– Keter. - Path of Pe.
The Overthrow of the Salve-Gods by The Beast 666.1 –
“Worse than the chains that bind me, or than the pain brought upon by the claws that imprison my heart,
is the inconsistence of the ground under my feet, of the air that surrounds me, of the world that I touch.
Because every time I allow myself to accept this thundering storm,
everything changes once again, blinding me and hiding my path,
making me drown ever more towards the inevitability
that is the condemnation of my entire being.”
The next day went by the exact same way as always, at least until the bell rang at the end of the day.
The last class in the afternoon had been slow and tedious and, as soon as it was over, Steph, who over the last few days had apparently decided to completely ignore me, jumped off her seat and stormed out the classroom abruptly.
I gathered my things as usual, wondering what could have happened to leave her in such a foul mood, and joined Kevin, and later on the rest of the group as we crossed the school grounds towards the exit.
My answer came quickly enough, as soon we reached the front gate. Joe and the others waved goodbye as they each followed their ways, and I was finally left alone ... with Gabriel!
“What are you doing here?” I muttered as he turned around to walk ahead of me, and I followed, trying as hard as I could to keep the appearance that everything was as it should be.
“I was expecting you,” he answered me and I frowned.
“Why? What about Steph?” I insisted, knowing he always left school in her company, and he shrugged as if it were none of his concern.
“I told her you had to stop by the supermarket on your way home and that you needed my help,” he told me in a tedious tone.
“It’s not safe,” he finally admitted, his soft voice floating straight into my ears, and my feet froze for an instant.
“Not ... safe?” I echoed as images of what had happened last Saturday flashed through my memory, and a cold shiver ran down my spine. “What do you mean? I thought ...” I stopped myself midway, unsure if I was supposed to know about his magic barrier, not wanting to get Lea in trouble over sharing things he shouldn’t, and he stopped a few steps ahead from where I stood, peering at me over his shoulder.
“The barrier was breached. Lea went there as soon as possible and sealed the breach. But we can’t be sure that nothing has crossed through in the meantime,” he told me, showing me that, as expected, Lea kept no secrets from him.
“But ... if something did come through, it’s coming after you,” I pointed out. And, if that was the case, then no place would be more dangerous than near him! Whatever the case, I only knew I didn’t want to have to go through all of that ever again; that terrifying feeling that had swallowed me whole when the world had stopped! If his presence frightened me enough to freeze me in place, that feeling of being hunted made me wish I could simply cease to exist, in exchange for some peace of mind.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “However, that Seal of yours has my energy imprinted on it. How did you think they found you the last time?” I followed the direction pointed by his long, pale finger, and my eyes fell upon the new blue velvet ribbon wrapped around my wrist.
“Then ... then they can come after me?” I whispered, shivering. The idea alone terrified me more than I could tell.
Once more, sanity threatened to escape through my fingers. I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with that as well. I thought if I had to go through that again, I’d rather just go mad, right there and then. After all, if I were to lose my mind, at least I’d be able to face everything else with a smile on my lips.
“Mariane!” My name in his voice brought me back to reality, silencing the disconnected thoughts running amok in my mind. “You have nothing to fear. And I know that my word isn’t worth much outside our Contract, but I promise you that no harm will come to you, or to the ones around you.”
I was stunned. For a moment his words echoed in my mind, overtaking the voices of my increasing madness and, for once, I believed in him. A strange calm washed over me, an unmoving certainty that covered the frightening gaps that usually ended up filled with fear and despair. I nodded and he smiled, content with my response, and his smile left me with the certainty he would fulfill his promise, no matter the cost.
Lea was anxiously waiting for us at home and, following me apprehensively with his silver gaze, waited until I went upstairs to make him a report on the state of things. I didn’t mind it ... I couldn’t mind it. Doing so would simply throw me into another spiral of madness. Besides, I was safe. He would protect me, there was nothing to worry about. So I decided to proceed like I would any other afternoon, and chose a book from my bookshelf before returning downstairs.
I stopped by the living room door and quickly tried to ascertain their mood through their expressions. But, apparently, everything was as it should be, and I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise, if not for Lea, perched on one of his legs, sitting too quiet for his usual chatty self. On any other day, he would already be jumping up and down at my feet, asking me about the title of the new book I’d chosen to read them. Now, his silver eyes remained serious, watching me with too much intent, as if fearing I could suddenly fall to pieces or have some hysterical fit.
I walked towards the dining table, pulling a chair, and sat down for my daily reading session. Taking a deep breath, I opened the book to the first page, and raised my voice to read the chapter’s title.
I read all afternoon and only stopped when light became too dim to go on. I marked the page where I’d stopped and closed the book, asking myself if, like the day before, today I’d be able to advance two more steps. Maybe if I kept my mind wrapped in that dream-like state ... I raised my head, ready to give it a try, but my will faltered the instant I saw him standing.
“You still want to try it?” he asked me, his voice sounding much more serious than before, as if suddenly that subject had become of the utmost importance, and I nodded, knowing my voice would never obey me even if I tried to give him a proper answer. I needed to do this, I reminded myself. I needed to free Steph from his domain. “Then today we'll reverse our parts. I will come to you,” he announced and just picturing it made my heart race.
“But ... you said ...” I tried, my voice quavering.
“I know what I said! And it will be the same. I won’t exert any kind of influence over your will. The only difference is that I'll be the one doing the walking.”
I sat in silence for a moment, pondering his offer. If it would really be the same, then it meant that all I had to do was endure it, and Steph would be free! Besides, the main reason why I never seemed to be able to reach him were my two stubborn feet, always refusing to walk forward. If all I had to do was sit still the task seemed much easier and I was confident I’d be able to pull it off on the first attempt. After all, how hard could it be? I straightened my back and raised my head.
“Fine,” I agreed and Lea stepped back, watching us uneasily from a distance.
His first steps were slow and he took them at a constant rhythm, allowing me enough time to prepare for the next one. This too was ridiculous, I thought, watching him take another step forward as if he was walking barefoot over broken glass. Nevertheless, and as sure as the sun rose every morning, the effects of his proximity started taking over my body. First the trembling of my hands, which I quickly held together on my lap, then the arms and legs. My stomach knotted over itself, making me queasy. By then my heart was beating like a raving drum, hurting my chest and sending painful, rhythmic waves to my temples. I fought to keep my breathing under control, and stopped myself from averting my gaze from his feet, that kept stepping closer. When he reached more or less the same point I had reached the day before, my body was shaking uncontrollably and the only thing I could hear was the frantic beating of my own heart. I felt so sick that I was sure I’d throw up if my stomach had anything in it. Had I been standing, I’d never be able to go on. Two steps later chaos fell over me like a dark, heavy mantle. My thoughts crumbled, which made me forget to breathe, making me gasp for air. My chest burned, as if fire was melting my lungs. I bent over, trying to hold my disintegrating body together, pain shooting through my veins with each heartbeat, and bit down on my lip to keep myself from screaming. Running away from there as fast as possible was all I could think of. Another step and my vision blurred, making me blink furiously. I didn’t want to lose his feet from sight! The fear of not knowing where he stood was much worse than the one I felt from his closeness. Still I couldn’t see, and the feeling of something wet streaming down my cheeks caught me by surprise. Gabriel too, as he stopped where he stood, no more than two steps away from me. And I took a trembling hand to my face, feeling it deadly cold against my burning skin. Tears.
Somehow, the fact that I was crying without even being aware of it, especially taking into account I never cried when I should, left me even more alarmed. And the next thing I knew, I was out of my chair, frantically rubbing my eyes as if those small drops could burn me.
And yet, like in the supermarket, they kept coming, stealing my sight over and over again, no matter how many times I dried them. And then I saw him through my tearful eyes, in between my shaking hands, and his pained expression stole my already labored breath away. I was running out of that room even before I could think, too lost to know where I was going, and stumbled on the first step of the stairs, falling helplessly.
I sat there, on the ground, gasping for air, rubbing my eyes hard every time I felt a new tear rolling down my face. I didn’t want to cry! I didn’t even feel like it! And still they kept coming, warm and wet.
The thud of something falling startled me, silencing part of the madness running free in my head. I noticed I had already started to recover, slowly reacquiring domain over my body. And I knew he’d probably gotten angry, finally losing his patience and most certainly breaking something in the process. I, too, felt angry! I pulled myself together, holding on to the handrail in order to hoist myself off the ground. Frustrated and annoyed at my useless self, I clamped my hands together, trying to make them stop trembling.
I should have gone straight to my room then. Yet, I found myself leaning against the wall, silently dragging my feet towards the door, trying to see just how angry he’d been. I held my breath for a moment as I peered inside, afraid of what I might find and, for a split second, everything looked the same, all the furniture in its rightful place. And then I saw him, sitting on the floor right beside my now empty chair, his back against the table leg, motionless like a statue but looking more like a giant, perfect doll that someone had just abandoned there. Lea, sitting on his lap, was hugging him tightly, his small arms wrapped around his neck.
“Everything’s going to be all right, Master,” I heard his gentle voice whisper, filled with a deep, dark pain. The statue moved, raising a white long hand with which he covered his blankly staring eyes.
“You saw it too, Lea.” I heard his velvet voice and the anguish marking that beautiful sound was so deep that I felt as if a hole had been opened in my chest. “As soon as I get too close, her Soul starts breaking into pieces.”
Silent tears slid down his perfect, marble skin, and Lea cried with him, lifting his head from Gabriel’s chest to softly lick his motionless face.
I ran from that vision, cringing against the wall, wishing I could simply disappear. The thread around my heart grew so tight that I could feel it cutting into me, making me bleed inside. The pain was so strong, so overwhelming that it dragged me away from myself. And I frantically searched in despair for something, anything that could save me. Michael’s name came to me like a faraway light at the end of a dark, never-ending tunnel. I needed to see him! To feel him! To listened to the sound of his voice! I needed him just as badly as I needed to breathe, so that he could wrap me in his warmth and save me from the edge of the precipice where I now stood. I needed him so he could lead me back! Lead me back to my world! A world where dark beautiful monsters didn’t exist!
Before I could even think twice about it, I was out the door and running. I could feel the freezing air against my skin, but not even the cold stopped me from running. The path was poorly lit, the shadows of the night creeping from every corner, but I didn’t need to see to know where I was going. Michael’s name filled my head, and his name brought light, peace, and warmth. I knew that all I needed was to set my eyes on him to be delivered from darkness.
“Mari! Where are you going?” an urgent voice asked, pulling me back, making me stop, and it took me several minutes to recognize his childish face.
“Let go!” I ordered, trying to get free, tugging at his little hand, but he wouldn’t release me.
“Where are you going?” he insisted, sounding as worried as he looked, and I pushed his hand hard. Still, he didn’t even budge, his grip too strong for a child his size.
“Let go of me!”
“I can’t! It’s too dangerous!”
“I can’t stay! I can’t! Let me go!” I shouted and had to gasp for air in the process.
“Is it because of what happened? It’s fine. Tomorrow …”
“You don’t understand!” I challenged him in despair. What could I do to make him release me? “If I stay ... I’ll... I’ll...” I’ll cease to exist ... and won’t be myself anymore.
My urgent, pleading voice fell into silence. I was suddenly too tired. How had I ever believed that I could be saved? What was I thinking? Going to Michael! And then what? And tell him what? Explain how? And how could that possibly save me? And what about tomorrow? And the day after?
Lea’s hand on mine brought me from my dark musings and I looked down at him in utter defeat. He smiled, although all child-like brightness was gone from him, and tilted his head to the side, speaking too softly, too carefully for his usual self.
“Let’s go home. It’s not safe out here,” he told me and I took a hand to my face, touching my own cheeks, my skin, my eyelids. No tears. Now that I really wanted to cry my eyes remained as dry as a desert. And so I followed his small footsteps, all will to do anything else gone from me.
Lea took me up to my room, as if I didn’t know my own house, and made me sit on my bed. His small hands ran gently through my tousled hair, tucking a few lost strands behind my ear. I didn’t move. In truth I could hardly feel him.
“Everything will be fine, Mari. Just rest for a bit, okay?” he told me in his adult-like tone. “Will you be okay?” I nodded, knowing that if I didn’t he would never leave me alone. Lea walked to the door, still looking back worriedly, but ended up exiting and closing it behind him.
I laid down exactly as I was, unable to bother with things like changing. Foolishly enough I thought I should probably go and make dinner, but my body disagreed and didn’t move. To my relief my mind was basically blank. And, as I closed my eyes, the silence and darkness that surrounded me were like a blessing.