The first sensation he was aware of was pain. It was an insufferable pounding in his head, making it hard for him to think, to focus. He could feel the floor beneath him, the soft carpet rubbing against his arms. What was his name? He had a name, didn’t he? His pounding head wouldn’t think for a minute, then it came to him.
“Knox.” He said, his voice hoarse, as if he hadn’t used it in quite a while. With the return of his name, he felt small comfort. Everything else was gone. There were no memories. No idea what personality he had. Nothing. It was as if he had just been born. But no. There had to be memories. Knox had to have a life. If he didn’t how did he understand the present? How did he know what was going on?
What was going on?
Knox opened his eyes, but found that everything was as black as before.He got up, turning in a circle, looking for some pinpoint of light. There was none. He straightened, even standing on his tiptoes, but saw nothing, the stifling blackness enveloping everything, as fear started to envelope him. Suddenly, he was knocked to the ground as the ground shook beneath him, a voice roaring through the blackness, overwhelming him.
What a voice!!! It was gentle, it was overpowering, it was beautiful, it was horrifying. When it spoke, everything trembled, but it seemed that everything was quite. Knox was terrified, he was repulsed. Yet he felt calmed, drawn to the power swirling around each and every word.
“Young, gentle child, why are you scared? Why are you afraid? You have a great purpose here, child. Do not be afraid. You are safe. “
The voice ended, and a double clap rang out into the ensuing silence. Knox, about to protest that he did not want to judge, that he could not even see! But even as he had opened his mouth, it closed, along with his eyes, as lights shining like the sun blinded him. Stunned, the male shaded his eyes. They dimmed slightly, and he opened his eyes.
The first thing Knox noted were the hands covering his eyes. They were smooth, unlined by age. They were the hands of a young person.
But how do you know that?! His mind screamed. How could he possibly know what age did to a body, when he could not remember what an elderly person looked like? What was age to a person who had no memory at all?
The second thing was the room he was standing in it was circular, the walls creamy white. The floor itself was stone, with the exception of the red carpet upon which he stood. A red carpet that led from a huge door behind him to an ornate, golden throne, glittering in the light from a large chandelier hanging high above him.
The third thing (for there must always be a third thing) was the young man sitting on the throne. Startling blue eyes peered out from dark brown hair, framing his face. High cheekbones accentuated his face, so despite his cheerful expression, that stranger looked commanding, used to never hearing no for an answer. He was well dressed, wearing a black suit with a red tie, and a red handkerchief protruding from the left breast pocket. Combined, these characteristics made for a regal appearance, in spite of the wide, white smile stamped upon his face.
Something about him bothered Knox. Perhaps it was the wildness at the edge of the eyes. Perhaps it was the slender, almost claw-like appearance of his hands clenching the armrests of the throne. No, he had it. What bothered the lost young man was the familiarity of this stranger. It was as if he had known this person for all of his forgotten life. For all he knew, Knox probably had.
Those bright blue eyes studied Knox for a moment, before the stranger spoke.
“Hello Knox! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? You look well. Or well enough, all things considered...” the man’s face soured, and then smiled again, so fast Knox might’ve imagined it. “You don’t remember me?” Those eyes studied Knox again, calculating. “Well, you wouldn’t. It’s required for what you need to do. Droll, boring business. But the boss gets what he wants, so here you are. You can call me….Magnus. Yeah, that’ll do. It means ‘The Greatest’ in Latin. My parents had a thing for old things, even names.”
Knox spoke, his voice cracking from inactivity, “It’s good to meet you, Magnus. I, ah... I have no idea what I’m doing here. I don’t even know where here is!” Panic tinged his voice. It invaded his mind. No idea who he was, no idea where he was, Knox could feel himself breaking down, he could feel terror taking over.
But that indescribable voice spoke to him again. It soothed him. The terror fled at the beautiful, horrible sound. And Knox found himself kneeling on the floor, relatively calm once more. Magnus still sat on the throne, unperturbed by Knox’s actions.
“It is obvious that you are tired, and bewildered. I’ll have a servant take you to your room, where you can rest and freshen up for your Judgment tomorrow.” Magnus paused, as if considering something, but closed his mouth, gesturing instead to the wall. A panel slid open, a door, revealing a slight girl not much older than Magnus. Tan skinned, with light brown hair and large eyes, which only got bigger when Magnus gestured towards Knox. As he saw her, an almost tangible chord of recognition cut short his breath. It was similar to seeing Magnus for the first time, but more powerful. Even without suspicions nagging the back of his mind, Knox knew this person was part of his past. Who was she?
“Katarina, Mr. Knox here is tired, and wishes to see his rooms. Show him to them.” Magnus gestured in dismissal and Katarina led Knox from the room.
It was a long walk to his rooms, filled with an awkward silence, Katarina glancing at him confusedly and nervously the question “Who are you and why are you here?” clearly stamped on her face. But neither of them spoke. Instead, Knox marveled at the white hallways, awed at the endless rows of beautifully crafted doors to either side. Some were gray, some black, some silvery white, but all were decorated with intricate golden veins creating patterns on the door. They reflected the light from the hallway, but for the life of him, Knox could see no light source.
Exiting the long hallway, the two found themselves in a large, hexagon-shaped room. On each wall there was another corridor. The room itself was comfortable. Soft red carpet decorated the floor; a low, marble table occupied the center, with two cloth-covered couches on either side. The hallways were all marked at the top: MJVK, KMK, and KHK respectively. Turning to look back the way they came, Knox saw that the other three were marked the same, counterparts facing each other on opposite sides of the room. Katarina gestured towards the hallway in front of them, marked “KMK”.
“Your room will be at the end, marked 96-6-30.” said Katarina. Her voice cracked, as if it had not been used in a long time. It lowered to a whisper at what she spoke next, “When you awake, go to a room five doors down from yours and go inside.”
With that, Katarina walked away, down the hall to the left, behind Knox, her pale feet not making a sound on the red carpet floor. He was alone now, the house seeming bigger and a tad more terrifying. Knox started walking, though. It felt like a lifetime, but he made it to the end of the corridor. Along the way, he noticed the curious design of the hallways.
When Knox thought of hallways, he thought of separate halls only intersecting at certain points. Along these, however, the three separated and joined together at odd, irregular intervals, the walls stopping so that Knox could see into the other halls. Sometimes the MJVK hall would show to his left; at others, he could see into the KHK hall on the right. Sometimes both would be open at the same point. Knox Knight could only guess at the significance of such an odd design.
His room was plain, a single bed and table, both white, occupied the small space. As soon as he entered, Knox could feel exhaustion weigh down his eyes, and gave in to the temptation to close his eyes.
His eyes opened. There were no windows to let in natural light, so Knox had no idea what time it truly was. He just knew that it was time to wake up. Speaking of windows…
His eyes widened. There were no windows, no mirrors, no reflective surfaces at all. Had it been that way the entire time? Yes, Knox knew. Not even the metal materials decorating the house had given off a reflection.
More than a little perturbed at this realization, Knox grabs the wooden (albeit made out of really nice Red Cedar) door handle, and walks out into the hallway, looking around. As before, it was empty as far as he could see. Shrugging off his feelings of foreboding, Knox started to walk to the hexagon room. It wasn’t until he was half-way there that Knox remembered what Katarina had said. Looking back at how far he had walked, a groan issued from his throat. It seemed impossible that a house could be so long, but it seemed again to Knox that he had spent a lifetime walking. What’s worse, that sleep had not refreshed him at all. He felt even more lethargic than before, his limbs feeling like lead, as if his body was a battery about to die.
The girl’s face had seemed sincere, though, and the whisper made Knox think that perhaps that door hid something important to Magnus, something that would place his fury upon Katarina if he were ever to discover it.
The thought made Knox falter a step on his way back to the door. Maybe he shouldn’t? But there was a tingle in his spine, an irresistible feeling of glee to do something that may land him in trouble. His lips quirked up as he reached the door. He figured that, in his forgotten past, he had done that multiple times, had possibly even got caught in about half of those escapades.
The door was silvery white, gold interlacing itself in an intricate pattern on the white canvas. It was labeled 02-6-25. Knox turned the handle and pushed. It opened with no resistance. The room was glowing white. That didn’t matter, though, for as soon as he stepped through, Knox lost consciousness. Instead of the room, he found himself at a hazy scene, looking through someone else’s eyes.
“He looked around, making sure no one was looking. The store was already empty, even at 7 o’clock. The cashier was sound asleep. He grabbed a box of cereal, and put it his bag. A shiver ran up his spine as he zipped up the bag. As sneaky as a 7 year old can be, he crept towards the door. He pushed it open. Out goes one foot. Out goes the other. Now for the bag…
Knox jumped at the sound of the alarm go off. If he had been sitting, he would’ve fallen out of the chair, just like the cashier. The only thought on his mind was to run. Don’t get caught. Cereal was food that could feed his mom. But it wouldn’t feed his mom if he was caught. RUN!!
“Oh, my mistake, I guess we forgot to pay for this.”
A stranger walked past him, picking the cereal out of the bag and moved to the cashier. He felt rage. He needed that! He felt confusion. What was this person doing, paying for his box of cereal? The stranger ushered him outside.
“Here you go.” The stranger said, handing him the box. His steely grey eyes glittered from underneath a similarly colored mop of hair. “We couldn’t have you getting in trouble, now could we?”
“I would have gotten away.” He grumbled.
The strange man laughed. “I’m sure you would have! But that’s not the trouble I’m talking about.” Knox got poked in the head and heart. “It’s here, and here. You’re too young to have such a small crime on your soul.” He glanced at his watch. ”OH!! I’m late. You’ll have to excuse me!” And the stranger ran off, accidentally tripping over a trash can in his haste. The bright sound of laughter escaped Knox’s lips, and he ran off, feeling confused, but light. It was as if he was a better child because if this man. He wondered what his mother would think…”
Knox gasped as he awoke, as if he had suddenly been doused in cold water. What was that?! A memory? Not his, surely. The laughter bubbling inside him, a remnant from what he just witnessed dissipated. Was this what he had to, as Magnus put it, judge? A child? Judge him on what? As far as it appeared, the kid was just about to act bad for the sake of the good. It surely wasn’t something Knox would condemn. His head ached, his movements even slower. Even worse, he was unable to feel his feet, or his hands. The lights around him flickered, as if their non-existent source were dying.
When they stopped, Knox started. He heard a door open. Farther down the hallway, someone entered another door. And so, he did the only thing any sane person would do. Knox rushed to the door, right before it closed. He wondered if it was Magnus, or maybe Katarina, for those were the only two he had seen in the entire place. There is the cat, he amended, as a white cat ran by, its black feet not making a sound.
Above this door, the label stood out clearly: 13-12-13 It was grey, looking almost like a mist. The golden veins created a paradigm not unlike a cloud, only accentuating the door’s fog-like appearance. His hand turned the doorknob, and he saw the interior was actually filled with a sort of fog. Bracing himself, he stepped inside.
“The girl took his hands, leading him out of the crowd. Once they were far enough away, she spun around angrily, to face him.
‘What the heck were you thinking?!’ she raged, her big eyes flashing. “Oh yeah, I know. You weren’t! You never do! It’s why you’re always in situations like this! You always, always, always act like nobody can help you!” Each ‘always’ was accentuated by a finger stabbed in his chest. With the nails, it felt like his little cat Snuggles was poking him. Ouch.
“Listen, Kat, I can explain, it wasn-“he stammered, but she wouldn’t hear it.
“No! You listen! You have friends. Do you need me to explain that to you? Me, Johnny, even my dad. We’re always here to help you out! Always! With your mom gone, the only thing keeping you from being taken away is my dad’s vouch on your character. Keep this up, and you’ll be gone. Do you hear me? GONE!”
Her breathing was heavy, angry, and Knox actually felt like he was in danger. The girl glared at him. “You have friends, who will be with you no matter what. Ask for help if you need it, instead of trying to act tough!” And with that, she stormed away, leaving him ashamed…”
Knox sat up. Katarina was the girl in that scene, he was sure of it. Was she the one he was judging? But that didn’t make any sense. She wasn’t even in the first room. The only reason he could think of is that she was somehow related to the boy, in some fashion. And he had seen through that same boy’s eyes, he was sure of it. So it was the kid he was judging. But why? Why was he seeing these things? And how was he picked out for this job? Was the boy somehow part of his life?
“Haven’t you figured that out, yet? Your situation must be making you slower than normal.” The man sitting next to him cheerfully remarked.
He started to reply sharply. Then bit it back. And stared at the newcomer. And shrieked in surprise, jumping up and away from the stranger. That, however, did not work out well. Knox’s lethargy was getting even worse, meaning his muscle coordination was not at its peak. He tripped over his feet, causing him to fall backwards, hitting his head on the wall. It didn’t hurt, though. His entire body felt numb. What was going on?
“Here, another door, and then I’ll explain everything.” The man took him by the hand, and supported him down the corridor, the lights again flickering, as candles do when they’re about to gutter out. His face was mostly covered by a hood in the blankets surrounding him, so Knox could not make out much about this new person. His eyes, however, peered out of the cover, blue orbs twinkling in amusement. They dimmed, though, as they reached the dark grey door. “Here you go! Please keep your hands and feet at your sides at all time for the duration of the ride!”
The clouds were grey, a reflection of his mood. Who needed school anyway? It was a waste of time, gathering all these people in one place. There was nothing they enjoyed doing here.
Well, he amended, almost nothing. Around the corner, he saw a group of kids beating someone, kneeling on the ground and sobbing.
One of them was shouting at their victim, “You think gettin’ us in trouble is going to stop us?” The question was accentuated with a kick. “You’re gonna pay, you little b-“
The bully’s hand, balled up for a punch aimed at the back of the sobbing kid’s head, was stopped by a fist into his gut. After a foot or fist meeting each of the group, they all scattered. Knox felt the satisfaction of this person’s memory as he beat them, and turned around to help the kid up. Then he felt cold anger as he recognized the victim.
“Jake.” It was his friend Johnny’s brother, who used to be in their group of friends. Used to be, until he tried to rape Katarina. For the sake of an old friend, it was never reported. But even Johnny despised his sibling then, and he could never return to the group. There were still stitches and black marks on his face from when Knox found out.
“Hey , long time no see! Not that I’m complaining.” Jake’s flippant attitude grated on his nerves, and he resisted the urge to wipe Jake’s face on one of the windows behind him. Of course, the restraint left him when Jake said, “And how about that Katarina? Maybe I should hit her up one-“
The sound of breaking glass was music to his ears, and the pieces of glass reflected his blue eyes sparkling in amusement.
The man was waiting for him. “You ever notice the different shades of these doors?”
Knox replied, “They have meaning?”
“Everything here has meaning.” He said, his voice making it clear that he was rolling his eyes. “These different shades tell you what sort of memory you’re looking at. Whether it’s good or bad.”
Know interrupted him, “ But not everything can be clear cut in terms of “good” and “bad”. You may not know if there is a reason something happened or not.”
“That’s right. But it’s easier to put this in terms of good and bad. Some things actually can be wholly good, or wholly bad, particularly in their impact on someone’s life. Some things can be bad, but done with good intent. Others are the opposite. The colors reflect this, with white being “good”, black being “bad”, and all the different shades in between.”
The stranger brought him to another door, without one word of the real explanation that he promised. “This will explain everything.” He assured Knox, and supported him to this last door.
The door was marked 15-6-13. It wasn’t a single shade, but a white door streaked with black. Gold webbed outward from this spot, but was not as prevalent as the cords woven across the other doors. Knox hesitated. For some inexplicable reason, he was scared of what he would see behind this door. The stranger looked grim, but his face and voice were at odds when he said, “Well, if you’re too chicken to do it…”
That was all it took for Knox, who grabbed the doorknob and pushed. This room was red. No smoke, no light, it was just a red chamber. He took a step inside, braced for the inevitable. Another step. No scene. Another step. Still nothing. He opened his eyes. He was still in the red room. Knox frowned, thinking “Well, this is a bit awkward.” He turned to call out to the stranger, but the door wasn’t there. Uh oh. The chamber rumbled. The lights flickered. Then there was a thick liquid, pouring from the ceiling. The lights were still flickering, making it hard to make out the color. The room was filling fast. It was up to his waist. It was spilling into his mouth. The salty, metallic taste gagged him. He couldn’t breathe. There was no light. Then there was nothing, as he finally saw the final scene:
“Alongside him skipped Katarina, her hand in his as they left the fair. Beside her was her father, his steely grey eyes still shining as brightly as they had when he paid for a certain kid’s cereal. He would be lucky if he could be half the person that Mr. Jeffery King was.
It was getting late, but Knox didn’t mind. His home was empty, as empty as he felt when he was there. It was felt as empty as the day he had come home, to find his mother lying on the floor. Her blue eyes, usually full of love and joy despite their lonely existence, embodied what the house was to him now. Empty. So no, he thought, it’s not a home. It’s just a place I keep, for the memories.
He knew where his real home was. It was the house he and Kat were walking into right now, while her dad got something out of the garage. They didn’t bother with a light, the air still illuminated by the faint sun as it fell. Katarina started to speak, but was interrupted by a crash, and the sound of cursing coming from the next room. He wrapped his arm around Kat, and they started to back up. But then the intruder appeared, and cried out in surprise, the gun in his hand going off. Knox knocked Kat to the ground, and rushed at the man before he could get off a shot. They rammed into a mirror, Knox glancing at it as it cracked. The thief shoved him, and they both fell to the floor. The fallen gun went off again, and the man lay very still.
Knox felt despair, horror at the life pouring out of the intruder. But he refused to dwell on that now. Other things needed his attention.
“It’s okay now.” he assured her, then noticed blood on her side, “Oh.” He rushed to get to the phone, but fell. He tried to get up, but cold was seeping into his bones. Knox looked at his hands, covered in blood. “Oh.” He fell back on his back, seeing Mr. Jeff look down on him as Kat called 911.
“Ha-“ Knox coughed, tasting metal in his mouth. “Have you come to take my confession, then, minister?”
Another cough. “He’s dead?”
The man who had been a father to him looked down, tears welling up in those cheerful eyes. Those same eyes had looked down on him as a child, protecting him from a petty crime. Would they protect him now? “I don’t know. What we’re worried about right now is you.”
Then Katarina was beside him. And her big brown eyes were the last thing he saw
“Magnus… so he’s… y’know. He’s dead?” Knox repeated for the fourth time as the stranger helped him down the hall to the throne room. After that rather disturbing scene, he had found himself almost unable to walk.
“Yep! Dead as a doornail! Or not. I guess things could be considered alive in this place.” They reached the first room Knox had passed through on his way to his rooms.
“Listen.” The tone in the stranger’s voice was serious. “Look in this mirror and tell me what you see.”
Knox was about to ask what mirror, that he had not seen such a thing at all on their walk. His voice caught in his throat as he turned to the stranger. He was holding a hand mirror. Even through the flickering of the lights, which now continued incessantly, he saw his reflection for the first time.
Blue eyes peered out of dark brown hair, accentuating his high cheekbones. He was the mirror image of Magnus.
“Knox Magnus Knight is your name. Our mom always had a thing for Latin names, and it didn’t change when she quite archaeology to have you.”
Knox found his voice, “Our mother? Who are you? There was never a brother or sister in those memories.”
The stranger chuckled. “You must have passed out while I was giving my speech, I guess. Your consciousness controls your perception of right and wrong, and is altered by your experiences or memories, am I right?” Knox nodded “Well, that really defines who you are, what you think is acceptable, and what is unacceptable to you.”
“No wonder I passed out,” Knox joked, “This lecture is boring.”
The stranger went on, unmindful of the interruption. “People also say that your past defines who you are.” He removed his cloak, Knox gasping at what now stood before him. “Sufficed to say, I am your consciousness. I am your memories. I am you. Magnus is the embodiment of your desires, your impulses, whether they are to the benefit or detriment of others.”
Standing before Knox was the mirror image of himself. Knox stuttered, dumfounded. When he found his tongue, he said, “Sooo… there are three of us? “
“No, there’s only one of you. Magnus and I are only… let’s say mirrors. Mirrors of the different aspects of your personality. And we’ll be waiting for you in the throne room, where you can judge which of us played the greater role in your life.” Knight leaned him against the wall and started to walk away. “You have something to finish up here, but don’t take too long.”
Knox stumbled on, and found himself in that room, the low table still surrounded by the couches. There were two interesting things he now noticed about this room. First, the corridor to the throne room was glowing, not a specific color, or at least, not one that Knox could describe. The second thing was the person occupying one of the couches.
Know walked over and sat down next to Katarina. “Does this mean that you also…um..died?”
She smiled at the weirdness of the question. “Yes. A few hours after you, in fact. I didn’t have much to look at during my Judgment, though. My life has been straightforward.” The place started to shake, and the lights flickering started to last longer. “He knew you would be more hesitant about your life, though, so here I am.” She smacked his head. “What happened wasn’t your fault. Each of those moments you saw were important events in your history, the ones that really define who you are. If you had more time, you would’ve seen all your victories and mistakes. You would’ve seen how your life was shaped.”
She continued, “You’ve always done the best you can in life with what you were given. No one can tell you different. I’m proud of you, Knox Magnus Knight. Now go.” She punched his shoulder playfully. “Make your Judgment.” With that, she walked to the hallway parallel to the one he had to take, labeled KHK. The flickered again. And the hallway was gone.
All the hallways were gone except one. There was only place he had to go now.
Knox stumbled into the throne room, falling to his knees. There was a pain in his side, and when he put his hand to it, it came away stained with red. Putting his hands to the soft carpet of the room once more, he pushed himself up. Vertigo swooped through him, and he threatened to fall again, but Magnus and Knight got to him and supported him to the feet of the throne. The two twins stood behind and to each side of him.
“Are you ready?” One of them asked behind him. Knox believed it was Magnus, hearing a barely restrained current of excitement underneath the voice.
“Remember”, said the other, “you’re picking what played the most important part in your life. Was it your conscience? Or was it your impulsiveness?”
There was the sound of breaking glass behind him, and a few shattered pieces of reflecting glass skipped to his side before stopping. The room went dark, except for one light illuminating the throne before him. The place shook again, but not with the trembling of before, but of the powerful voice that had greeted him and soothed him upon his awakening.
“You have seen the life of Knox Magnus Knight. Based on your memories, what Judgment have you cast?”
Knox didn’t despair that he was alone. This was the sort of choice that one could only do real justice to by choosing alone. He breathed in, the intake causing his side to throb in pain. But he didn’t feel it, not really. Knox smiled and, his blue eyes shining, he mouthed his Judgment. The dark room flickered with light, which slowly grew to illuminate the room.
It glowed brightly, and the room was no longer visible to him. It was no longer tangible to him. Then, Knox was left with the sense of finality in his Judgment. He closed his blue eyes for the last time, and knew no more.
© Copyright 2016 Malakai. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Other
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