a person shattered of his hopes, life or death meant nothing, only a status of conformity.
But one thing was for sure – that life continued with the flow of time. And when people looked back to the past, they could only see it in form of memories, and nothing beyond. For a person whose time had stopped, he would be living in his own memories.
Faded recollections of nearly twenty years restaged in his mind seemed as fresh as two days ago. The days of the very young, he could remember, being brought up by two charming foster parents, who happened to be Gerard’s parents. Naturally, Gerard and he were best friends, close enough to be called brothers. This special friendship even lasted until they grew into young adults when both decided to join the military together.
A poor abandoned baby found at the dumpsite, with good faith found by a family of Medler, adopted him, baptised him. The Godfather, Lord Balmunk Gunter, christened him Keith, and gave him his thus rightful surname. Keith Gunter, brought into the world of Vantrox Terran Dominion, raised into a healthy child with a pre-eminent destiny at hands.
The fields were used to be a wide green pasture of no extent that he and Gerard always raced to find the ends of the horizons. Since small both were intrigued by the vastness of the universe, wondering how far could their imaginations stretch; what had they seen and not yet seen, where new worlds lie in wait for people to discover them. Similar ambitions, visions alike, both eventually wanted to become explorers of space, and through joining the armed forces they hoped to fulfil that grandiose childhood dream.
He could still remember how he used to sit at the edge of a very high cliff, watching the stars while listening to the waves beating the shore below. Gerard would then join him after finishing chores at home and gaze at the sky together, marvelling at its wonder.
“How many stars do you think there are?” he would ask Gerard.
“Thousands, millions, trillions… I don’t know if there’re anymore words to explain.”
“Are there anyone living there?”
“Of course! And probably, they’re looking at us right now, just like we’re now looking at them.”
Space, its mysteries were never explained, but their young hearts always tried to reach out for it. Gerard always said that his parents might come from another galaxy, but whoever knew?
“Someday, I’ll find them. I’ll search for them out there. Are you with me, brother?”
“Sure, Keith, sure,” said Gerard with a smile.
Eventually, both of them did enter the paramilitary school, as aspired from young days. And, during those raging adolescent years, he found himself a girlfriend, and never parted since. The lass was Crystal Griffin, a sweet girl of ordinary background, but she was one of those he could identify himself with.
His pensive nature used to see him spacing out during times, and many of his peers regarded him as oddity, leaving him out from their social circle. However, Crystal took particular interest in him, and every time he sat musing after class, she would just sit before him, and stare at him until he returned to reality.
“Erm… why are you looking at me?” he would ask.
“Ha, because you’re an oddball,” she giggled, “but you look cute with that look. No one I knew had this better look then you.”
Their unusual friendship started the most peculiar way. Crystal would often come to look at him daydreaming, and after that he would tell her everything that was going in his mind. Crystal would then listen attentively, and offer him her side of view. And from there, he found someone who could really share the same thoughts with him, and the friendship grew into a closer relationship. As time went by, he had opened up a lot to her, some of which were very personal that even to Gerard he did not reveal.
“Why did you hang out so often with me?” he asked one day, “don’t you have more fun with your other friends?”
“Friends I have a lot, but, it’s just that I enjoy a different company, maybe, talking to someone like you, someone who likes to think a lot. I love to listen, that’s why.”
“Did I mention that you’re pretty?”
“Oh Keith! Even you can say such things?” Crystal blushed, “I thought you were only a boy, guess I was wrong.”
“I love you, Crystal!”
“Do you, really? So what do you think the future holds for us, Keith?”
“The future? There’ll be no more war then, I assure you! There’ll be everlasting peace, and by then I’ll bring you to a place where the gardens are as beautiful as Eden, and there both of us shall stay peacefully, and we shall have children, maybe.”
Yes, he could still remember those words spoken as a promise, a promise that was never to be realised. How much naïve he was then to assure her such a fairytale, when the real world was colder than any ice that froze, harder than any rock smashed. Things took a wrong turn and wreaked havoc for him and her, although he struggled to amend, it was a blunt end.
“…A huge tree appearing in the middle of nowhere signifies life, but uncanny life, because no living entity will stand alone without the coexistence of others….”
Abriel’s words reminded him well, that he was something not born out of nature. Perhaps his existence would only transcend wrath on others. He was a fake to begin with, and now a Render imbued with powers of destruction. How much more terror would he bring, if he were to continue living his days?
“No matter where am I, Keith, please remember that I’ll always live inside your heart. There will be a day whence I shall depart, or separate with you, but it doesn’t matter where am I. War or no war, I’ll always be there for you. This is a promise made by Crystal Griffin, and with this she vowed she’d never leave your heart no matter how far apart she’d be in space and time, that for you she’d always be omnipresent.”
Yes, how foolish was he to not remember this sacred promise between him and her. This was the real promise, and that he made with her, was nothing but superficial. True love knows no bounds, unscarred by neither the progression of time nor the disproportion of space. For even the death of a loved one, the memories attached would never be replaced. It would remain; the essence and spirit would remain, encased by consciousness. The consciousness that kept its subsistence.
In wake from his abstraction, he could still feel himself falling, down and down, deeper and deeper into the abyss of nothingness. But then, he would not fall into “nothing”, therefore he must be floating, floating in a space without bounds, in a peripheralless matrix. He could not distinguish between the two, falling or floating, because to him it was the same, when time had had stopped moving. Everything was immaterial; only his consciousness prevailed.
In the glitter of the darkness he saw, in his fathoms, the embodiment of Crystal, just right before him, so beautiful and complete from the works of the Lord Himself – an angel – extending her affectionate arms for him. He reached out for her – for her soul – and brought her close to him. In the embrace, he could once again feel the warmth of her breath, and smell the sweet scent that was absent from his senses for a while ago. He could feel it, as though both their spirits interconnected, their spirons united as a whole. The union of the souls.
“Keith, finally, I’ve returned to your side… we never once parted, remember? I’ll always live inside you – I’m your strength, I’m your courage, I’ll always be there if you need me.”
“So you are, Crystal, so you are….” Tears fell off the corner of his eyes. He was lost for words, but eyes told her all, his heart poured out everything unexpressed in speech. From that moment he was determined, absolutely, that he would never let go again. Holding on to her until the ends of eternity, ends of everything.
And the Kashykan glowed as bright as Heaven’s Eye, suffused with the most intense energy no one, not even Illian Greyor had seen before, as it shone in the shadows, and unleashed….
A mighty quake shook, so violently that even the whole of Black Creek pulsated in the tremor. White, bright rays shot out from within the Eurushar in all directions, consuming it whole, and exploded further throughout space.Stars burst into thousand pieces, planets decayed into particles, black holes closed up their gravitational fields, and even the time plane was disrupted from its continual flow. Nothing was spared: matter, space, and the void were destroyed. The ten dimensions where existence hold collapsed, swallowed up the whole galaxy, as Black Creek vanished, not leaving a trace of it in the history of the Generon, nor leaving an absence of it in the universe….