The light of the setting sun over the coastline shone through the glass doors. Violet eyes slowly blinked open before gazing into the sharp shades of a dying day cut through the Mist’s tint. He laid there, unmoving, staring at the ball of fire as it descended from the sky. How long had he been asleep?
With a groan, Sylus Synclaire forced himself to sit up in his bed. Every fiber of his being was stiff from being sedentary for what must have been a considerable amount of time.
“I can’t do this…” he groaned as he ran a hand through his disheveled hair and down his face.
It will become easier with time.
He scoffed as he slowly moved himself to get out of bed. He sat a moment in silence, staring down at his clasped hands as his toes kneaded the fibers of the rug beneath his bedframe.
“What the hell have I done…” he breathed.
What was necessary.
He shook his head. “Had I known…”
What would you have done differently?
“I would have never crossed the Void…”
And we would have both lost much for such inaction.
Sylus scoffed, “I had nothing to lose by staying. I risked everything leaving. Hell even Henley warned me that shit would go south if I followed through… And here we are…”
Sylus… It was one meal. One prey. It is not as though you committed a massacre…
“Doesn’t make it suck any less…”
Explain to me your problem with this arrangement.
“Well, it’s pretty fucking simple, Qaitax. I’m not exactly fond of eating shit whole and alive…”
As I said, I can take over this function. You need only recognize when the time has come and I will do what must be done…
“It’s my body Qaitax!”
Our body, Sylus.
Sylus leaned on his knees resting his head in his hands. “I can’t do that again and I won’t let you do it either.”
Then we will perish.
“We’ll find another way.”
Why when one is so readily available? You serve a clear purpose. You alone could purge this place of the spawns that infest it. Perhaps mortals could return and rebuild…
Sylus slowly looked up and out the windows, his hands still over his mouth.
“Rebuild…” he muttered, “That’s something Jeron would want…”
And you do not?
He chuckled, “I don’t care, to be honest. Here, let me be 100% honest. I did this for entirely selfish reasons. I care about me and my family and that’s it…”
You have made that clear numerous times, but it would seem that it would benefit your family’s way of life if you reframed your approach to our dietary issues.
Sylus laid back on the bed with a loud growl.
Frame it as you are doing something to make them safer. Because technically, that is exactly what you are doing.
“I could just kill them then. No need to eat them alive.”
It would solve two problems with one action, though.
Sylus shook his head. “I don’t care. Never again.”
Then we will struggle unnecessarily.
“I don’t care. My entire life has been a struggle. I’ll figure it out,” he scoffed, “I’m used to worrying for two…”
He was startled as the door to his room clicked shut.
“Hello?” he sat up faster than he thought possible. When no answer came, he approached the door. Opening it slowly, he peered down the hall. Daniel’s door was uncharacteristically closed.
Sylus slowly made his way down the hall. He lifted a hand to knock on his son’s door, but he froze. A soft sob met his ears. His heart sank as he froze in place. He listened a moment longer before taking a deep breath. He grasped the knob and gently opened the door. Daniel bolted upright and attempted to wipe tears from his eyes.
“H-hey, Dad,” the boy forced a weak smile.
“N-nothing,” he forced a laugh, “I’m fine, why?”
Sylus stepped into the room closing the door behind him. He turned Daniel’s desk chair around and sat facing his son. “What did you hear?”
“H-hear?” he sniffed.
Sylus nodded, “You were at the door, weren’t you?”
Daniel’s gaze fell to the floor.
A long, painful silence filled the room.
“I’m sorry, Dad…” Daniel’s voice shook as he finally found the strength to say something.
“Sorry? For what?”
“For making you worry…”
Sylus sighed deeply. “Daniel, parents worry about their children…”
Daniel shook his head, “You already have a lot to worry about… You shouldn’t have to keep worrying about me…”
“Dan… I will always worry about you. When you’re a grown man with your own family, I’ll still worry about you.”
Daniel shook his head again.
“Talk to me, Daniel.”
The boy turned to look down toward the foot of his bed and out the window on the far side of his room. “Can we talk about it yet, Dad?”
Daniel took a deep breath. “About us.”
Sylus sat back. “What’s on your mind?”
“Do you hate me?”
Sylus’ brow furrowed in confusion. “W-what? Why would I…”
“Be honest, Dad…”
“Dan… I don’t understand…”
“Do you ever look at me and just… Hate me?”
Sylus pulled as far away as he could with a look of utter dismay on his face. “Daniel…”
“Because it’s okay, Dad… I know… I know you didn’t want me and I wasn’t a pleasant surprise…”
“Do you ever wish you had gotten rid of me?”
“Things would’ve been easier, wouldn’t they… You could’ve left New York sooner… You wouldn’t have gotten as hurt as you did… I held you back and made you sad…”
“D-Dan… I… W-where is all this coming from?”
Daniel turned to the floor again. “You’ve been back for weeks and you haven’t spent any time with me…”
Sylus heart sank as far as it possibly could.
“You’ve been with Saari and Jeron and Qaitax… But not me…”
“A-and I get it, Dad, I really do. But please, tell me. We can be friends, right? We can still be friends?” The boy’s facade shattered as he slumped over sobbing into his hands. “I ruined your life…”
Sylus darted out of his chair, knocking it to the ground. Taking his son in his arms, he held him as tightly as he could.
“Daniel… Where the hell is this coming from?!”
His son’s arms wrapped around him, clinging to the back of his shirt for dear life.
“Daniel…” Sylus whispered, “What’s going on…”
It took Daniel a bit before he could speak again.
“You sounded so disappointed… That you had to worry about me… That… That I was… I am a burden…”
“I-I read it online… Parents sometimes never connect to unwanted kids. A-and that’s okay… It is. But… But I… I just want to know the truth, Dad… I love you and… And I really believe we’re all we have, but… But…”
“There is no ‘but’,” Sylus whispered sharply in his ear, “There is no exception. There never will be. We are family, Daniel. You are my son. How you came to be doesn’t matter.”
“Do you ever see him when you look at me?”
Sylus froze again. His grip on his son tightened. With a sob of his own, he leaned into the boy’s shoulder.
“Sometimes,” he breathed.
“Doesn’t that hurt you?”
Sylus’ bleary gaze wandered around the room. “No.” he finally managed to choke.
“How? He hurt you…”
“Tell me!” Daniel pushed away, “Tell me the truth!”
Sylus leaned away a bit, “Because I’ve learned to look past that. I’ve learned not to look for who’s body part you have or who’s resemblance you carry. You’re my son. You’re not me, you’re not him. You’re Daniel.”
“Then… you used to…”
“Oh god, Daniel,” Sylus’ breath hitched in his chest, “The truth is, yes. There was a time I struggled, but I never loved you any less. I always loved you because you were my son. It didn’t matter how or why or whatever. What mattered was that you were mine.”
Daniel stared into Sylus’ eyes searching for a hint of reservation.
“Did you ever wish I wasn’t born?”
“Did you ever think I was a burden?”
“Every time you said you loved me…”
“I meant it. And I always will. Daniel…” Sylus leaned in again, forcing his son into a tight embrace, “I’m sorry I’ve not given you the time you deserve. I’m so sorry… I just… I… I honestly thought that maybe… Maybe… I would scare you… I’ve changed so much so suddenly, Dan… I didn’t expect you to just pick up where we left off like I was the same father who abandoned you for two years…”
“Dad…” Daniel pulled away.
“I just thought you were doing what you thought you should… What about you? Do you ever look at me and think I’m a fraud? Does calling me your father ever hurt you?”
Sylus nodded slowly.
“I… I never really thought about it… I grew up with you being my dad… I guess it was a little confusing when I got online and started learning stuff about things, but… I always saw you as my dad. You were never anything else… And even if I did know any better, if you said you were my dad, then you’re my dad.”
Daniel stared into his father’s watering eyes.
“Does anything about what I’ve become frighten you?”
Daniel took a deep breath. “A little…”
“What about me are you afraid of?”
Daniel shook his head, “I don’t know… I think I’m a little afraid of Qaitax… I don’t know him and its scary to think he can just take over your body and do stuff…”
“Do you think he’ll hurt you?”
The boy shook his head again, “I know you wouldn’t let him… But… Still…”
It is a rational concern.
Should I be worried?
Not at the moment, no.
It was a joke.
Sylus shook his head with a sigh.
“I worry a bit about that, too, Dan…”
“Can’t Qaitax hear you say that?”
“He can. And he knows I’m not 100% settled into our arrangement. Maybe eventually, but it’s all still very new and strange…”
I will teach him how to kill us.
Daniel sat back on his bed.
It will make him feel safer if he knows he can stop us if we lose control.
He and only he will know. I will impart this knowledge to no one else.
Saari and Jeron? They are strong enough on their own. Daniel is a child in every way.
“And you think…”
That he will relish in knowing he has the key to destroying his father?
Let me speak to him.
“What does he want?” Daniel pulled his knees to his chest.
Sylus sighed, “He wants to talk to you…”
Daniel shook his head wildly.
Sylus leaned in and gave his son a quick hug. “I’ll stop him if he gets too inappropriate, okay?”
“He has something very important to tell you.”
“I won’t be far. Just listen to him for a minute.”
Daniel nodded slowly.
Sylus smiled softly as he wiped a tear from his son’s cheek.
With a sudden jerk, his eyes closed and re-opened to reveal Qaitax’s alien gaze.
Daniel pulled as far away from him as he could.
“You are afraid of me?”
“After all that speak of fatherhood and whatnot?”
Daniel bit his lip.
“You need not explain. Mortals are complex. I understand that sometimes they say things they don’t mean or veil their true feelings behind words of placation.”
“It is how you rationalize my and Saari’s existence. It is very mature of you, but you are forcing yourself to skip adaptation and go straight to acceptance.”
“I don’t want Saari to feel like she doesn’t belong…”
“And you’re part of Dad… I-I have to accept you…”
“You do not. We are two completely different beings. You can love your father and despise me. That is an acceptable balance.”
“But I don’t want to feel that way…”
Qaitax looked around the room. Finding a blank piece of paper on Daniel’s desk, he retrieved a pen and began drawing something.
“W-what are you doing?”
Qaitax continued to work in silence. Once he was finished, he looked over his design before turning to Daniel, his drawing to his chest.
“I am about to impart to you the complete knowledge of how to kill a Voidlord.”
“W-what?!” Daniel shrieked, “NO! I… I don’t want that!”
Loud bangs came from the door. “Daniel?! Are you okay?”
Jeron opened the door. Qaitax turned to him.
“What’s going on in here?”
“W-we’re just talking…” the boy was huddled on his bed.
“Is that so? He didn’t hurt you, did he?” Jeron stepped into he room.
Jeron’s gaze narrowed to a glare aimed directly at Qaitax.
“Don’t you think this kid has it hard enough? Does he really have to deal with you?”
“I only meant to give him something…”
“What?” Jeron sneered. “Share it with the class, Qaitax.”
“I cannot. It is for Daniel and Daniel alone.”
“Then keep it to yourself. Daniel’s been through enough. He doesn’t need your shit, too.”
“I only wish to help…”
Jeron scoffed, “Look… You can fuck around with me and Sylus, but leave the kid alone. Please.”
“Jeron, it’s okay…” Daniel could barely muster his voice to speak.
“It isn’t, Dan. It really isn’t. Tell me what you want to tell him and I’ll decide whether he should have to deal with it or not…”
“Stop trying to shelter me, Jeron!”
“I-I know you just want to help… But… If Qaitax wants to tell me something important and he thinks only I should know… Maybe I should listen?”
Something inside of Jeron felt as though it was snapping. Years of anger and frustration came welling to the surface.
“No.” he snarled, “No. You shouldn’t.”
“I thought we had an understanding, Jeron…”
“You know what? I’m done. I can only extend so far. I can only be so accepting. I can stand by and accept you as part of Sylus, but I will NOT tolerate you fucking with his son. I won’t.”
“I have his father’s permission…”
“Do you though? Does Sylus even know what you’re doing? Or did you just convince him you meant well so you could harass is goddamned child! Hasn’t he been through enough?!”
“Fuck this. Fuck all of this. And fuck you. Fuck you, Qaitax! Fuck you and all the hell you’ve put us through!” he grabbed Qaitax by the collar of his shirt and dragged him out the door. All the while the spawn clutched the piece of paper to his chest.
“NO WAIT!” Daniel lept from his bed, “Jeron please!”
“If you can’t tell me then I won’t let you expose the boy to it! Show me what you’re holding! Now!”
“It is not meant for you.”
“Then who is it meant for?”
“It is for Daniel.”
“What is it? Show it to me!”
“I cannot. Only the boy can see it.”
“Goddammit you fucking monster, show me!” he slammed Qaitax into the wall.
The door to Saari’s room swung open.
“MY LORD!” she shrieked as she retrieved her staff.
Jeron kept screaming at Qaitax. Saari kept screaming at Jeron. The tiny house was full of so much rage and animosity. The precarious conditions of the peace they shared was completely shattered.
“I’m TIRED of this SHIT!” Jeron bellowed, “I’m TIRED of having to just DEAL with you!”
“I only meant to help the boy…”
“Help him?! You’re the reason we’re so fucked! This is all YOUR FAULT!”
“STOP!” Daniel cried out, “PLEASE EVERYONE JUST STOP!”
Jeron loosened his grip, but refused to release Qaitax. Saari was poised to attack. Daniel stood in his doorway nearly in tears.
“Stop…” he breathed.
“I will not allow him to harm Lord Qaitax,” Saari snarled.
“Let him go, Jeron.”
“Please. Let Qaitax go. He didn’t hurt me.”
“Are you sure?”
Jeron begrudgingly released Qaitax. Saari lowered her staff.
“None of us are happy, are we?” Daniel sighed.
“Daniel?” Jeron turned to him.
“We keep pretending we are, but we aren’t. Are we…”
Jeron glared at Qaitax.
“It’s not Qaitax’s fault…” Daniel breathed.
“Oh, but it is,” Jeron barked, “Had he never weaseled his way into your father’s head, none of this would have happened!”
“What happened, Jeron?” the boy breathed.
“Two. Years. Two. Long. Years. We lived in fear, Daniel! It’s all his fault! It’s all his fault we have an immortal enemy! It’s his fault Haurex terrorized us for years! It’s his fault that he’ll come back someday and finish what he started! It’s his fault we’re at war with shit we can’t even BEGIN to fight! This is all Qaitax’s fault!”
“My Lord had no choice in who his voice reached,” Saari slowly lifted her staff again, “Sylus was not the first, but he was the first to succeed where others failed. Lord Qaitax could not pick and choose who he spoke to. If he could, do you think he would choose someone like Sylus?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jeron snarled.
“I mean that he would have chosen someone with far greater physical and mental aptitude if he could.”
“I chose you, Saari. Think of how you were when I took you in. It was long ago and you’ve grown much, but remember the way you were. Remember why I chose you.”
Saari lowered her staff, her gaze sank to the floor.
“He reminds me of you, Saari. I didn’t think I had to say it out loud. I thought it was understood why I was so willing to work with Sylus and his absurd desires.”
“Absurd?” Daniel felt deep offense on his father’s behalf, “What’s so absurd about being who you want to be?!”
“Nothing. Though I still ponder over some of his… aesthetic choices. However, it does allow for much less internal tension in the weave. I have learned to see it as useful and not a detriment. At first, I was deeply concerned with him making us such a large target, but I have learned that in doing so, there is much more void energy in this body than I anticipated. An exchange of agility for sheer utility. I can more or less rationalize his chosen form now.”
Silence filled the hall.
Jeron took a deep breath. “We’re all pretty fucked up aren’t we?”
They all found themselves staring at the dated carpeting that lined the hall.
“To think,” Jeron continued, “We all put on happy faces and went about like nothing was wrong. Like we were all just okay with everything…”
“Qaitax was right about something,” Daniel finally spoke up, “I think we all skipped adapting and forced ourselves straight into just accepting.”
Jeron turned to the boy.
“We all just forced ourselves to be okay with things we weren’t actually okay with… I mean, we never gave ourselves a chance to become okay with things. We just told ourselves we were and that was that…”
Saari slowly turned to him.
“But that’s not true, is it? We’re all upset about something. We’re all angry and disappointed about different things. We all have a lot of things that we need to work out.”
Qaitax stared at the boy.
“With ourselves and each other…”
“Daniel…” Jeron reached out to him.
“We said we’d be honest with each other. I guess we were only honest on the surface. We let ourselves get angry and upset… Because we would all rather be that way on the inside than actually face it… We’re all afraid. All of us. We’re all afraid of what’s gonna happen so we just ignore it and pretend we’re just happy with how things are… But we can’t ignore it… Can we?”
Qaitax could feel his eyes beginning to burn with tears. Jeron turned to him just in time to see a tear streak down the Voidlord’s cheek.
“Is that real?” Jeron scoffed.
“What do you have to be upset about? You’re a goddamned god or some bullshit… Why do you have any right to be upset? What could POSSIBLY be upsetting YOU?!”
Qaitax bit his lip as his gaze darted aimlessly about.
“That’s what I thought,” Jeron scoffed.
Saari pursed her lips.
“I don’t want to die…” his words were barely audible.
“Come again?” Jeron turned to him with a sharp glare.
“I don’t want to die.”
“Die?!” Jeron snapped, “You can’t die. Well, I mean, you said you could, but what would that take? Something inhuman like Haurex, right? So what are you so fucking afraid of?”
Qaitax’s mind raced. Sylus tried to key into his thoughts, but he couldn’t. The barrier between them was just strong enough to keep him out of Qaitax’s deepest feelings.
“Haurex will kill us.”
Daniel looked to him in utter horror.
“We will die when he returns. I dread the day, but I know it is coming.”
“What do you mean?” Daniel cried out, “What do you mean you’re gonna die?”
“We are far lesser to Haurex. We do not stand a chance. We are already struggling with merely nourishing ourselves. It will only get worse when we cannot train to at least put up a fight. We will be as weak as possible, but I would rather be weak and die than force my ways upon Sylus.”
“What the hell are you going on about?” Jeron barked. “Sylus is doing what he can. He’s not some godly creature like you. He’s human. I don’t care what his body is, his mind is still just a human. He can’t just snap into shit because you tell him to. Give him a chance to get used to everything for fucksake!”
“Time is of the essence. Haurex WILL return. This we know. I understand Sylus is still adjusting, but I… I’m begging him to forgo some of his hangups… I… WE need him to accept certain things.”
“Like what?” Jeron scoffed.
“That though his mind is human, we are not human. He must accept what we need even if it conflicts with his mortal sensibilities. But he is stubborn and he will not budge.”
“Give him some time…”
“We do not have time.” Qaitax’s brow furrowed in dismay. “And I do not wish to die helplessly. We will die regardless, but I want to believe we can put up a fight… I want to leave a mark to remind Haurex that though we are lesser, we could still hurt him… But as it stands… He will reduce us to sludge without any resistance…”
“You really think you won’t be able to take him on?”
“Think? No. I know. I know for a fact that we are nothing compared to him.”
“So you’ve already given up?” Jeron snorted.
“I… do not think I have, but… I desperately need Sylus to work with me on some things…”
“Like what?” Jeron folded his arms across his chest.
“He is unhappy with our dietary needs.”
Jeron raised a brow.
“He is struggling morally with something that has no roots in mortal morals. It is a compulsion of the Void. I do not expect him to be pleased with it, but I do need him to accept that it is necessary.”
Qaitax closed his eyes and shook his head.
“I fucking TOLD YOU I’d find another way! Listen to me goddammit!” Sylus shouted.
His eyes morphed back into Qaitax’s.
“There is no other way…”
“ARRGGG YES! YES, THERE IS! THERE HAS TO BE!” Sylus clutched the sides of his head, dropping the paper Qaitax had been clinging to.
Qaitax snapped back into control. “There is no time to look for alternatives!”
“I HAVE TO! I’M NOT A MONSTER! I WON’T BE A MONSTER! I CAN’T BE A MONSTER! I REFUSE!”
“WE ARE NOT MONSTERS! WE ARE A SPAWN OF THE VOID! PERHAPS TO YOU MORTALS THAT MAKES US MONSTERS, BUT WE ARE NOT!”
Two very different sounding screams came from the same body.
Jeron stepped away as their eyes began flashing rapidly. He placed a hand across Daniel’s chest slowly pushing the boy back into his room.
They threw their head back and a scream unlike anything Jeron had ever heard filled the air. Brilliant violet light filled their gaping mouth as sparks shot up the smoke that billowed toward the ceiling.
“What the fuck is going on?!” Jeron bellowed.
“Get out,” Saari barked. “Get out of here. Now!”
Jeron lifted Daniel into his arms as he ran for the door.
“DAD!” Daniel cried out, “DAD PLEASE!”
Saari was quick to follow them.
“How far do we have to get?” Jeron panted as he held Daniel tightly in his arms.
Saari kept stepping back away from the house. “We would never escape in time…”
“Saari!” Jeron screamed, “What the fuck is going on?!”
“They are imploding.”
“Or perhaps exploding… It is hard to tell sometimes…”
“What the fuck do you…”
The sound of an explosion surrounded as a shockwave sent them sprawling across the street. Dust filled the air as debris crashed into the ground.
“Dad…” Daniel breathed as he struggled out of Jeron’s grip. “Dad…” He stumbled back toward the house.
“DANIEL!” Jeron lunged after him.
Saari slowly stood up with the aid of her staff.
As the dust settled they were surprised to find the house largely intact save for a rather large hole in the roof.
“Their core…” Saari breathed.
“Their… what?” Jeron turned to her, still holding Daniel firmly in his arms.
“Their core. Sylus and Qaitax share a core. A core is everything that makes a spawn what it is. Energy, thoughts, memories… They are all inside of the core. I have never seen one react in such a way, but I have also never seen nor heard of a core being shared between two beings.”
“Explain it to me like I’m a fucking moron!” Jeron yelled.
“They overloaded themselves. Their thoughts were at such a level of conflict that they overwhelmed their core.”
“How do you know any of that?”
Saari shrugged, “I do not know for certain. I am merely extrapolating from my understanding of the functions of void spawns. Q’taxians studied spawns thoroughly. It was found that forcing energy into a core would overwhelm it causing a release of energy and, usually, the destruction of the body. Emotions are energy. If they were both worked up, it is likely they overwhelmed their core.”
Daniel stared blankly at his home. “Is Dad dead?”
“I do not know.”
“Is it safe to go back inside?” Jeron choked on the sooty air.
“Let us do so cautiously,” Saari replied.
He nodded in response. “Stay with me until we know happened, okay Dan?”
Daniel nodded as he was once more lifted into Jeron’s arms.
They slowly approached the wide-open door. The smell of petrichor was overpowering. Jeron nearly gagged.
“You can stay back if you need to. The scent does not bother me.”
“N-no. No. I’m coming.”
Fine dust coated the floor and furniture.
Jeron took a deep breath as they rounded the corner to the stairwell. There, under a massive hole in the ceiling, lit but a dim violet glow emanating from sparks still trickling across the damaged surfaces sat Sylus. Or Qaitax. Or both… Slouched over and seemingly unconscious.
Jeron put Daniel down. “Stay here,” he whispered, “You, too, Saari.”
“But I am the only one who can help them…”
“Just… Let me take a look first, okay?”
Saari nodded reluctantly as she stepped back beside Daniel.
With another deep breath, Jeron made his way into the hallway. Each step seemed like he was climbing a mountain. Every motion felt forced yet deliberate. Like every fiber of his being told him to run, but he moved forwards against his better judgment.
A light cough came from the form followed by a gust of smoke.
No response came.
Still no answer.
A deep, heaving breath filled the crumpled form.
“I see now…”
The voice was neither Qaitax nor Sylus. It was both. Fear crept into Jeron’s mind.
A head tilted upward to the exposed sky above.
“I see now…”
A low chuckle echoed through the hall. It grew into a gentle laugh, a haughty guffaw, an uncontrollable cackle.
“I SEE NOW!”
The body slid up the wall onto its feet.
“It was all so very obvious… How could we have ignored it…”
“Who are you…” Jeron found the nerve to speak up.
It turned to him.
“Morality is born of self-imposed shame. Shame in one’s actions. Shame in failing our people… But…” it looked at its hands, “Without shame…” it balled them into fists, “There are no morals.” It turned to Jeron, “And what do I have to be ashamed of?” The cackling returned, “I am already refuse in the eyes of all who behold me! To the Void! To Humanity! Garbage! Filth! Lesser! I see now…”
“Sylus… If you’re in there… You need to get control of yourself…” Jeron took another wary step forward.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We could never admit it, but we liked what we did. We liked tormenting that creature… We enjoyed it. Yet we felt it was immoral…” It started laughing again, “But how are we any more immoral than those who force their will onto us?! Who imprisoned us! Who beat the will to live from us! How are we worse than them?!” The laughter stopped suddenly. “We aren’t. Morality is a lie for even mortals will cast it aside when convenient.”
It moved with deft speed to take hold of Jeron’s shoulders. “Don’t you see, Jeron? Don’t you see? There are those who would call us all freaks. Monsters. Creatures unworthy of love and care. They’ve abandoned us simply for living in the wrong place at the wrong time… We are alone. Why, then, should we concern ourselves with what they would want? Their flippant and flimsy morals… We must do what WE want. We must live by OUR codes. We must for none but ourselves.” It released him. “I was never normal. I was never acceptable. Why, then, do I feel I should continue to try to be what is expected of me? Why do I feel compelled to live up to expectations of grandeur and excellence?” The laughter began welling up again. “I am no god, but I am no mortal either. We are an abomination trapped in a feeble window of existence. But you see…” It leaned closer to his face grasping his shoulders once mroe, “We exist.”
“And we should thrive in the life we were given.” It shook him lightly.
“Don’t you see, Jeron? Don’t you see?” The shaking became more aggressive.
“We. Are. Free.” It released him. “WE ARE FREE!” It threw its arms in the air as madness overtook it. “FREE TO BE WHO AND WHAT WE WANT! FREE OF THEM! FREE OF THEIR HATRED AND JUDGMENT! FREE! TRULY FREE!”
Jeron slowly began to understand what it was saying.
“Sylus. Qaitax. Jeron. Daniel. Saari. Who are we? What are we? No more thoughts of who or what we SHOULD be… No more. No more second-guessing our natures. No more judging ourselves and each other. We exist. And we are free.”
Jeron stared into its violet eyes.
“We will build up our strengths and celebrate our differences. We will no longer see each other as Spawn, Q’taxian, or Human. We are living things. Alive. With fight in our souls. Who cares where that fight comes from? Who cares how we nurture it? So long as we live, breathe, and fight… We are free.”
“You say that as if it’s easy…”
“If we abandon the ways of the outside world, it is easy. Abandon what is normal. Abandon the limitations of the real and the rational. Abandon everything that we knew to be true about the world we inhabit… Accept our world. Accept our place in it. Accept who and what we are and stop trying to be what we aren’t… If we can achieve that… We are free.”
Their gazes locked. Jeron had no idea who he was looking at, but he saw sincerity roiling in a sea of utterly unhinged madness.
“Don’t lose yourself Sy… Please… Please come back…”
“Tell me, Jeron. How do you feel if I were to openly celebrate my utterly horrific nature? If I embraced all that I was…”
“If I accepted my inherited role of the Devourer?” A mad grin was plastered in its face.
“I…” Jeron thought a moment, “As long as you don’t hurt us, and I mean us as in Daniel and myself… and Saari… Then… Why would I stop you?”
“I will cleanse this place of the Void’s infestation and grow fat on its death and decay.”
“I mean,” Jeron snorted, “Any fatter and we might have a real problem.”
The grin softened.
“Go forth and purge the hell out of this place,” Jeron finally found the will to smile, “With my blessing. Just! Just… Please don’t expose the kids to it…”
He turned to find Daniel standing at the foot of the stairwell.
“Dad has to be what he is if he’s going to survive and get better. I already know what he has to do and it’s okay. Just don’t hurt Nine and I don’t care.”
It looked over Jeron’s shoulder at the boy standing at the end of the hall. It smiled.
He nodded, “I do.”
“Then I am sorry.”
The smile slowly faded.
“Do you still accept part of me as your father?”
Daniel gave it a firm nod. “Sylus is my Dad. He always will be. Tentacles and all.”
“Can we all just… get along again?” Daniel sighed, “I know it was kinda forced before, but… Can we try again? All of us?”
Saari appeared behind him, nodding.
“And you, Saari. Do you still accept part of me as your… patron?”
“Qaitax called himself my father. I accept him as such.”
“Saari…” Daniel turned to her, “I meant everything I said about wanting you to feel safe and at home with us. I just… I’m just tired and I have a lot of things on my mind…”
“I am much the same, Daniel. Please do not think me ungrateful for your kindness… I have much to work on and overcome…”
Jeron sighed, “Guess we all need work… Hey, how about this. Sylus, er, Qaitax? Whoever you are, you need to practice or something? To get used to whatever you’re capable of?”
It grinned at him.
“Alright. So… We should all find something to work on to better ourselves. Be it in mind, body, and/or soul. We will all work on ourselves, but we’ll do it together. Understood?”
“How magnanimous of you,” it chuckled.
“We won’t stand a chance against Haurex if we all don’t get our shit together,” Jeron replied.
“There is no ‘we’ in this fight. There is only us against Haurex.”
“Except there is. We will face Haurex. We will fight him together. And we will win or lose by our own efforts…”
It stared at him incredulously.
“I won’t run. I didn’t run for two miserable years. I won’t run now. If I get the chance to pay that bastard back for what he put us through, you damn well know I will.”
“We’re in this together, Dad… That’s what we promised each other, right? That we’d stick together no matter what… I know you’re scared of what you are and fighting Haurex, but… don’t be because no matter what, we’re still together. We’re still family…”
Saari gripped her staff tightly. “Our chances of contending with Haurex even as a unified force is still slim to none. He will inevitably overwhelm us…”
The energy of the moment was sapped through harsh reality.
“But… I have been a prisoner all my life,” she stood upright, “I never had a chance to truly fight… I know not if I have the strength or if I ever will, but I will stand with you all. I would rather die with you than continue to hide in darkness. We will lose, but we will do so spectacularly.”
“Now that’s what I want to hear,” the wide, toothy grin returned, “Don’t be mistaken, we are doomed, but let us be doomed by our own making. Settle not for an unwinnable battle, but live for the thrill of the fight. That is, after all, what mortals are exceptionally good at.”
Jeron snorted as he shook his head, “I guess you’re right. We are pretty fucked and its impossible to ignore. But yeah. Let’s go down swinging as hard as we can.”
“Such beatiful nihilism. It warms my cold, dead heart.”
Jeron glared at him with a wry grin of his own. “So who are you anyway?”
“Nothing but a fleeting moment of unity. It will pass once the barrier is reconstructed and one becomes two again.”
“How long will that take?” Daniel took a step forward.
“Ah but it seems it will be sooner than later… I feel the wedge between us forming again… Ah… Until next time, mortals.” It’s eyes slid shut.
Eyelids fluttered for a long moment before an arm reached out to lean against a wall. It groaned as it rubbed its head with its free hand.
“I… W-what happened?” Sylus slowly looked up to Jeron.
“No… I remember everything…”
“It seems the delicate barrier between your consciousnesses temporarily collapsed,” Saari thought a moment, “I believe that is a very dangerous event, but I am glad you are both returned to normal.”
“N-normal?” Sylus grinned a familiar toothy grin, “There is no normal here. Normal is for those living in the open air free of the Void’s influence. Nah… We can’t say anything about being normal. Because we’re not. And we never will be. So why try to be? We’re all so much more than that… We are free.”