Fade away into the light that shines, seeing what darkness lies here before you…
A message, set from another place, another time, just off the border…
Separated without form, in the realm of memory…
Worlds apart of your waking mind…
There lies another, who has your face, through the mirror…
In the space without days, without nights as you tread the halls of sanity…
From the darkness into the light, so fragile the threads, how they disappear…
There is a message from another time…
Go beyond the pain from the light into the darkness…
Erik Hart awakened with a gasp; feeling chilled as cold sweat stung his eyes and ran down his face and neck. The shadows from the realm of dreaming slowly parted as his eyes adjusted to dawning sunshine that filtered through his bedroom window, with weak rays of morning sun cutting into the pale white tiled walls. The harsh glow of fluorescence from buzzing plate lights that beamed harshly down shifted into warm yellow wallpaper that had faint fluffy, cotton-candy clouds on a blue-sky background.
The sensation of hard leather straps holding down his wrists fell away to twisted bed sheets and the medicated smell gave way to the odor of bacon that wafted from the downstairs kitchen.
His initial sensations of fear also dissipated into the realization that he was safely and comfortably in his own bed and not strapped onto some foreign restraining table. Yet, the coppery scent of blood never seemed to fully go away…
“Why do I keep having terrible dreams like this?” Erik thought and groaned as he pulled the bedspread over his head, knowing he would not be able to take pleasure in much rest any longer.
“Erik, it’s time to get up,” a faint female voice called.
“Not yet…” Erik moaned and turned onto his face, burying his head into the pillow.
“Come on, Son,” called a cheerful male voice. “Rise and shine!”
“It’s a nice day today,” said the female voice that Erik could not quite place. “Let’s go out and enjoy it…”
Erik blew a heavy sigh in return. “They just won’t let up,” he mused, hearing his bedroom door open. “Alright, I’m getting up…” he grumbled.
Reaching out, Erik paused when his hand touched cold steel. Before his mind could figure what his fingers grasped, Erik froze when he heard that all-too familiar metallic click.
“Die,” a dark voice hissed.
Erik quickly sat up and stumbled out of bed, landing on the floor with a hard thud. Checking his head against his nightstand, he reeled in pain and held his head in hand as his ears rung loudly through diffused ambiance.
Erik panted weakly for breath, trying to focus on his surroundings and make sense of where he was. Clutching a hand to his chest, he took in a shallow breath and let it out slowly, concentrating on keeping in his banging heart that threatened to jump out of the confines of his ribs.
Relieved that he found no one standing before him wielding any weapons that meant to do him some grievous bodily harm, Erik blew a shaky sigh as he rubbed at his eyes, trying to readjust to his surroundings. He moaned and hunched forward, wiping a hand over his face drenched with cold sweat, struggling to recall where he had been.
Annoyed that his head felt stuffed with cotton, he cursed at himself when no matter how hard he tried, his memory produced no results. Erik looked around the room, only to find that once his vision finally cleared, he stared at the blank beige walls of his apartment in which he resided in.
“I need to stop eating strange things so late,” Erik muttered, kicking off the tangled sheets that trapped his ankles. Yawning loudly once he got to feet and stretched, he padded down the short flight of stairs into the kitchen and switched on the electric percolator.
Turning on the small television he had stationed on the nearby counter, Erik let the morning news filter in as headed back to the bathroom to get ready for the day.
Washing his face, Erik looked back into the mirror that displayed a porcelain-skinned young man with fiery red hair; slight freckles dotted across his narrow nose and highly defined cheeks and sleepy deep-set emerald green eyes that stared back. He smiled, displaying straight white teeth.
“Looking good,” he said brightly at his reflection and finished washing in the face bowl. Returning to his bedroom, Erik kicked on a pair of pajama pants and stepped into them, then glanced out to the busy street below as he tied the ties around his narrow waist.
Approaching the glass doors, he opened them wide and stepped out onto the small balcony, taking in the sights of the morning rush while watching cars going and coming from their various destinations, choking the air with their exhaust.
In the distance, looming high above the rest of the buildings in the area was the famous hundred-storey Farmless Tower at the edge of the city on the horizon. The crystal-like structure held numerous offices and machinery inside that controlled the city’s power grid, only accessible by underground elevators.
It seemed to hover above ground with no wires, with a single steel support beam running through its center that also made its antenna. Surrounded by many panels coated with shiny, almost iridescent blue material that soaked in the sun’s rays to keep the electricity it harbored flowing, was not only the city’s monument, but also the city’s only power source.
The testament to the former farm and mining town’s tower ran a newly discovered energy source, a substance called Corite. The diamond-like mineral could burn like coal, though very slowly and provided billions of hours of energy as well as heat for millions of homes in the area. The strange mineral was also claimed that it could save the planet.
Shaking his head in an attempt to clear the vague memories that threatened to reach the surface of his mind, Erik experienced slight illness in the pit of his stomach as he left the window and returned to the parlor.
Opening the drapes, the room became washed in morning light and Erik perched on the edge of his simple dark beige leather couch, enjoying the view of the bustling city in which he lived as well as admiring the lively hustling peaceful contented patrons who went about their day.
The telephone’s shrill ring decimated Erik’s thoughts and he slipped off the couch, fetching the receiver from the end table close to the kitchen. Picking it up, all he heard was dial tone. Staring back at the receiver, he noted it was a blue-green princess model from a former telephone company he could not quite call to mind. Erik shut his eyes, clenching hard to the phone he held as another faint memory surfaced that he did not have the time to suppress.
“Erik,” the faint female voice called to him, “who was that?”
“They didn’t say, Mother,” Erik called back.
“Maybe they realized they dialed the wrong number…”
“Maybe you’re right.”
Erik opened his eyes and let out a cry when he found he held a pink princess model. Dropping as if it were hot, he watched the receiver hang by its cord and swing from the end table’s ledge.
Turning away, Erik slowly counted to five and peered over his shoulder, finding the blue-green telephone back in its place with the receiver resting on the cradle. Blowing a shaky sigh, Erik walked into the kitchen once the scent of coffee permeated the air and drew a cup to drink while watching the newscast.
Erik sat curled at the kitchen table, sipping plain black coffee from a mug while he half-listened to the droning reporter read out reports. He nearly choked on his drink when he saw his picture appear on the small screen with the caption underneath that stated ‘wanted for questioning’. Dropping all he held, the mug crashed on the floor and Erik came closer, turning up the volume.
“That can’t be…!” he gasped, touching the glass surface as he peered at the screen more closely. “But it is me…”
At a loss when he could not remember the night before, he madly searched his mind for clues to where he had been. The ring of the telephone startled him and Erik left the kitchen, immediately picking up the line.
“You have twenty minutes,” said a cold female voice that left him breathless.
Erik stared at the receiver in shock once dial tone flooded his end of the line. He slammed the receiver back in the cradle and bolted for the bedroom.
“… Considered a prime suspect wanted for questioning about the murder of a federal official,” said the voice of the reporter as Erik sifted frantically through his closet.
Coming to a pause when he found a suitcase with a note taped on its side: ‘for when you need it’, Erik opened it and found a change of clothing as well as a smaller case that also had a note taped to it: ‘for emergency use only’. Opening the smaller case that revealed a thin translucent blue pen with a silvery-blue cap resting within, his fingers tingled slightly when he took it out and removed the cap, revealing a crystal nib.
Somewhat confused as he put back the strange fountain pen, unable to decipher its meaning, Erik strained his hearing of the continuing newscast in the next room as he changed into jeans, T-shirt and slip-on sneakers.
“Menoka City police and Montana State troopers are on guard;” continued the reporter, “as Federal and other law enforcement officials are citing caution for this individual may be armed and highly dangerous…”
The telephone rang again and Erik quickly snapped shut the case, taking it with him as he hurried downstairs. Nervous as he slowly approached the phone, Erik picked up the receiver once more with shaking hands.
“Go to where the stars shine brightly,” said the mysterious female voice. Erik cringed, startled at the sound of a sudden bang outside his door. “Oh, and by the way, they’re directly outside.” The click followed and he dropped the receiver.
Rushing for the balcony, Erik let go of the case and threw open the glass doors. Before he could leap out onto the sidewalk below, sudden electricity surged through him. Erik howled in pain and involuntarily sank to his knees, stunned and unable to move.
Suddenly charged as the sensation immediately passed, Erik scampered to his feet, picking up the case along with him. He swung it at one uniformed guard who dodged the attack.
The guard, in a dark cap and glasses, charged for Erik and Erik knocked him back with force from one more swing. The guard tumbled backwards into another that came directly behind him and Erik grunted when a third jumped onto his back, wrestling him down to the ground. The case struck the floor with a hard thud from the resulting force.
Taken by the arms, Erik ground his teeth as they were tied back by an orange ring. The guard tightened the restraining device around his wrists, applying pressure that threatened to cut off his hands.
Erik screamed when another jolt of electricity blasted through him, sending him forward on his knees. He panted weakly for breath and heavy footsteps stormed up to him from his side. A fourth officer grabbed his hair with a heavy hand, yanking back his head.
Forced to look up, Erik faced a uniformed officer in a dark helmet with a smoky visor that concealed his eyes. He spat at the officer and his head whipped to the side from a heavy backhand.
“We expected more of a fight outta you, boy,” the guard sneered.
Noting their uniforms were similar, the one who held his head had three gold buttons on the collar of the suit, while the three others only had one silver button. “He must be the leader,” Erik thought, wincing when violently shaken. “Why does his voice sound familiar…?”
“Anything to say, boy?”
“What do you want with me?” Erik grumbled.
The uniformed guardsman withdrew a small silver pen from his pocket, flipped a switch on its side and shone a blue light into Erik’s eyes. Erik yowled in pain and shied away. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, boy.”
“It seems I have no choice.” Erik grunted when the guard increased his grip.
“Now tell me what you know.”
“I don’t remember anything,” Erik spat and groaned when his head propelled back from another hard slap. He wheezed for breath through gritted teeth as his nose bled and stiffened when he saw himself kneeling over a bloodstained body that wore a suit and carried a silver attaché case, riddled with bullets.
“We saw the aftermath of your little show,” snapped the guard.
“But…!” Erik let out a yell when struck again. He shook his head, trying to clear the grisly image of himself pulling the dead body out into a deserted alley and hoisting it with apparent ease into a large refuse bin.
“Who sent you?”
“What we want is an answer: yes or no.”
“I don’t understand -- for what?”
The uniformed lead guardsman let out a short laugh, and the three others chimed in with nervous guffaws. “Hear that, men?” he crowed, “He wants to know ‘for what’!” Erik grunted once the guard grabbed his throat in a firm hold and pulled him up, holding him dangling several inches from the floor. “Don’t play stupid with me, boy.”
“I don’t remember,” cried Erik, “honest!”
“Do you think he got wiped before returning here, Sir?” asked the guard behind Erik. “The attaché case that held the schematics was never recovered…”
“My scanner picks up that he hadn’t uploaded any programs to the system,” said the one behind the head officer, holding a small chirping monitoring device.
“He’s clean, Sir,” murmured the guard on the lead officer’s other side.
“Check that case of his,” barked the head guardsman. “The one you fools didn’t recover is most likely in plain sight!”
“On it,” one junior guard replied.
Erik clawed at the officer’s hand that held a tight vise-like gloved grip around his throat, only to hear a high whine as the guard pointed a sleek black pistol at his forehead.
“I suggest you stop struggling, boy,” the high-ranked officer sneered. Erik slackened; watching listlessly as the two guardsmen closest to the head officer opened the case, sweeping it with small hand-held scanners.
“Just an ordinary change of clothes and a fountain pen set, Sir,” said one guard. “No blueprints.”
“Do you think it’s the other one?”
“Either way, kill him.” The guard threw Erik down and he quickly struggled to loosen his binds. Dark cyan electricity surrounded his body once the three remaining officers withdrew their pistols to point at him
“No!” Erik screamed as all four shot at him at once, blinding him as pain quickly took over. He heard a weak gasp as he shook his head, shaking off the initial stun.
Erik rolled out of the way, dodging four more beams of high-powered shots before standing unsteadily to his feet. His hands grew eerily warm and the orange ties that held him shattered, freeing his wrists. He backed away, stunned as the slender pen floated before him unsteadily in faint green light.
“Don’t you dare, boy!” snarled the head guardsman as he turned the switch on the side of his pistol. As he readjusted the settings, Erik grabbed for the pen and a bright white light flashed as it transformed into a blue steel long sword that cackled intensely in violet energy.
“Get out of here!” Erik shouted, waving the sword in their general direction. “Don’t make me use this -- whatever this is!”
He turned, slashing at one officer who approached from behind, felling him in a wing of silver light that cut him in half by the torso. Blood splashed over him and the hardwood floor, also staining the wall behind him. Erik backed away, shuddering in fright as the two remaining junior guards stepped away, clearly disturbed.
“Sir…” murmured one, “what do you think…?”
“Well, I think…” the secondary interjected.
“It doesn’t matter what you think!” roared the head guard and fired at Erik, only to have the beam of light ricochet off his shoulder. Erik seethed and staggered back, clutching his wounded shoulder that bled blue blood.
“What’s going on here?” Erik wondered, heaving for breath. “What should I do now?”
“You’re merely lucky, boy,” snapped the lead officer. “Look, let’s just get this over with and let us kill you -- let it be quick and painless.”
“I won’t allow it!” Erik shrilled.
“Yeah, I know there’s probably nothing in the world that can hurt you, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna stop me from finishing my job, boy.”
“You’re down by one!”
The head guard turned away, cupping an ear with his gloved hand. “Second team, take him out,” he ordered. “He’s a little hostile…”
Erik turned around as several more helmeted guardsmen burst through the front door of the apartment. He turned for the balcony and ducked once grabbed for, kicking away the guard who intended on restraining him.
“This is insane,” thought Erik as he sliced through one on his left and one from behind.
Another guard attempted to force him to drop the blade by grabbing his arm in a firm hold. Erik slammed his back into the wall, struggling to loosen the fighter’s tight grip. He hurled the guard toward the balcony’s window, sending him crashing through the glass.
Erik ran on automatic, decimating his highly equipped opponents with a long sword that hummed as he swung it through the air, effortlessly cutting through flesh as if it were a hot knife through butter.
Only the head guardsman remained in the limb-strewn bloodstained parlor floor, standing across from Erik as he panted heavily for breath. The guard sustained few gashes to his uniform and had a cracked helmet.
“If I can’t get what I said through to you,” wheezed the guard, “then I’ve got other means…”
“Obviously you don’t seem to understand that you’re outmatched,” spat Erik. “Now get out of here!”
“Not when we have a fail-safe,” a familiar voice said from behind. Erik turned and took a step back when he faced a golden pistol pointed at his head held by a smiling young man, a stranger to Erik who happened to have his face.
“Who are you?” Erik asked and swallowed hard when the handgun shone brightly in dark vermilion light.
“Well, well,” the young man said, “it’s a shame that you woke up too late…”
“…What?” A blast of gunfire blinded Erik and his ears rang as he saw nothing but red. He lost his grip on the sword and staggered backward, then tripped over the edge.
In the nanosecond he plunged, Erik realized with absurd clarity what a beautiful and perfectly still day it was, with no wind and few clouds. He looked up in mute horror after it dawned on him that he found himself free falling, staring up at a stranger who had his face that grinned madly at the sight of his impending end.
As gravity took hold and Erik started the rocket ride ever swiftly down, he entertained ideas of seeing himself crashing barely a quarter-mile onto the ground below, where his body would become nothing more than a soft, wet, smashed beef slab and his skull disintegrating into fine powder. Erik prayed to any deity who would listen to die of shock before the harsh reality of the incoming onslaught of pain he was readily due for.