Chapter: Finding the Path

Entry: Jul 13, 2007

"So what's 'here'? Hell?" It had to be Hell. Screams of the damned, a sea of tormented souls and endless pain? "Why are we in hell?"

"Hell?! Ha!" she barked defiantly. "Kyle, forget anything you've ever learned about Heaven or Hell. Sure, this place could be Hell, or something like it anyway. But this isn't the place Church has threatened you with. There are worlds without end in the dreaming, kid, and this is one of the worst I've seen." She sat down roughly on an empty seat and sent the cutters skittering into a dark corner, forgotten. "Rue's the master here, child, and his visions, warped and wrong, determine the shape and content of this world." She sighed, then, betraying a true age Kyle couldn't fathom. "Let me show you something."

She closed her eyes and Kyle could see them twitching beneath the lids, enraged weasels fighting their way out of a paper sack. To his utter shock, the sky and ground below began to wither and fade, transparent to invisible, corrupted evil to neutral grey. And slowly, like a spilled paint-can, color bloomed again. But instead of the wrathful blues, bloody reds, and empty blacks, it was a lush scenery of forest, surrounding an open plain at sunset, filled with the mesmerizing flicker of fireflies; utter tranquility.

"Now, he can't hear us. For a time, anyhow. This is my dream," she looked at him with a mischievous grin, "you like it?"

Like it? Kyle was utterly speechless. It was like someone dropped him into an olympic swimming pool of pudding, and lined the edges with naked girls who gestured invitingly, a different desert for later. Bliss. No other word captured what he saw here, and the contrast to the horrible things in the other place was like gargling a mouthful of broken glass and washing it down with soothing ambrosia.

"Good! I like it, too!" she announced. "But do you see, now? Just how malleable this place is? Rue's as harmless as a kitten if you know how to handle him. Unfortunately," she pointed at him for emphasis, "you don't. You might as well jump in a truck full of hornet nests, for all the good it'll do. Rue's spreading his hopeless filth to anyone in range, swallowing their hopes and slaughtering their dreams. That means you and Tammond Dale, unfortunately." She sat down and relaxed herself onto the soft grass, gazing up at the fireflies and stars, each blinking and forming patterns beautiful and calm. "You're not equipped."

That almost made sense. "So, what do I do, then? How do I treat this 'Rue' like a kitten? Yarn of the Gods? Catnip of the Ages?"

She couldn't help but giggle. "No, child. You concentrate. You saw what I did, and you've got that gift. Few people can reshape the world, and for us folk that can, we're a danger to everyone until we know how far it goes. Rue wants you, Kyle. You're his ticket to leaving Tammond Dale, and that can never happen? You understand, don't you?" She was suddenly serious, no more mirth or careless taunts. "You must learn, and do it quickly. Rue will reap the universe, and send everything into that maelstrom of oblivion he calls perfection, if you can't stop him."

That was simply too much. She just implied he was the savior of the universe. "What?! How do I do that? Concentrate him to death?! Why me?"

"Because he's got you, Kyle." Her emerald-green eyes flared with piercing intensity, boring beyond his mind, and he staggered backward, humbled by the expansive kaleidoscope of her wisdom, and impossible gravity seething through the esoteric luster spilling over him. He fought to remain standing, but his head lolled and his eyes rolled. Too much! "Tammond Dale was supposed to languish forever in its warped version of reality, but your damn fool father's luck finally ran out. You're not supposed to even be there, child. What would you do, if you caught a leprechaun? Rue wants a wish, and you're his conduit. He'll stop at nothing to use you, child, and I can't stop him." She closed her eyes again, and the beautiful world was torn asunder as if by frenzied claws, replaced almost instantaneously by the ruins of Old Town.

"Why you?" she echoed, "Because you're the fulcrum. It all starts with you, unless Rue ruins it. Practice, learn, and remember. Most of all, you must remember. That's your key, and his ruin. You're already on the right track." And then she was gone. Again, he was alone, save a few loose bricks and scattered boards and other wormy rubble. "Remember, old man," the wind whispered.

Without her godlike eyes boring through his soul, Kyle regained his composure, though his equilibrium spun and sputtered still; he was tired, and spent. "Great." Kyle said to himself wearily, "Remember. So, I'll concentrate on remembering Rue to death. Thanks, crazy lady." There ya go, that's the way. Calling her crazy, wacky, even zany, helped him cope. The way she stared into him was somehow worse than feeling Rue's rotten teeth crushing his windpipe, seeking the mysterious locus of his power. A terrifying creature, zombie, or demon, at least pursued obvious motives: destroy, consume, and corrupt. The old woman was as perplexing as she was terrifying, insight bordering on inescapable destiny. Far too much.

Kyle wondered when he'd wake up, and if he'd recall any of that conversation, or would it be a badly tangled jumble he could never put to paper before it resembled moldy spaghetti? Remembering a dream was a tall order, and with dubious reward. And why remember? She knows too much about you, kid. Something's sketchy there. Mark your dime, spend your dollar.

Regardless, Kyle had seen enough of this place to know it wasn't right, and the longer he stayed, the worse things were. Awake or asleep, he was starting to have trouble keeping them separate. If the old woman was right, he didn't have much time before he was part of the dream, just another mass of macabre mortar between sickening bricks of wire and flesh. Kyle shivered with dread; he'd rather die, as frightening a concept that was. Dooming the entire universe to Rue's whim would ruin his soul for aeons. If she was crazy or manipulating him? Well, that certainly didn't improve matters. He needed time, to mull this over, to consider or hatch some plan.

So he'd remember. What choice did he have?

< < First Last > >