Chapter 11 (updated)
A much disoriented Zenapharr fluttered his eyes open and looked up , not recognizing anything around him. Groaning, he rubbed his eyes and sat up.
“My head is killing….wait…what?”
After focusing for a moment he realized that his head actually didn’t hurt. The throbbing sensation seemed to emanate all around him. In fact, the room made a slow rhythmic thumping sound, much like a heartbeat. There were no doors, and thusly no way to exit. Looking around, he saw the room was covered in a red, pulsating mass as if the very walls were alive. It looked like…
“…the inside of someone’s body?”
There was no direct light source, the only light a reddish tint from the walls. Wherever he was, it definitely wasn’t the NOSRAD facility or any kind of industrial place. He finally got to his feet, and reached for his katana only to find it wasn’t there.
“What…?” Seeing as he was trapped with no way out, he decided to make one. Focusing his mind, he conjured a column of fire in hopes to burn through. Yet, nothing happened when he uttered the incantations for the spell.
He was completely stumped. Even under powerful wards, he was always able to still cast something before.
“Zenny!” A voice spoke, and he whipped around to see a familiar little girl in front of him. She waved, and he never felt so relieved to see her.
“Alice? How did you get here?” He asked, thoroughly confused how she got there.
“Through here. “ She explained, tapping Zenapharr on the head.
“My mind? You teleported here through my mind?”
“No, silly! I’m here through your mind because that’s where we are. Your mind.”
“My mind? That’s ridiciulous. This ins’t real. How can you possibly see inside your own mind? Are you playing some sort of game with my head?”
“No, I’m not messing with you! You’re suffering from a mental break. Right now, you’re unconscious and sedated.”
“This doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s not exactly supposed to. Remember when you passed out.”
“Yeah, it just happened before I got here. Did that happen simply because of what the Director showed me?”
“Yes from that specifically, but your mind has always been on the fringe. What he showed you just tipped you over the edge.”
As ridiculous as it all sounded, Zenapharr decided it may be the only thing that made sense. This was followed by the most blaring, obvious question.
“So how do I get out of here?”
“That all depends on you.”
“So that’s why you’re here…to help me.”
“Great just get me out here.”
“That’s just the thing. I can’t just wisk you away…not until your mind is repaired.”
“Okay, so repair it for me.”
“It doesn’t work that way. I can guide you, but the only person who can truly fix your mind is you, and to fully regain consciousness you must face your subconscious. And I think you may have an idea what….or who that is.”
“My subconscious….the Voice?”
“Yes. Now as I said, I can’t do everything for you here, but I can help. But for this all to work, I need you need to fully trust me.”
“Okay…I trust you.”
Still a bit leery, Zenapharr nervously looked around for a moment, and then quietly nodded. Smiling, the little girl reached out and grabbed the swordsman’s hand and led him over to a wall. She pressed her hand against it, and the fleshy wall surface morphed into a wooden door.
Astounded, Zenapharr reached his hand for the doorknob and stopped mid-pose, looking to Alice for confirmation. She nodded, and they walked through together, traversing a long pitch black hallway.
A minute into the walk, a light began filling the black void in front of them, and it formed a square picture similar to a projector on a wall. He looked all around him but saw no source of where this image was coming from.
Shown in the image was a clearing in the forest, and two boys entered. Zenapharr immediately recognized his younger self, accompanied by Dr. Pennington’s son Nathan.
“What did you want to show me, Nathan?”
“This,” the boy replied, and brandished a short sword. It was very decadent, made out of fine steel with ornate decorations around the hilt. Nathan held it out to let Zenapharr examine the blade.
“Is this a Pantherean?”
“It is! I know how much you enjoy old swords.”
“I do….I’ve never seen one up close before.”
“Neat, huh? I found it in my dad’s office.”
“You do realize that…”
“I know, I can only use swords authorized to me, but my father won’t care. He always goes easy on me! Want to hold it?”
He gently handed the sword over to Zenapharr who swung , struck, and stabbed to test and out the sword. As he watched himself on the screen, he remembered how he felt when using that sword. It had felt strong, but too clunky for his taste. After another moment of testing the blade, he handed it back to Nathan.
“Not for me, but a good sword nonetheless.”
“Thanks! Hey…wanna duel?” Nathan grinned wide in a challenge.
“I don’t think your father would approve.”
“Oh, come on! It’ll be fun. Zenapharr the World’s Youngest Professional Swordsmith versus Nathan with the Legendary Pantherean Short Sword! It’ll be fun.”
“…if you insist,” Zenapharr sighed.
They sparred swords for about five minutes, which took no toll on the trained half-elf but left Nathan exhausted.
“I do this sort of thing every day as part of my training.”
“Yeah…apparently so. Hey….how about one final duel?”
“We’ll both back away really far then run at each other and duel in mid-air! Just like at the theater.”
“I’ve never been.”
“Just walk thirty yards that way, and I’ll do the same. We’ll run and then jump and...
”I know what you meant. Let’s get this over with.”
In much dramatic fashion, Nathan held his sword in an attack pose and stared down at his less-than-enthusiastic friend, who only looked back in a scowl.
“You gonna start or what?”
“On three! One…..two……….THREE!”
Both boys bounded towards each other and leapt as high as their legs would allow, Nathan yelling a wary cry all the while. They mock-dueled in mid-air, yelling and laughing at the ridiculousness of it. More keen on his landing, Zenapharr expertly tucked into a roll and turned to face Nathan.
“I will admit, that was kind of…..”
His words abruptly ended when he saw Nathan on his side, the blade of his sword covered in his blood. The landing had gone wrong and Nathan had managed to lodge the blade into his throat. Concerned, Zenapharr rushed over and could immediately tell there was not anything he could do to help. There were healing spells he could try, but they wouldn’t work quickly or effectively enough to save his friend.
“Nathan….” He said, instantly feeling very strange. There was sorrow in his voice, but his eyes kept moving from the dying boy’s eyes to the blood that was pooling underneath him. Zenapharr recalled that intoxicating feeling, and watched the image of his own eyes at that young age turning crimson for the first time.
“H-elp,” Nathan gurgled out.
“It’s too late,” Zenapharr replied coldly, and picked up the Pantherean blade. “You’re dying, Nathan. I want to try something now.” In this moment, the future killer recalled feeling as if a switch was flipped in his brain. He was watching himself do everything like an out-of-body experience. The person he was in that moment was someone else.
It was then that he plunged the blade into Nathan’s shoulder, and muffled the screams from his dying friend with his other hand. Becoming more ravenous at the reaction, he then chopped off the teenager’s arm, then leg. It didn’t take long for Nathan to succumb, and the now-killer was covered in blood, filled with some inexplicable feeling of shame and ecstasy, and then everything faded into darkness.
“So…that’s how it really happened,” Zenapharr muttered. “I thought I’d planned it out or something, but it was just a random accident. Finally some closure. Alice?” He saw that the young girl had left his side. There was a faint gasping noise, and he followed it through the void until he found her balled-up in a corner.
“Alice?” His voice went soft and knelt beside her.
“Don’t touch me.” She uttered despite trembling.
“I don’t under—“
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” The words stung Zenapharr, which was a new sensation. “You’re a monster! How could you do that?!”
“Alice, that was a while ago…you already knew what I am. I’ve even told you….you’ve probably even seen some if in my thoughts before.”
“I try not to read your mind, remember.”
“Okay, but why would this upset you now?”
“I-I don’t know. Seeing you chop him up like that….enjoying him in pain…I just don’t understand how you could do something like that. And he was so young. I just…I just need to be alone right now. Please…don’t try to comfort me.”
Still taken aback, he blankly stared down at her in hopes that she would change her mind. “Just go away, alight? Please?!” This was more plea than request. The words hit him hard and he didn’t feel sure what else to do. He wanted to argue further, but the sadness in her eyes silenced his tongue. There was so much emotion in them… she was so hurt and afraid of him. Instantly, he hated that look she had, because it put the sorrow she felt into him.
“So….this is empathy.” Zenapharr whispered. “Alice…where do I go next? I need your help…please.”
“You’ll find it. Just look. Now go.”
He almost asked what she meant, but the look she shot him convinced him to do otherwise. It was hard, leaving her like that, especially in such a dark and creepy place. Not only that but a dark place in his mind. A fear crept into him, a fear of losing his only friend.
“I won’t lose her, can’t lose her.” He thought to himself as he lonely walked back through the dark corridor. After a moment, he came through a door and was back in that strange pulsating room where he first began.
Unsure of what to do, he sat down in the center of the room and closed his eyes. He concentrated on all his important memories from his past: the Injection, his military training, and then his brother. He thought about the possibility that he killed his own brother and mother, and felt conflicted as before. As much as he loved them, he also knew the strength of that Voice in him. It had a great power over him, one that could make him snap at a moment’s notice. All it took was seeing Nathan’s blood to awaken that dark Thing inside of him. Did the same thing happen to them, too?
It was then that he heard the Voice, loud and clear in the room.
“Zennn-a--pharrrr…..” The cruel voice taunted in a sing-song manner.
“You….” The half-elf stood up, glancing around for the source.
“It’s so good to see you again, my friend! I want to have a chat.”
Behind him, Zenapharr turned to witness himself looking right back and smiling with teeth full of rage and madness. It was astounding how the man looked just like him, except there was a difference he couldn’t quite put into words. This doppelganger had a darkness to him…sublte yet striking.
“Go away! You are not welcome here.”
“Haha, so naïve of you! Of course I’m welcome here. You let me in, after all. And quite willingly I may add!”
“What do you want?”
“I want the same thing you do, Zenny! To wake up.”
“And how do I do that?”
“It’s so easy. Just be a good little Seraphim and give in to me.”
“I see….let you take over?”
“Why yes, of course. You’re halfway there, anyway. So why not?”
“Because I don’t want to be that. Not anymore.”
“Oh, but that’s just the thing Zenapharr...because you DO! You DO want that! You will always have that part of you that craves for the kill. The scent and sight of the blood, the feeling of control, deciding when they die…you want it and you know it!”
“No. No I don’t.”
“Then why am I still here, hmm? I wouldn’t be here without you keeping me here. Deep down inside you know that you NEED me, Zenapharr. You say that you don’t, but you do! Every dark thought, every monstrous scenario. It’s not just by chance, it’s because of me and always will be! You can suppress me all you want, but a chance will come, a circumstance will arise, and you WILL let me take over, and let me in. That’s right, when the time is right you will always call upon me.”
“And what makes you so sure of that?”
“Because I am necessary for your survival. I am part of you, part of nature, part of everything. I am not the mask of evil you put on when you give in to those dark desires. You are the mask of good, and I am your face underneath. My thoughts are your thoughts, my ideas your fantasy, and your supposed willpower are no match, for I will wear you down and I will wait until just the right moment. So...shall we?”
The darker form of himself stretched out his hand, beckoning him. A part of him wanted to take it. In fact, he began to raise his hand to partake, but then something else spoke to him.
What would Alice think of you, giving in to this? You want to give up on her? She’s all you have now.
His hand stopped, and he thought back to that look Alice had given him. If something he did done long ago scared her, how much more would she be if he gave in completely now and killed more?
“I can’t bear to see her look at me like that again…I won’t do it.” He thought to himself.
“You won’t?” His dark form responded, and he was confused. Then he remembered that he shared a hive mind with this dark Thing. “Surely you can’t deny me. Again, I implore you…give in and let’s stop this whole charade, shall we?”
“No.” Zenapharr scowled, dropping his hand completely. “I’ll say it again…you are NOT welcome here. I banish you….that part of me is gone now.”
“Hahaha! You think you can get rid of me by just saying some ridiculous phrase?! Hah!” The Seraphim’s jaw went tight, and his fists balled up. “Fine then. Enough talking…let’s do this the hard way.”
He rushed at Zenapharr and grabbed him by the neck, shoving him against the wall. It was overwhelming, and for the first time Zenapharr was actually overpowered. He went into a state of shock, never having fought someone even close to his strength in a long time.
The crimson color filled the eyes of the doppelganger as he lifted Zenaphar higher onto the wall, then threw him across the floor. Zenapharr’s own eyes turned red now, rolling into a kneeling stance. The dark version of himself grinned, and they both sprinted toward each other. In a motion so fast it was a blur to the naked eye, the assassin ducked under a blow from his imposter and drove his elbow into his stomach.
The adversary clutched his stomach, the wind knocked out of him. Zenapharr leaned down to grab the wounded assailant, but was met with a surprise jab to his throat. As he clutched his wind pipe, his darker self met him with a swift right hook to the chin, sending him reeling and out-of-breath to the floor.
In a split second, his doppelganger pinned him to the ground with his knee, hands locked around his throat. Zenapharr felt the air quickly leaving his lungs as the room began to flash red
“Die!” The dark foe snarled as spit dribbled from his mouth.
In a last desperate attempt, Zenapharr shoved his thumb into his assailant’s eye socket. Growling in pain, the doppelganger clutched his now-bleeding eye.
“Ohhhh, you bastard!! I’m gonna…”
Before he could finish his threat, Zenapharr grabbed his wrist and twisted it hard until he heard an audible crack.
“AGGGH!” The evil twin shrieked, falling back from the pain. “This isn’t the end, you know!”
Wanting to see this dark Thing suffer, he pulled it’s arm behind its back, then yanked it upwards into an unnatural, grotesque position. The screams of pain were piercing, and his injured foe doubled over in agony. He cradled the dark foe’s neck from behind in a chokehold.
“You can’t….I own you, I own…”
“You own no one.”
At these words, he whipped his opponent’s head to the right, instantly snapping his neck. Immediately the body went limp in his arms, and he let it plop to the ground. There was an extreme silence as he stood there and reflected on all that had just transpired
Somehow, he felt lighter. An idea shot through him…he was always a killer by nature, but now what mattered was what type of killer he would be. Was he one that killed all for pleasure, or one that killed for good? He wanted to be the latter, but only as a protector. Was it truly possible to do this?
“Let’s go home.” A voice spoke, and he almost jumped at the sight of Alice beside him. With nothing left to say, he nodded and felt the sensation of flying through the air as a light overtook them.
Everything washed out in light, and suddenly he was looking at a set of fluorescent lights. A set of restraints tied down his arms, legs and torso. This he made short work of and ripped the locked cell door off of its hinges.
“Where are you Alice…” he uttered to himself, remembering the vision he saw of her and concluding it was real. It didn’t take long to figure out his instincts were right. A quick break-in at the security office and two unconscious guards later, he found that she was moved recently to cell 124B.
“Why are they putting her there?” He thought aloud in alarm. After having beaten information from the guards, he rushed away to save his dear friend. Fear settled in his bones when he thought back to what the guards had told him.
They were going to do a certain experiment to her…and she would not survive it.