– Path of Teth.
The Vision of the Fruit of the Great Work of the Beast - 666. The Lion.1 –
“Because I’m not a sun, like you, I wish I were a mirror as clear as crystal,
so that I could reflect your incandescent light ...
However, not even a dull mirror I’m able to be ...
My existence has been marked by a growing dark shadow that devours my being ... and in my pain I know I can never be close to the iridescent sun that you are.”
“I can hardly believe it!” Steph was whispering as she dragged me by an arm towards the classroom. I’d just said goodbye to Michael and we’d agreed to meet again after class, which had left me utterly absent-minded.
“Same here. I still can’t believe it. It’s really better if I don’t ...”
“Don’t be silly! Didn’t you see? He came just to meet you!” Steph went on, trying hard to keep her voice down and I winced.
“No. He came to meet you guys. I understand that perfectly well.”
“What are you saying? That doesn’t even make sense.”
“But it does. Sure, he came to meet you because of me, but not in the way you’re thinking. What he said ... it’s all true. I noticed it before. His friends are constantly protecting him, almost like bodyguards. Even from afar, pretending they’re not there, they’re always watching him. And it’s not like I can’t understand. In the end Michael is pretty much like a child. His memory of events and experiences is only one year old. All he knows is the right now. I think ... I think my words made him curious about the people outside the small circle formed around him. And I think he was very honest in what he said.”
Steph took a deep breath and her tone became more serious. “I know he was honest. If he wasn’t, Joe wouldn’t have been so pissed. But just more the reason, Mari, because he doesn’t know anything else, I don’t think he’s able to understand his own feelings.”
“Steph, just stop it. I don’t need you filling my head with extra-puffy, pinky clouds.” I complained, knowing her words would come back to me at night, when I was alone, making it impossible for me to asleep.
“You can call it whatever you like, but I know what I saw. Still, you will probably have to be very patient with him. And maybe he’ll never get it on his own. But one thing is certain, Mari. That guy is in love with you,” she stressed, releasing my arm to open the door, and we went in.
Steph didn’t even bother to explain our tardiness. Joanne had arrived just a few minutes earlier.
I walked to my desk. Why did she have to say something like that? From the corner of my eye, I noticed Gabriel hadn’t missed class and, worse, his dark gaze was fixed on me. My stomach tumbled and I hurried to take my seat.
My mind was a mess, I concluded with an exasperated moan. I couldn’t be happier about Steph’s assumption, but just thinking about it made me shiver. Cold fear seeped into my cells anticipating our meeting after class. He wasn’t going to make some love confession, right?
I squeezed my hands together.
No. Even if Steph had been right — and my heart jumped just from considering it — she’d also said he didn’t know what he felt. And I wanted, and didn’t want, for him to know.
I felt my brain about to explode.
The truth was, I wasn’t the slightest bit ready to uphold my part in that Contract, should it be fulfilled. And, for the first time, I realized I didn’t know for sure what Gabriel had in mind when he said that he’d make it so my love was returned. What did that mean? Just a feeling? A confession? A kiss? What gesture or magic word would determine his part in the Contract was concluded?
By the time the bell rang I’d decided it best if our feelings weren’t mutual. What it meant to fulfill that Contract needed a long and careful preparation, mental and emotional.
Mark was expecting Steph by the door and so I went downstairs with Joanne and Kevin, noticing that Gabriel had remained in his seat, talking to a girl who, lately, I’d been seeing around him a lot. I took a deep breath, relieved at the notion that he didn’t know about my meeting with Michael, and said goodbye to my friends, telling them I still had to go by the library before returning home.
I rushed to our meeting place and saw him as soon as I turned the corner, standing by the glass door, his blond hair shining under the cold light coming from outside. He smiled as he noticed me and opened the door to let me pass. For a moment I just stood there. That gesture was exactly the same as Gabriel’s, I thought with a shudder. Michael gave me an intrigued look and I smiled awkwardly, stepping outside.
“Um, now we can talk at ease,” he told me, walking beside me, and I felt truly nervous.
“Yeah,” I replied timidly, but neither of us said anything. We walked in silence until we reached the tree Gabriel had used to attack him two weeks ago, and he sat down on the floor smiling at the touch of the cold grass against his hands.
I followed his lead, sitting beside him, and our silence became strange and uncomfortable.
“You know, what your friends told me ... is true,” he finally said in a grave tone. There were no bright smiles on his face and his green eyes were distant. I couldn’t help feeling guilty.
“You shouldn’t take them so seriously.”
“No. They’re right. Not that I’d never thought about it. But, in the end, I’m just too weak, always needing someone to reinforce my own ideas and thoughts so that I’m able to actually act upon them. Steven, Joe, Kevin ... you.” He looked at me.
“Yes,” he confirmed with a soft smile. “I feel right near you.” My heart raced. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to survive that. “You’re the first person I know that’s really honest with me.” I wanted to ask him what he meant, but courage failed me. I knew he didn’t like questions. And besides ...
“You’re wrong. I’m not honest at all,” I confessed, recalling all the things I was hiding from him, from everyone.
“Oh, but you are. I’m not saying I believe you have revealed your entire life to me. I say you’re honest because your words and your feelings are as one. When we talk you always tell me the truth about what you’re thinking, and you always do it without fearing what I might think or feel about it.”
I pulled my knees up and rested my chin on them.
“I’m not that sure that’s a good thing. I can be a bit ... insensitive at times.” He laughed lightly and leaned back to look up at the sky.
“Believe me, it’s a good thing. It was that honesty of yours that gave me enough courage to walk into that cafeteria today.”
I couldn’t help feeling dirty beneath the weight of all my lies. He was so pure and bright. How could I even dare to wish that someone like him would love someone like me? A girl who had to belong to another, to a demon.
“Do you remember what Kevin told me?” he suddenly asked, sitting upright, and I nodded surprised by the change in his tone. “He told me only I could choose who I let into my world.” I nodded again. “I’m choosing you.”
“Me? But ...” I stammered, once more feeling guilty since I knew I didn’t deserve his trust, but he simply smiled and all my resistance was gone.
“Can I ask you to listen to me?” he requested so softly that all I could do was nod. “The only other person I talked about this was with Steven. Did you know I met him while I was still in the hospital? It seems there was an afternoon when Father Jorge couldn’t visit me and, since he had promised me he would, he sent Steven in his place. I still clearly recall his shocked expression when he looked at me. At the time I wasn’t looking all that great.”
“Michael,” I whispered, wishing he would stop, wishing he would see I didn’t deserve those words, but he kept smiling and went on.
“My accident ... no one knows exactly what happened. The police investigated it for quite some time, but they never reached a conclusion. From what I was told, I was found one morning in a small park, practically covered in snow. I had cold burns all over my body and the doctors were quite surprised that I was still alive. Besides that, almost every bone in my body was broken, as if I’d fallen from somewhere very high, but there were no buildings around and the trees were too short to offer a plausible explanation. I spent almost a year hospitalized. First to recover from my injuries. Then to recover my motor skills since I had to be completely immobilized for a long time. And, like everyone knows, I lost my memory.” A twinge of anguish squeezed my throat when his smile became slightly bitter. “It’s nothing you need worry about. It’s just how things happened.”
“But it’s hard for you to talk about it,” I reminded him.
“Yes. But, on the other hand, secrets are too heavy,” he told me and I looked away. I was the one keeping secrets, not him.
Michael went silent and I understood he wasn’t going to say anything else. He’d noticed that his story had disturbed me and, although he wished to share it, he’d rather not upset me.
“Your memories,” I muttered, resuming our conversation. If he wanted to talk about it I didn’t want him to keep silent on my behalf. “Are they all really gone?”
“Basically, yes.” I looked at him and was faced with his bright green eyes. A soft smile touched his lips, making me blush again. “However, our brain stores memories in different places. The memories I lost were stored in specific areas. So I was lucky to keep what they call academic knowledge, or I couldn’t even be here.”
“You mean things like knowing how to write?”
“Yes. It goes from knowing how to walk, talk, get dressed, tying your shoes or using a fork. All that was kept intact. The things I studied at school, too. However, things that people might have told me are gone. All the situations involving people were completely erased. I don’t remember my teachers nor my schoolmates, not even my family. I don’t remember which school I used to go to, because that would imply remembering the faces of those who also studied there. I also don’t remember my house, nor any other house for that matter, not even a walk in the park or common places like a restaurant.” I felt sad for him. Although I already knew about his situation, hearing it from him was depressing.
“Then you can’t also remember smiles, or tears, or arguments, or even a moment of affection,” I added and he smiled sadly.
“No. Nothing like that, nothing human. Ah, that expression. Are you feeling sorry for me?” he asked with a slight touch of criticism.
I shook my head. “No. I was trying to put myself in your place, forgetting my mom and all the times I argued with her. And all the times we made up. And all the times we sat together to watch TV. Or even all the times she woke up earlier just to make me breakfast. Forgetting all that would be very sad.”
He seemed satisfied with my answer and took a deep breath.
“I still feel like that sometimes,” he said. “In the beginning I felt like that every day. Not knowing who I was or what I’d lost. But now Steven and the others fill part of that void. They reaffirm my existence every day. And now you, too. It’s really scary, the feeling that you suddenly ceased to exist. That suddenly there’s no one in the world that remembers you, that recognizes you, that knows who you are. I felt really lost when, after months of search, the police informed me they were giving up on my case, that they’d done all they could but no one had come forth to reclaim me, as if I were something unwanted that someone had just thrown away. It was a really devastating feeling. As if the entire world had closed over me and I couldn’t breathe.”
Suddenly I recalled the empty chair at our lunch table. Would Gabriel feel something like that too? His words echoed in my mind once again, the insistence with which he kept affirming that everything would be as if he’d never existed. Could it be that he felt nothing? Was he so different from us Human Beings?
“Did you stop looking for your past?” I asked and he lowered his head.
“I did. For some time, even after being a student here, I kept searching on my own, looking for clues that might put me on the right track, until I decided to go to the park where I was found. Some say that visiting a place where we have been before can help trigger a memory, and the only place I knew I’d been for sure was that park. And, in fact, something did change. I couldn’t remember anything, there were no images or flashbacks, but I knew without the shadow of a doubt that there was something, something wrong with my past. Something I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done,” he admitted, looking at me as if confessing a sin.
“Michael, how can you be sure of something like that?” I asked softly, trying to lighten up the heavy mood, but he shook his head.
“I know. I’m sure. Steven says that’s why, even though there’s nothing wrong with my brain, I can’t recall what happened. Because in truth I do not want to remember. And I decided that it was better like this. I know I’m running from who I am, that I’m being a coward. That I’m probably getting away with something that certainly had its consequences. But I like my life now. I don’t want it to change. So I tell myself that what happened, the accident, that it wasn’t all bad, quite the contrary. It’s a second chance. Pretty pathetic, eh?”
I kept silent not knowing what to say. I wanted to comfort him, to convince him that he was wrong, that there was no way he might have done something that wrong. After all, this was Michael we were talking about, and the Michael I knew could never hurt anyone. I was sure that people losing their memory wouldn’t change their nature all that much. We weren’t just what we remembered, our being was something deeper than simple stored information; or at least that was what I thought.
However, the absolute certainty with which he’d told me those things made any attempt to comfort him sound like simple pity, and I didn’t want him thinking I felt sorry for him again.
“As far as I’m concerned,” I said under my breath still searching for the right words, “you are Michael. That’s who you are, and that’s enough. Someone told me that we Humans have the right to choose,” I added recalling Gabriel’s heavy voice when he’d told me he had no choice. “So, choosing to start over is a right we have. The important thing is who we are today, and who we want to be tomorrow. What we’ve been cannot be changed. It can be forgotten, but never changed. So the only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and try to be a better person than we were. Even if you don’t remember your past, Michael, that’s what you’re trying to do, right?” I asked, facing him. He was looking at me, listening to my every word, and I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed for having had the courage to tell him something like that. “So, everything is fine,” I concluded, smiling awkwardly, even more embarrassed by his silence. “At least that’s what I think.”
I lowered my gaze, running from his, and stared at the green grass, feeling happy with myself for being able to put into words more or less what I thought. In truth I couldn’t care less about who he’d been. That didn’t matter at all. It was with the Michael before me that I’d fallen in love, not his past.
Suddenly his arms were around me, hugging me against his warm chest. I felt lost in his embrace that made me fell even smaller, and I heard him take a deep breath, his chin resting on the top of my head.
“Michael,” I whispered, not knowing what to do, my heart beating too fast.
“I’m sorry, just a little bit more,” he told me, his voice hardly audible. “Today I’ve heard a lot of important things. And what you’ve just told me, if you knew what it means to me hearing someone telling me that it’s all right being who I am, that it’s okay to run away like a coward.”
“I don’t think ... you’re a coward,” I managed to reply and he laughed.
“You don’t exist. Well, of course you exist. I’m really grateful for that.” His arms released me and I sat up, avoiding having to look at him. “When I’m with you all my dark shadows simply disappear.”
“Shadows, Michael, you don’t have any shadows. You’re like a sun.”
He laughed again and placed a warm hand on my head.
“Did you know that’s exactly how I see you. Like a sun,” he said and I looked at him in disbelief. Me? A sun? Me who was always so insignificant, so insecure, so dull. How could I ever be a sun? I was just one more shadow.
Michael released me from his touch, looking up at the sky once again, and I couldn’t help stare at his soft expression, the angles of his jaw, his firm but elegant neck. I wished I could hug him like he’d hugged me, feel the warmth of his skin against mine, kiss his face.
“I think we’d better get going. It will be dark soon. I don’t want you returning home after dark. Want me to take you? It isn’t that far, right?” His bright smile made me blush and feel guilty for my impure thoughts.
“There’s no need. Thank you. I’ll get there in an instant.”
“Yeah. Besides, Gabriel must be home by now,” I added, using him as an excuse once more, certain that mentioning his name would leave others more at ease, and Michael nodded, proving me right.