Chapter Zero: Aakurai and the Devil

-Chapter Zero: Aakurai and the Devil

Just how did I end up in this situation… Aakurai frowned, his eyes sweeping across the circular room. It felt like a tower, with a winding staircase that led upwards into the sky, spiraling towards infinity, but he had no way of knowing. Where there should have been steps was only cold marble, shiny and slippery. Despite his efforts to climb, he could never get further than a few feet up. The tower was a sordid affair, with windows tinted in browns and blacks, none of the usual red or green you might expect from the Roman-style architecture. The room seemed to be 50 meters across, but there were no entrances or exits. The center had a raised circular section, about 30 meters across and rising off the ground about two or three feet, like a pedestal. Taking a deep breath, Aakurai gave a short scream and attempted to bound up the spiral staircase once more, gripping onto the edge when he stated slipping and attempting to pull himself up with his hands alone. With a yelp, the man’s hands came off the guard rail, swearing. His hands were bleeding freely now, punctured by the nasty bars that held up the rail. Rather than keeping people from falling off, it was more that it prevented people from advancing higher.

He buried his hands into his shirt, trying to keep the blood from soaking into the floor. The only light came from those stained windows, brown and black, and from the very top of the structure. At the very top of the spiral, a pinhole of light could peek through, and depending on the time of day, the light seemed to grow brighter or dim. He had been here for several hours, if the light was any help. It had gotten darker at first, despite it being bright. It made him think of dusk. Slowly, the light continued to dim, then slowly increase again. He could tell where the moon was, almost up to the very top now, by the general direction of all the light. Only a couple hours ago…

Only a couple of hours ago, he had fallen asleep at his desk, tired after a few long days. It had been around 6 or 7, and suddenly he had found himself on top of a building, surrounded by a post-apocalyptic landscape. The sky was brown, the earth was covered in muddy water, and buildings were desolate and broken, remnants of what they used to be. He could have sworn he saw a spark or two leap across a broken billboard, one of those fancy marquee-types, but before he could get a good look at everything, he tripped and fell backwards. No. His eyes clenched together, mind fresh from the pain, and he remembered. He hadn’t fallen… He had been pulled backwards. Something had been there. Something had been standing right behind him and had pulled him down, into this tower. He remembered his head hitting against marble and sliding… then darkness. When he woke up, he was here.

He grunted, tilting his head up to follow the echo as it bounded upwards, racing to escape this hole in the ground. Picking himself up off the ground, he cursed in his frustration again and launched his foot against the wall. How had he even ended up here, anyway? One moment he was home, in the States, and the next moment he was on top of that building looking out at the world, post-destruction. His ears twitched as a light hum seemed to resonate throughout the tower. Everything seemed a little brighter somehow, but not warm. Not like sunlight… No, it was colder somehow, more detached. There was something twisted about this light, as though it was only a copy, a reflection. Turning around, he found the pedestal bathed in light, a eerie blue glow covering the area. A solid mahogany desk was situated there, and as Aakurai stepped closer to the pedestal, he noticed that the edge of the pedestal, the 30 meter wide circle, seemed to have something scribbled across its border. With the moonlight shining its cold hand into the cylindrical cage, the man saw it more clearly. The border had depictions of skeletons and men burning in fires, of casualties, of riches, of royalty and of sorcery. It was a bit chilling, but he was intrigued. This was not something he had noticed before. Walking around the edge of the pedestal slowly, he continued to investigate the border, curiosity getting the better of him. Suddenly, his head jolted upwards as he stared across the pedestal. A desk? There hadn’t been a desk there before. The border for the pedestal was one thing, but an entire table appearing out of nowhere was another. His brown eyes narrowed, focusing on the man seated behind the desk.

He had a refined air about him, sitting comfortably and sipping red wine as he observed, his chocolate colored hat resting on his head. His face was angled, sharp and defined, with very short black hair and sharp brown eyes. He grinned a little, immaculate white teeth and pointy canines jeering Aakurai, mocking him silently. He was dressed in a suit, tie of dark red and pitch colored coat adorning his tall form. When he spoke, Aakurai wasn’t sure what to make of it. There was something sinister about it, but at the same time, something calming.

“Good evening.”

And that one statement let loose a fire in the brown-haired boy that was borne of hours of frustration. With a roar, he leapt up to the pedestal and over the desk, aiming to pin the man down and get him to explain. Slimy features or no, Aakurai was about ready to beat this high-class dumbass into the wall to get his answers. Unfortunately, when he grabbed, all he got was air. Tumbling into the ground, Aakurai jolted upwards and looked around. How could he have missed? Right before he had grabbed, the slime was right there, mere inches away. Spotting the suit across the pedestal, Aakurai was about to come up with some new plan, something else to deal with this whole situation, find some way to do this without raging. He was about to, except that the suit made a sound of derision, something like a ‘tsk’ or ‘tche’, as though he was disappointed in the man who stood before him. This suit had a file on him now, a manilla folder, with Aakurai’s face on it. Large, strong features hardened by years of life stared out, brown hair, brown eyes, and glasses. He was by no means a slob, but he definitely looked tired. It was, without a doubt, Aakurai. That fact alone made the captive’s mouth clamp closed, momentarily rendered speechless.

“Temper, temper… Well, M-, oh, sorry, Aakurai. Wouldn’t want to use your real name, now would we? Well, you’ll understand soon enough. Let’s see… Brown hair, brown eyes, decent height, a little underweight, poor vision… That all seems to fit the bill.”

Illuminated by moonlight, the man looked to be more like a beast, toying with his prey. Aakurai gritted his teeth and stood, his eyes narrowed. His focus shifted to movement in the windows behind this suit, startled to see any more movement than just this suit and himself. There had been no one else here, but that shadow was something else as well. Looking out at the window, Aakurai’s eyes widened slightly. What used to be tinted windows with strange depictions was now something else entirely.

All the windows were now dripping blood, crimson red drying to brown.

“So, Aakurai, how would you like to make a deal?”

A Little Something

Tap. Tap. Tap. The keys clacked in front of him as the lights dimmed outside, flickering off one by one, one by one, until there was nothing left. One by one, one by one, until not even the lights inside were left remaining. Everything was shrouded in darkness, except for that single faint hum of the monitor in front of him. Looking past the screen and out the window behind it, he sighed. It was quiet. Dark. Peaceful. It was peaceful… As the computer at his feet thrummed on, letting out its low bass hum as it worked, he only sat there, staring out beyond what was in front of him. The sky was tainted. It was not pitch. It was not dark. It had vague hints of the impending dawn, the soft and subtle brightness that tinged one side of the horizon. There was nothing else. The lights had all turned off, one by one, one by one, until only his remained. The dull thrum of the computer against the dull glare of his monitor… It illuminated nothing…

Tap. Tap. Tap. And still he continued to type, keeping the clacking of his keys soft and gentle, as if he wasn’t writing, but rather singing, letting his heart go, slipping into his keyboard. He had to keep it quiet, he had to keep it hidden, but neither his heart nor his words could stay locked up forever. Occasionally, they had to be let go, released, to hum in tune with the quiet thrum of the neighborhood. Tap. Tap. Tap. In one swift keystroke, the screen in front of him changed, but he was only half paying attention. For a brief moment, he focused on the world that existed across the globe, the world inhabited by one of his peers. For a moment, he was concerned, he was interested, he was involved… but within moments, he was once more pulled inside himself, wrapping himself more tightly in the fortress he had created. For a moment, he had existed outside his own world…

But he could not stay there long. He did not belong there. He did not belong anywhere. He could only pretend, only play at existing. Another keystroke, a light tap of the mouse, and the slightest grimace as a soft song began to play. Reaching forward slowly, carefully, he gently twisted the knob on his speakers. It was a song of the heart, a song well known, but it would do no good to force everyone to listen to his pleas, his cries, his songs. They all had their own lives, their own spheres… their own songs. And his song was no harmony, nor was it a melody… It simply repeated forever, creating dissonance, creating a feeling of lingering discomfort for all who heard it. His teeth clenched lightly as he tilted his head down, but still his fingers continued to move. Tap. Tap. Tap. His heart could hardly be stopped now…

A sound against the silence. A shuffling of feet, the creak of an old bed, and the soft padding sounds of feet traveling over a hard wood floor. Sounds to interrupt his peaceful silence. He could exist here, in his entirety, but he could not exist if he were to be seen. He was something that everyone knew about but did not want to see… So he hid himself away, the lightest exhalation signaling his disappearance. The music slowed, turning harsh and discordant, no longer uncomfortably nostalgic, but simply uncomfortable. No longer bearable… The lights turned from dim to simply glaring, an unwelcome intruder in the night… As the world lit up around him, he retreated further into shadow, changing from what he had been only briefly into what the world wanted to see.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing, Mother.”

“Yeah right… Get to bed. You’re so lazy, but you insist on staying up. I don’t know how I ended up with a son like you.”

“I’m sorry Mother. Good night, Mother.”

“…Mother, mother… That’s so annoying… Everyone else calls their mothers ‘Mom’ or something… Why can’t you be normal? Whatever, just go to bed.” A light padding retreat, sending echoes of complaints and regrets bounding across the hall.

A soft smile, a light bow.

“I’m sorry, Mother. I’m going now…Good night, take care. I lo-“

“Just go to sleep!”

“Yes…”

The light creaking of a door, the light click of a lock. The rustling of blankets. A soft click of the alarm for tomorrow… The ceiling was somewhat bland tonight. Slowly, softly, he let his heart, his songs, his dreams fade. He let everything fade, slipping away into darkness.