Hiksil told the story of my mother, and everything went silent.
The moons faded into a bland grey, and the pleasant fragrance of the forest dispersed as the rustling of the leaves died into hollowness. The swirl in my gut returned, growing little by little, yet fading my own detection with every passing moment. It no longer felt like an intruder, but more like a second heart.
On its first beat, my vision faded at once.
A collage of foregin memories came rushing through with Hiksil's voice echoing as if he were a commentator to the events I saw. Dark conversations, bloody piles of deceased, and the faces of a hundred thousand people as they screamed for the head of a little girl swarmed until the image focused on a single event. A man held a rusted bloody dagger in one hand with the other clenched to the sky as a crowd raged around. He stood atop a stage, and his eyes locked with mine, glowing with enthusiasm. His jagged smile widened as he plunged into a girl, and waited for her head to drop before ripping across her torso. My eyes dropped to the concrete beneath. Bloody rags laid tattered over my bloody knees, and shackles restricted the freedom of my hands. I felt a forceful crack against my jaw followed by a quick wet splat hitting my cheek as my body crashed. The outline of a face spoke out, but the sun beamed a headache into my skull and my vision blurred. The identity of the figure was lost, and I let my eyes fall forward, lying there as the rage of the crowd and the screams of the officers collided until the world faded all at once.
“Questa la vendetta è pura. Oscurità prevarrà.”
I heard a broken man speak, and the darkness inside me reacted.
My eyes opened to a different shade of grey. The air was calm, and the atmosphere held complete emptiness. I felt no sadness, no anger, no happiness, no purpose, nor any memories, questions, or desires. There was only the familiar swirl of a lingering hunger jamming at my side, beckoning me toward the nearest aura to feast on. I glanced left and saw two figures, both radiating delicious energy. Their faces were distorted, but their auras spoke to me, flickering and flowing their unique patterns. It was like watching black flames dance around their bodies. I glanced at my hand, and seeing my own similar energy, they became unappealing to my appetite. Their aura's whispers echoed around, telling me about the ones they enveloped.
One was a man by the name of Hiksil, while the other, a girl, Candy. I knew these people. I fostered no relation or disposition to the girl, however I viewed Hiksil as someone who was supposed to give me purpose. Someone I didn't want to kill, despite the radiating presence he maintained. The girl on the other hand couldn't stir a single bit of emotion within me. I had no interest for her whatsoever, so I guess she didn't have to die either. The swirl in my stomach, however, was becoming more and more insistent that it be fed. It had settled back to its center, however continued its incrementing rampage.
“Follow me,” Hiksil broke in, turning to the edge of the cliff.
“Where are we going?”
“To a place where your hunger can be satisfied.” I jumped down behind him, and silence replaced the impact as I hit the ground. Except for the wind and the others, everything was mute. I could hear Hiksil and Candy's footsteps crunching the grass beneath, but my own were nowhere to be found. I glanced curiously around this mysterious world. It felt like I'd been here, but at a time where this dullness wasn't so prevelant. The leaves, the grass and the sky were all grey. The trees rustled as the wind sung its calm melody, and the grass echoed it. Hiksil walked slowly, allowing me to take in the strange sights. Candy followed me, and her aura swirled around me as if it was curious of my being in her presence.
“What is this place?” I asked after a period of silence.
“It's interesting isn't it?” Hiksil replied.
I took another glance around. I don't know if that would have been the first word I'd have used, but it certainly was mysterious. It was like I'd seen these things before, but in a different way.
“What you're seeing is freedom. The world without a lens.”
I turned to Hiksil in confusion.
“This is the true world that we live in,” he continued, “In reality, everything is black and white. However, people refuse to believe that our world is as simple as it is. They believe that what they are has to hold more meaning than it actually does. They want to believe that they aren't just brainless creatures of war and habit. And so they attempt to find what isn't there. Because they can't accept the emptiness. The darkness inside of them. But darkness is our freedom, and those who have denied it are the oppressors. Ones who would see us restricted by force. And it's people like us who will release them from their slavery.”
We broke from the forest and ventured to the edge of a cliff. Below us in a vast valley was a city filled with an overcrowded auroma of energy. It stretched to the horizon, with various buildings, streets and highways that extended into the foggy mountains in the far distance. An ocean took residence on its east border, and another forest extened from its far west region.
“Come.” Hiksil beckoned with an outstretched arm. Candy had taken a place on his left, and he held his hand on her shoulder. I walked forward and took up the same position on his opposite side. He touched my shoulder and in the next moment, we were standing in the center of the city. Vast amounts of species were scurrying along to their various destinations, some holding joyful conversations, singing and murmuring to themselves as they moved about their day. Their faces were blurred, but their auras spoke to me their various names and thoughts.
“They don't seem to be miserable of their enslavement,” I noted. Hiksil smirked.
“They may speak with their faces and whispers. But their auras reveal their true nature.”
Hiksil stared down into the crowds of beings throughout the city, looking on them with emptiness.
“The mind is a very chaotic thing. So many conflicting thoughts battle constantly within. Always trying to force the light and repress the darkness, but the madness is always looking for a way out. A way to be free. Everyone secretly wants to release that rage. To burn those who've wronged them, and to rise against those who rule them. But fear holds them in check.”
“Fear of what?” I intervened.
“Fear of losing control.”
There was another pause between his words, and I waited patiently for him to expand on his statement.
“Every being needs to feel control. Whether it be over themselves, over an object, or over a loved one. It keeps them grounded. Because in reality, there are so many things that are out of our influence, that it becomes overwhelming to think about. Questions of our purpose and contributions can never be answered. Whether you will live or die. Whether your life actually holds any meaning. What happens to your contributions when you've passed on. These are things we do not know, and it causes us to feel helplessness, agony, and despair. And so we cling to the things that are within our grasp in hopes that it will be enough to prevent that darkness from overtaking us. Because we don't know what it leads to once it is accepted.”
Hiksil gestured toward the beings below us.
“Do you see their auras?”
I looked down to a man basked in a grey aura. He walked briskly with a briefcase in one hand and a cell phone in the other. His aura whispered his thoughts. The rage he was feeling for the person on the other side of the line.
“They're tainted,” Hiksil continued.
The man hung up, taking a quick pause to compose himself. A woman passed, and the two exchanged pleasantries, but his aura spoke his little regard for her existence. As if she was just something to be used for his own personal gain.
“Very few live their lives in complete purity. All beings are chaotic at heart. And through time, we've tried to suppress our chaotic side. But it can't be suppressed. Every one has their breaking point, no matter the methods it takes to reach it. And so the next best option is to look for a release while still maintaining control. Some people drink. Some people steal. Some people fornicate. And some people use war and execution as a way to release their inner demon.”
Hiksil turned his gaze from the people below to the sky above.
“You see,” he continued, “what people don't realize is that there is control in darkness. I chose to let it overtake me. The problem, is that beings are afraid of its embrace. They are so worried about losing who they are, that they can't picture who they would become. And that's what terrifies them.”
“And it didn't scare you?”
“I'd already lost who I was,” he smirked. "But most aren't strong enough to go through those measures, and so they have people like us to release it for them.”
“And with the release comes freedom.”
“Tell me, Hiksil, do you feel the hunger too?” I questioned after a moment.
“No, my boy, that's a gift only you have.”
“And what makes me different?”
“Hm. You see, we have accepted the darkness. And in doing so, we have become harbringers. But your darkness is pure. You aren't just a harbringer, you're a guide. The Apex. The harbringer of harbringers. We may be able to spread the influence, but your very life force allows the fear of it to be vanquished, and to let their madness be released. They see you release it, and feel your energy beckoning them, telling them that it's okay. And suddenly the world doesn't seem so frightening anymore. It allows them to be their true selves. To let their auras radiate the chaotic energy that they were born with.”
Chaotic energy. I felt my stomach suddenly grow restless again at the sound of it. That must have been the satisfaction of my hunger. I glanced at my hand as I voluntarily shifted the talons through my skin.
“The Apex, huh? Is that my purpose Hiksil? To be the guide for this enslaved world?”
Hiksil didn't comment, but nodded in approval.
I held my eyes closed for a moment, and suddenly nothing else mattered. The visions I'd seen earlier came sweeping through one last time, and my aura chanted as I began letting my power increment.
I opened my eyes and saw the tainted auras lighting the city like braziers.
“Let the darkness reign,” I murmured.
I charged down from the building, and attacked the man I'd been watching. I ripped his torso open with one claw, and a crowd of people turned their head as I went for my next victim. I flashed behind the woman, and sent energy spiking through her upper and lower back. It ripped through her chest and abdomen like jagged blades. The auras of the witnesses whispered their curiosity as they watched my onslaught, and slowly they began shifting to a thick ebony black. Within seconds, the dark energy filled the air around me. It bundled tightly, slipping through my limbs and merging with my own energy. The pleasure was building rapidly, and the serrated teeth came jutting through my gums. I gave a wide grin as I glanced at the new followers around me. They held their own twisted smiles, and the energy caused them to appear deranged as they held their eyes fasted on me, waiting for the signal to let the chaos reign. I let out a screech that broke the tune of the wind and charged forward, letting my energy burn a trail of black flames through the streets. I cut my way through crowds, crashed my way through buildings, and smashed my way through obstacles. With each passing second, the dark air became denser.
As I bursted through an alley, the aura of a strange man caught my attention. I paused, and looked curiously upon his figure. He wore a burgundy trench coat and black baggy jeans. In one hand he held a large rifle over his shoulder, and in the other was the end of a red glowing chain that wrapped around his torso. I grinned as the man stood firm, as if he'd been waiting for me to show up.
“So you're the Beast of Haalm, huh?” Haalm? Didn't ring a bell. Nor did I care to indulge the man.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Who am I?” I grinned.
“Doesn't matter,” he interrupted, snatching the chain from his torso.
“Whoever, or whatever the hell you are, I'm going to end you right here.”
His energy intensified, and I felt a wave of pleasure run through me at the thought of the challenge. Ripping him apart would be the highlight of my day.
He vanished from sight. I heard a charge, followed by an explosion as I was blasted through a building at the dead end of the alley. The pain erupted from my back and into my entire body. It brought me delight to feel the rapid pulsing through my body along with the blood spilling on the cement. He bursted through the debris I'd left, letting his rifle take another shot before slinging his chain. It lassoed around my neck, and he blinked past me, yanking me along as he dashed up a large black glass building. The momentum caused me to smash through the glass, and I broke through ceiling after ceiling as we made our way to the top. Just as I'd finally saw the outside again, his figure suddenly blocked my view as he pulled himself toward me and dug his foot into my ribs. I took another trip through the floors of the building until we crashed at the bottom, leaving a sizeable fissure, and detonating the surrounding buildings in the process. I choked on my laughter as I convulsed on the blood spurting from my lungs before settling down again. The dark energy in the air surged, and bundled me once again, weaving into my skin and stitching all of its rips and tears. In an instant, all of the damage from the beating I'd just taken had vanished. I slowly rose, meeting the muddled eyes of my competitor.
“What kind of an abomination are you?” he hissed.
My grin widened as the despair began to take over his eyes.
I charged. He flashed behind me again, but this time, I turned and deflected his rifle as he attempted to send another blow to my lower back. I reared back my leg and drove home into his chest. I rushed toward him, and he used his chain to propel himself out of the way. I let out a flare of energy from my palm that swept under him as he landed before flying into his chest with another kick that knocked him into the debris of the building we'd just demolished. He sprung up as I charged toward him again, however stumbled as he dodged. I swung around and caught him with a claw into his stomach and ripped deep into him before sending him into the center of the alley way. I walked toward my prey as he kneeled with the last of his energy.
“What the hell are you!” he demanded. He gurgled up blood, and his arms shook as he attempted to stabilize himself. I uttered nothing as I slowly stalked closer.
“I will not die today.” he cursed, striking the ground. It cracked at my feet, and I jumped onto an elevated piece of debris behind me as a large rift separated us.
“I don't know what the hell you are, but be warned that whatever abomination you may be, you will be defeated.”
He spoke on, and I felt another presence ease its way into the area. I relaxed, and released my transformation.
“You asked who I am,” I acknowledged. The man looked on in curiosity.
“I am the apex predator. And I will guide the galaxy out of its oppression.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but before the words could come, an energy blade ripped its way through his neck. The man fell lifelessly, and Candy stood behind him with a pleasant grin on her face.
“Taking my kills now?” I smirked.
“Well, we didn't want him to escape now did we?” she giggled. Her response provoked a slight grin, and I jumped across the fissure and walked out of the alley. I found a building that was intact and dashed to the top. Candy followed, and Hiksil appeared soon after. I looked down to the burning city below. The inhabitants swarmed, blurring through the streets with their new found freedom, faster and stronger than they ever would have been. With every move they made, the others watching were infected with the madness. It spread across the city like a cloud. Buildings burned, people let out their screams, and sirens wailed. Debris filled the streets, and the combination of thunder and dark energy had black lightning striking furiously over the city. The wind sung a new lullaby to me, and I could feel its high tune against my skin. All at once, the world began fading, and the darkness wrapped me in its embrace.