He knew why the crowd had first looked at him with disgust and why he now had an ample diameter of “safe zone” around him, it was just that Brian wished that he could get home another way. While the normal world could take a train, the subway, or an Uber without much hassle or notice; given his situation all of these would cause the same problem and same looks. The looks of disgust, fear, shame, and utter disdain. All of which had become something he had grown accustomed to being a demonic rectifier. A fancy and professional term for either killing or banishing demons and their kind back to where they came from.
This led to a daily spree of going out in his agency approved clothing, fresh and pressed, and watching them become coated in bile, blood, mud, dirt, and whatever it was that the demons would ooze when they were dealt any damage from his short-blade. The same blade which he can remember hanging on his family room wall as a kid. The same one he had been so happy to find wrapped up on his 18th birthday. The same blade which now was covered in viscera and unknown fluids by his side and weighed his body to be lopsided.
It has a proper name, the one which his family would rather call it by, Marbhaiche deamhain, but instead he simply called it Biorach. Neither one was an immediate give away for how much this weapon had come to be his worst enemy on the same day it was his greatest birthday gift. It was this birthday where a group of mad magickcasters who called themselves God’s Divine had chosen to try and bring his holiness into human form. They aimed the portal the wrong way and instead of a stairway to the silver city, they gave an elevator to the darkness and demons. It was this same day that the family secret of once being demon hunters had been told to him with the assumption that the last time a hell portal was open was in the late 1700’s and was immediately closed. That he should not fear that his blood would once more be called into action to stand against the creatures of darkness as his forefathers and kin had done for millennia.
But this was his luck, his really shitty luck. If they had done this highway to the depths a day before it would have been someone else’s problem. He would have been too young to take up his familiar arm and fight back those which were never meant to stand on this plane. But of course, the moment he opened the gift, it became his burden and no one else’s to do this.
Don’t get him wrong. It was a paying job, it did allow him to cancel his gym membership, and it has kept him busy for the past 10 years (give or take 2 years where he was forced to train with the weapon). So he had his own place in the city, he could afford all his bills, and he was in somewhat decent shape. On paper he worked for the “Agency of Demonic and Magick Regulation” but no one who knew what they did would ever consider them agents of anything. Instead to the public they were known as Hunters.
Sounds cool right? Being a Hunter? Most of the time being coated in different fluids whose properties are not completely known nor investigated and having to fight whichever entity was assigned to you. All done with a familiar weapon and in the agency approved uniform. A gray or black dress shirt, black pants with matching black mid-thigh army level leather boots, and a vest with the company emblem stitched into it. As if anyone would go against any of the beasts and beings the agency was sent after for fun.
What had started as a clean and well pressed gray dress shirt, was not a wrinkled, soaked, and discolored piece of fabric. While Brian had learned quickly to never have a “favorite” shirt, this was one of the more comfortable and light shirts which he had gotten his hands on from the agency. Emphasis on was. Once he returned the shirt would be handed over to the weaponry desk and incinerated to ensure that any diseases or hexes were not allowed to exist within the building. The person wearing the shirt was not incinerated no matter how badly and how often many of the agents had thought about just jumping into the pit instead of the chemical baths and unknown effects of whatever had already soaked into their skin. But Brian was all too aware that he would strip and lose the loose and light shirt to the fire pit, hand over a sword which seemed to always end up too unclean to be resheathed to be cleaned by the in-office staff, and be taken to the detox shower to be sprayed with chemicals and holy water. No one was sure if it was real holy water, but everyone would scream something about Jesus, Christ, Dear God, or Mother Mary; so for Hunter’s it was always called the holy water.
But there he stood in his invisible barrier bubble waiting for the train to come and pick him up and take him back to headquarters to go through the entire process. A ride he knew would go as followed:
This was a normal trip on the train after a long day of work for Brian McDowell. The same trip he had been having to take for the past 2 years after his transfer from the small town branch he had first joined. Well joined is not the term anyone would use, the term would be more drafted into. As it was only those with the ancestral blood of the ancient hunters who could face the higher level demons and actually banish or kill them. On the eastern side of the continent that came down to Brian (lucky him), Colin down in Maryland, Tucker in South Carolina, Kira in Massachusetts, Nicolette in South Jersey, and the oldest of the bunch Eugene in Idaho. Eugene was old enough that he was posted in a state where the number of demons and entities match the number of activities…0. He was still paid the same salary as Brian but did about 0% of the work besides “advising” on some cases.
Eugene’s advice was “You wanna kill the bitch” or “The goal is for it to die before you die” which everyone who had to take his calls always appreciated as they were about to fight something which would have scared even a veteran of this line of work. So while none of the in-field hunters would do or say anything against Eugene or belittle whatever work he had done in the past, none were all too welcoming of their phone’s ringing and the name popping up being his. As a rule throughout the entire agency, specifics and real details were never disclosed to anyone and were kept highly confidential.
So while there may be a message sent to all that a certain entity or portal was no longer considered active or had been removed from observation, the details were not included nor searchable. When these messages would be sent out, many would want to know the reason why, who had completed the task, the bounty or reward for the task, and if an agent had made the ultimate power move and taken both themselves and the target out. But the internal system which allowed for communication and research did little to allow anyone to know those types of details. With some obvious exceptions. One of those being Director Graeson, the head of the New York Office and the only person Brian had to answer to. He was allowed to see all documents without any redactions occurring and knew every detail of every event. It was for this reason that Brian did little to hide his disdain for his current employer.
Because he knew, if he even mumbled a word of it, somehow Graeson would come to find out about it; and it was Brian’s motto that it's better to have it said to your face then behind your back. He prepared for this discussion as the train came to a halt and he finally was able to go into a space where he would not be the center of attention and could possibly no longer feel the once warm and smooth fluid on his body now hardening and thick coat his body. Perhaps allowed to change into either a new uniform or back into his civilian clothes. He could finally have his wonderful weapon cleaned and disinfected by what the agency called professionals and he could go home.
As they went in opposite directions, more than the day had come to an end of a date. It was also the end of an era. It had been years since they had first met, and in that time grew together to be less of two people and more of a single unified entity. Their lives evolve in a spiral, weaving around each other, a tapestry of love and caring. This was what everyone expected, it was what they all saw. But roots un-watered, lead to the greenest of leaves falling brown and dead. So is it that the foundation which these two had set forth had been forgotten, the bond which bound them together misplaced. This was the fatal move, as it would lead to this exact moment in time. To the two which had lasted through so much, finally parting like a final page turned in a chapter. A chapter which had come to a close, unlikely to once more be picked up and re-read. The beauty and memory of what occurred within those pages would aid both of our protagonists in their own stories moving forward, perhaps upon meeting once more, their story shall once more blossom. But at this parting it was the very opposite. This was a break of love, a break of unspoken promises, and the end to the light in both lives. Both having to search through themselves and return that which was given in love as a reminder of the other in the hope that with the lack of reminders, the growth of each may once more commence.
Many look in on these two, feeling that one is in the right and the other in the wrong. Sides will be drawn and those who surrounded them will fall on the playing field as they see fit. But for this battle, these two riders who had entered the fray together both had newer adventures in mind to be followed. No matter how deeply and truly they wished for the partner to choose to journey with them, to face down the next army or challenge, their paths had come to diverge. Each having to come to the knowledge that separation would be the only way to continue. Both agreeing that in their time apart they would remain in contact by messenger, raven, or in spirit. Neither truly ready to find a new passenger to join them. Both return to their kingdoms to heal and prepare once more to enter the battles which lay ahead.
One a knight of time, who looks for the next challenge to be faced and ran into. Prepared to face down any oncoming force with a strategy and plan. Expertly laid out and set in stone. A battle plan for a forward assault on the next challenge or barrier to face.
The other knight, one of passive acceptance. Who is ready to face down whatever it may be that comes for it. Each battle one which is not planned or prepared for. A defensive position was their preferred technique, where an assault was not an option and those who wished to bring challenges must come to them.
Both honorable and strong in their own style, both complementing the other’s style and able to conquer every conflict which had come before now wandered apart in search of their own next battle. No longer by each other's side.
For both this would mean that all wounds and slashes would be deeper and would need to be handled alone. No longer able to have their partner there to support them in the heat of a battle. Both standing alone on a field. One ready to charge with sword draw, the other ready to halt and wait with drawn shield.
Love may be a battlefield, but it is about the knights and fighters who dare to take damage who are the ones to be remembered.
The air traveled in an almost predetermined path, bringing with it a deep chill. A breeze which would send a deep shiver down the spines of all those who were foolish enough to wander in the darkness of night. Bones thrust into a deep freeze that would leave the being caught in such a condition feeling like a walking corpse. The streets baron of any life, silent with the deep nights calm. The bustling town was brought to a halt as everyone who was wise was deep in slumber leaving a motionless world to await their revival and revitalization of the world. A car in the ignition, alarms being sounded, and people preparing for another day, unaware of the world which sits outside the safety of their bed in the night. The world that had long been feared by so many. The warnings through childhood, booklets sent home, and tales of monsters which leaked in the darkest of corners.
This was the exact time which Zander felt like he was truly alive, a time when comfort found him and wrapped around him. A feeling of safety and welcome he could only feel at these exact times. A blanket of acceptance and freedom which he was stripped of in the daytime when the sun and light exposed all. Where he saw the light as a way to pull the mistakes too close to be seen, whereas in his darkness, nothing could hide and be unseen, anything was within reach. Zander preferred to wander his world after the sun had set, when the moon was near gone, and the streetlights which once offered safety and comfort to the many trying to find their way into their beds past the sun’s fall. In total darkness was where Zander knew he belonged. Where all signs of light were vanquished and darkness reigned over the world. The silence which came along with his time was only a benefit, as he would forego the silence if the darkness could remain. Without the need to fill the space, he would walk and hear the smaller details which are so often spoken over by the rest of the town. A town who had long turned their backs on the darkness. Trained to have a hatred towards it.
He wandered the streets which he had long claimed as his own as midnight fell. Where all creatures were pushed into their own safety, Zander would be the only being to freely move through the pitch blackness, unafraid of what lurked where light would not tarry. This had always been his way, to await the night to fall and light to eradicate before he would exit his room and wander the suburb which he had lived in since he can remember. Sneaking out of his second floor window of the cookie cutter house where the O’Conner family had taken residence. Escape the confines of a home where those who lived in the light had raised him and shaped him.
He held no grudge or anger towards his family, as he knew it was not on them which had made him the way he is. He had simply always been the way he was, only able to express it once able to escape the routine which so many others called life. Able to find his safety within the darkness. Welcomed by a friend he had never met.
Unlike so many, Zander never had a fear of the dark, even as a child. He requested in place of any nightlight, his door be shut and blackout curtains be placed over his window to stop the moon from spoiling the dark. He would run for darkened closets as a child for safety in place of the light which would expose the monsters after him. For in his darkness, the monsters would only have him to fear. Power stripped from them and given freely to him. His parents, while concerned about their son’s odd behavior, felt guilty for the way he had turned out. A guilt which echoed through the home and into Zander. He felt no ill will or resentment of his parents as how could they have known, changed, or done anything more than they had for him. But since the moment he entered the world, he was different.
Born at 3:37 AM on a Friday in 1992, Zander was brought into this world different from his family, unlike his peers, and unique in every way. Where his mother was an average height woman, standing at 5’4”, her body in better shape than most would imagine a working woman of 35 would be, her skin a tanned masterpiece which was naturally earned through her many activities and outdoor work. She held long and wavy dirty blonde hair to match her light amber eyes which would be the first to see what had been born that day. Eyes which radiated their own loving, warm light to all who surrounded her. A smile which sparkles as if designed by the Gods to be perfect. She was everything a person could want with love and compassion for all she touched, Yet Zander was the odd puzzle piece which fit into no set.
Zander’s father was a man of great handsomeness. He stood over many at his height of 6’1” with the build of a lumberjack, arms bulging with muscles and ready to handle any challenge. As if training to carry the weight of the world with ease. His chiseled features and body would make many believe he was what ancient masters had worked to produce in marble. Tan skinned naturally darkening and lightening with the seasons, yet always present. His deep hazel-blue eyes spoke of pools of calm and relaxing water, inviting and mysterious. Chestnut hair, thick and trimmed neatly, coated his head. He emanates the energy of a protector, who would fight to protect those he loves. Carrying an inner light which would send the darkness running in fright of being vanquished.
Both his parents shone with the love and compassion they held for each other and for their children. A beacon of light and love for all those who orbited within their auras. A complete opposite of what Zander was. Where light came from them with passion, it came at him with violence and pain.
Zander was born with pale white skin closer to the color of marble in contrast to his parents' caramel tonality, a ghost of what his parents were expecting. Their hopes that this was only a momentary coloration, and he would quickly develop into their rich skin tone. A change which never occurred. His pale skin remains as a part of who he was and always would be. His hair grew to be dark brown, almost black, with a single band of pure white running over the left side of his head. A look which made it appear even from an early age that he had chosen to selectively bleach his hair to match his skin appearance. This was a trait which had never appeared within Zander’s entire lineage of relatives. His thick dark brown hair sat with minimal waves which would only appear when his hair got wet, otherwise to the public it would appear to be as straight as it could be. But the most striking feature which Zander held was his pale gray eyes, which at first appear to be completely white. At this birth, the doctors and nurses believed he was born blind without any color to his irises. His parents saw his nearly completely white eyes with small black pupils which denoted that he was not blind. But to look into his eyes was a hard task, to see no color in comparison to his parents' beautiful colors, his was as if bleached and drained of any color. It took time for anyone to notice that his eyes did hold a near transparent gray tone and not the pure white which was first believed. Much like his skin, this aspect of his being never changed.
He had grown up in the same house as his siblings, both of whom more closely resembled his parents. Glowing tan skin, luscious hair of dirty blonde, and eyes which were vibrant and inviting. The comment his siblings made was that he was born without the spark of light inside him. Leaving him hollow and transparent to the world, where their souls were bright and shone through them, tanning their skins and allowing beauty to shoot from their eyes. They ensured that any chance of Zander finding comfort in his sibling was quickly eradicated and destroyed, as he was always outcast even by his own blood. Quickly realizing that when confronted with light, his eyes are unable to handle it. They would shine lights of all sorts at him simply to watch him struggle for their enjoyment.
He had grown up with his pale complexion and toneless eyes. A walking ghost to the world, forced to change his appearance to simply exist in the world he was born into. His eyes, without any color, took any amount of light as a harsh and nearly blinding amount, burning his pupils until they nearly closed to avoid the onslaught of brightness. For years, he had been forced to wear sunglasses wherever he went simply to be able to have his eyes open, able to look at the world through the darkness. Knowing that this was a fake reduction, that without these glasses he would be assaulted by the sun that all his peers relished being in. Tortured from being able to even partake in normal and expected activities of children his age. No matter how hard he had tried to fit in, his appearance and need for coverage always made him the outcast, the weird one, the diseased one among the kids. Solitude soon became his only friend. His imagination runs free.
His mind was the only place he found solace from the daily torment from both the world and the people within it. A constant reminder of how he was not like everyone else, how he was not meant to walk the same world as they did. So his mind is where Zander went to hide, a place safe from the constant harassment by the public, his peers, and his siblings. His imagination became as vivid as the world his family and the world enjoyed. Sights no one had seen were created in his own mind space. Yet he was unable to exist outside of his mind and rejoin the normal world without constant pain and fear. It was not until Halloween of 1996, where he found his true light, his world, the world of darkness. From that moment he knew it was exactly where he belonged, what called to him, and the location where he was the strongest. Tables turned and the public which had tormented him became the weaker of the two of them with this change. All it took was for lights and power to be cut, a single night thrust into darkness for mere minutes. It was the dark beacon which called for him. The one which still pulled at him every night to wander his own world.
Now I am not going to say I know everything there is to know about design, about the professional world, or about much of what adult life is. But what I am going to say and expand upon is that the small individual spaces we are shown in college and throughout academia are falsehoods. They are not bad, presa, but they do little to actually prepare us for what the world is.
Understand business. Broad statement, yet still heavily true. The world of design and marketing are the same coin. The only change is how the metrics are measures. Return on investment versus return on interaction. Audience acceptance versus A/B Testing. One cannot function to it highest level without the other, and to know both is going into battle not armed with a sword OR shield, but with all weapons on hand. To understand not just who the design or demographic is, but why it is happening this way, why the avenue it is being funneled through was chosen, and how that can lend itself to more expressive and interactive pieces. It is not the most exciting thing, but to know the language and terms of the marketing world as a designer is akin to being able to speak Latin when conversing with any romance language. You will not know it all, but you will be able to fill in the gaps.
No one knows what they are doing. Imposter Syndrome is real. Being a designer (or in my opinion, an adult) is more of a dart throw in the dark then any planning. Not to say you can wing it 24/7. Learn to save, understand bills and APR rates, invest in the future while paying for the present. But know that no matter how old someone is and no matter how good at being a designer, a professional, a CEO, or an adult someone appears, no one has all the answers and more then likely they are winging the bigger things. There are no sure bets. There are no completely encompassing answers.
It has been said, and I am one to agree, that design is cyclical. That we are not truly making any new innovations to the field, but simply rebuilding the historical layouts and styles. Now I want to make it known that this is not to say that if you can look at design history, you can be the most successful designer by simple duplications. What I am trying to say is that to be successful you have to not only know design history, but understand the basis of why it was created, how to make the same emotions and techniques occur in modern day, and why it evolved in this way.
Currently, many would say we are in a repeat of the 70's and 80's design. Where freeform letterforms, loose illustrations, and the human aspect is a major feature of what for this, we can call mainstream design. We have been moving from the much more flat and super clean design one would expect from the early 2000's where all companies and entities were moving to a simply icon and a preselected san-serif. This was a time where identity meant less then being individual. It was about being a part of the machine, a cog, and not the squeaky wheel. But as the field and media became flooded with tasteless, bland, and repetitive layouts and feelings, the change occurred. Many were pulled back to the time of free love, expression, and the human aspect. Where premade hard and clean san-serifs were removed and in their stead hand-made and human type was brought in. Ones which filled spaces like water in a container, conforming and deforming to be a part of the larger image. Long gone were the days of grids, flat colors, and shades/hues. Back where bright and vibrant colors, gradients and mixing, and imperfection embraced. With this, the next move seems to be that of the 90's. To return to the Xeroxed zines, multi-typeface designs, a corporate dispute between a rebellious movement and the need to speak the truth to the larger population. Raygun's return. Will this be the true next movement, I cannot say, nor am I willing to say that I in anyway am completely the expert in this field. But what I will leave with is, where ever design goes, it will be fueled by ideas and techniques of the past brought up to date to connect times and generations under one idea.
I only have a few minutes to tell you all of this. I can already see the cars pulling up across the street. The men have yet to get out, so they are still trying to get approval to enter. But with the little time I have, I need to tell someone. Maybe you can avoid making the same mistake as me.
No one would have thought it would be some random Wednesday which would lead to all this turmoil. It was a simple mistake. I was walking home from the coffee shop after spending some time out on a date. As I was walking, minding my own business, I noticed that there was a USB drive on the ground. Not some destroyed and crushed on, but one that looks more expensive and one which seems like it just fell on the ground. Being the good citizen I am, I looked around the group of people standing waiting for the light to change and the pedestrian light to change to try and see if someone in the group looked like this would belong to them or could be theirs.
Woman, mid 40’s, in casual dress with her 5 year old child, he is wearing a bookbag : Not likely, why would some mother be carrying something like this when she was just going to pick up her son. Her son shouldn't have something like this, so he is also a no.
Skater guy, ripped jeans, destroyed shoes, and beanie : He barely has a wallet on him, why would someone who is doing a sport where you fall all the time be carrying something so delicate
Tourists: Generally they are more likely to be carrying too much cash, expensive jewelry, and bags than a single USB stick. Maybe it is one of them, but I do not want to offer it to no one in particular and be an accessory to theft.
Old man, late 80’s cane, overcoat, and cap: I seriously doubt he even knows what a USB stick is and would be even less likely to be randomly carrying it with him.
That is when the light changes and I see the person who most fits the item. A man, undefined age. Full black suit, black overcoat, black fedora, sunglasses (even though it is overcast), expensive briefcase.
As everyone walks, I try to catch up to him and ask if it is his USB, when we get to the other side he is gone. Now I am not saying I lost him and he took off. It was a literal straight line we all walked. He was in my sight the entire time before he went to turn the corner and walked behind the pole holding the crosswalk sign. In that maybe 1 second of time, he was gone. I checked down both sidewalks. Maybe he chose to pick up his pace and I just missed it. But no man, no all black suit, nothing.
How could he have done that? Not that I am super interested in everyone else’s lives, as life in the city makes you worry about yourself and only yourself. Otherwise you go broke from helping everyone else. But I need to know what this man was. I do have this part of him.
But looking into it would be an invasion of privacy right? I mean, this could be his confidential record, medical documents, divorce papers, irreplaceable photos or files. So I should not look into it. So I don’t.
When I get back to my apartment, I place my keys, wallet, and pocket litter into the bowl on my counter as you enter. I also placed the USB stick into the bowl. I will turn it in tomorrow to the police or whatever. Maybe I will go back and just give it to a store nearby. With that I go about the rest of my night. I make dinner, I watch YouTube, I talk to my cat about life and his daily struggles. It is only when I get to bed that the itch to know comes back.
So I lay in bed, the thought of the unknown eating at me. I mean it would be so simple. Just boot up my laptop, plug it in, and see what pops up. I wouldn’t take anything or steal something. It would be strictly investigatory. That is fine. I am doing it to give the person a better idea. So that's what I do. I set up my laptop on my kitchen table, power it on, and push the USB into the slot. These were the final moments before my life ended, my old life that is. One of stability and commonality. Before I had to go on the run.
As it loads, I get the normal notifications “Checking Device for Viruses” and “Scanning”. But before it can open into my file explorer my desktop changes. A strange symbol appears and a chat box or conversation shows up on the screen. The symbol looks like something caught between a corporate icon, a sacred geometry piece, and some decorations off the US currency.
The conversation which at first looks like an old one, stopped and simply remained open before it was shut down springs to life.
Blue: Is it done?
I look at it. Is what done, I ask myself. Who is Blue? I know I should ignore it, I have no need to get involved in this. I am just going to remove the stick and move on with my ordinary life. But as I reach to the side of my laptop, the chatbox once
more shows a new message.
Blue: Do not remove the USB. It would be smarter to just read and nod.
What does the computer mean? I know my webcam is covered. I literally bought one of those covers and krazy glued it closed so it stayed that way.
Blue: Read and Nod!
I nod out of reflex.
Blue: Good. Now how did you come into possession of this drive?
You: I found it on the ground and I was going to return it when the guy disappeared
Blue: He disappeared how?
You: One moment in front of me the next just gone.
Blue has left the conversation.
With Blue leaving I think it is safe to leave and just go to bed. This is all a bad dream and tomorrow will be normal. I yank out the drive but the computer does not change. It does not even throw a notification that it was even removed. Instead a video pops up and auto starts. I try to close it but no command will stop it, close it, or let me minimize it.
“Access Code 58114
You have been noted as a non authorized user and have been deemed a threat”
The video flashes this message before exposing me to images and sounds which hold no meaning. Think of the Ring video. But as it finishes, I look around and see everything is different.
I know that is super common, but I mean it. I was not in my apartment anymore, I was in some room surrounded by vials, experiments, and people. There are boards with writing on them which appear to be formulas and equations, but none of it makes sense. Then I see it, the people, all the people, tied up and with tubes coming out of them. I can faintly hear it too
“We need to clear the slate, we have an invader, someone lost their drive and some stranger has it.”
“Who does not matter. We have already dispatched the team to eliminate the person. He knows too much”
I can tell you I knew nothing at the time, since then I have learned so much.
“The experiments need to be disposed of.”
“Just…just kill them?”
“DO NOT call them that. These are not people!”
“You are right. They are the next step.”
“Do you…do you see that?”
Whomever I am able to see this through is spinning around and their eyes are moving rapidly. Whatever that video did, I am able to see through this person’s eyes. I can hear what they hear. And now they know it.
I will add more later if I can, the person in the car nearest the door just got approval to kill. He is kissing an image of a little girl, I think it's his daughter, and getting ready to get out. They know I know. They know I can see.
I feel it important to introduce myself, as without that none of this is going to make sense. My name is Nicholas, I am 32 years old. I am not married, no current relationship, all I have is 2 cats, Penny and Nickel. Penny is a male orange tabby, Nickel being a Russian gray cat. I am in no way saddened by my situation nor do I feel that I am lesser. I love my life, I love my cats, and I did not ask for any of what is to follow.
I work as a design manager / web designer. This breaks down to me spending most days looking over code, exporting it, looking at it again, and then making changes. It is not the most interesting of careers, nor is it the worst. I get paid enough to afford my life and still put something into my savings. Nothing out of the ordinary really occurred ever. I mean there were times when work got heavy or a website crashed, but nothing which would stop everything in its tracks. It was actually a normal Wednesday for me. I was in my office, my three screens all displaying the process I go through: Assets / Images, Codes, Output. What was not expected was the code which popped up.
ND: hello? who is this?
Anonymous: My name is not the important part of this.
ND: how did you get onto my system then and why do you not have a username?
Anonymous: You ask too many questions for someone who is not in a position of power
ND: what is it you need then? i have a job to do
Anonymous: You are to stand up and go to the server room
ND: you have the wrong department man, you want IT. look for Shaun.
Conversation ended by ND
Weird, I know. I mean we at the company did have an internal chat feature, but it was always linked to our usernames and often had a custom picture or avatar. But this Anonymous had neither and was also somehow able to not go through any of the people before me. See I am not the first person you would be sent to, and a chain of messages should have come with him from the office manager, receptionist, or help desk. Instead it just popped up. Once closed, feeling it was over I got back to my task. That was until it came back.
Anonymous has started a chat
Anonymous: End the chat again and you will be punished.
ND: seriously, i do not have time for this.
Anonymous: Nor I. So do as I say Nicholas
ND: was you saying my name supposed to scare me? we are on a shared system, my name is public
Anonymous: Nicholas Demaque, 1438 Westbrook Ave, Apartment 645, 2 cats.
ND: less public, but still.
ND: who is this anyway? is this some prank from IT or from the helpdesk?
Anonymous: Go to the server room, Now.
I guess it was a slow day and I was willing to indulge this random person, so leaving my desk I went to our server room. In doing so, this genius should have realized I would leave the computer. It was only when I got into the server room that everything changed. My phone went off.
New Message : RESTRICTED
“Grab the external hard drive and come back - Anon”
Shockingly there was a random hard drive sitting on the stool which we used for having to rewire or change the wiring system. I picked it up, looked it over, and decided it was normal enough.
It was a common LaCroie hard drive, with an orange bumper around it, and looked to be in new condition. No dust, no scraps, no damage. If nothing else, it would be a great storage location.
Back at my desk I had messages waiting.
Anonymous: You take too long.
Anonymous: Where are you?
Anonymous: Keep me waiting and see what happens.
ND: calm down, i walk at a normal pace
ND: thanks for the hard drive?
Anonymous: Plug it in and load the first file
Chat ended by Anonymous
Welcome to the Glitch.
Your name is Nicholas, I am 32 years old. You are not married, no current relationship, all you have is 2 cats, Penny and Nickel. Penny is a male orange tabby, Nickel being a Russian gray cat. You are not saddened by the situation nor do you feel that you are lesser.
Your life is to end in [2 days] to continue please move the hard drive to a new location and we will allow you to access someone else to take your place. Your time will be reset and you will be allowed to continue your “life”.
Would you like to play?
Whomever gets the hard drive next, please do not listen to me. Break the drive, destroy it, ignore me. They own me now, I lost the game and…
Welcome to Glitch, where life is currency.
What is your life really worth? Play and find out.
The door creaks open, the sound refracted and echoing in the small room. It hinges screaming of misuse and age, metal on metal grinding each other down. The wood, long since its prime, shudders and cracks at the mere touch. Still cold from the air surrounding it. The hand pushing it trying to reduce the painful sound the door gives, an injured animal giving out its finally cries for aid, for salvation. The hand on the door is warm, trying to give the same heatwave to the room it looks to enter. It gives a final push allowing the light from behind it to penetrate the udder darkness from inside. Light an unwelcome visitor within the complete darkness.
The room looks used, as if the mess which was meant to be cleaned up was not. Overly packed and disorganized. The items scattered across the floor making a minefield of noise. Either from those who misstep and allow the oblong items to shoot pain through them, soon followed by painful screams. Or the items themselves reawaken and playing songs long forgotten, sounds of dying batteries and broken speakers.
The person reaches inside the room, now having enough space to allow their hands to slide against the wall. In search of a switch to break the crushing darkness and illuminate the secrets within the room. At any moment, an entity from the dark may be reaching out to snatch the hand and drag the innocent explorer into its domain. The arm sliding up and down the wall in deep search for any contact with the switch, the outer casing being a guide.
As the hand meets the switch, a momentary pause is taken. The moment before the storm meets ground and what is hidden becomes shown. For all secrets and unknowns to be brought into the light. The hand, almost without fear, pushes the switch up, light catching like fire and consuming the darkness. Light flooding the room making the items which had once looked menacing become clear and friendly. Fear is also chased away as light forces it back into its hiding places beneath beds and deep within closed closets.
The air lightens and becomes less heavy, as the person finally speaks, ready to face the beast that lies within.
“Wake up!” the voice said in a loving but dominating tone. “You are going to be late for school.”
The mother walks back to the kitchen to get her coffee, now having completed her duty as the alarm for her son
“Who let you in?” screamed a voice from the room. “How did you get in! That should be impossible!” The shouts turn to ones of sorrow and fear. The sounds of a trapped animal aware and conscious of its own demise. The knowledge that it cannot fight back and cannot win. Acceptance of fate.
It was a peaceful morning for Lilac, she had finally cleaned out her cottage and planted all the herbs and vegetables she felt she would need to survive this spring. Just a week ago celebrating the spring equinox with her friends. She laid plans to have some over when she was complete with her move, everything placed out, and the one dilapidated cottage made cozy. With this promise, she set to prepare the cottage for visitors, for guests. All the wood had to be cleaned, moss removed. She kept the moss as it knew not that growing on her home was not good. She allowed them to continue their growth on logs she found in the surrounding woods. Ensuring the log was fully submerged in water to allow the moss to take hold, she placed it along her customer log fence. Which function less like a fence should and more like a barrier to stop people or animals from mistakenly wandering into her garden. She needed to get more shale to fix the room, as the previous winter had allowed small holes to emerge and she knew that if she did not fix them now that they would only grow as the water got inside. This would be as simple as grabbing appropriate pieces from the local river and bringing them back. If she needed help, Coriander would likely help. Being her neighbor, if one could call being the next closest house buried in the forest a neighbor. But in the past he had proven to be of aid when a task was too much for Lilac. She wanted to go out and collect more straw to fashion a new broom, as her previous one had gotten wet and decayed. All of this would be a simple day's work for her. A long and tiresome day, but nothing she could not handle. As she had been doing this for the past 5 years, cleaning her house, preparing for the seasons, and ensuring everything was taken care of.
It had to be that way, it was her home now and it needed to be given love and care. Especially after Lilac’s significant other of the time, August, had disappeared and had yet to return. This is not for lack of trying as everyone in the local area aided Lilac in her search for August. Everyone knew how much they were in love with each other and how much they meant to each other. It had taken months for every inch of the forest to be combed, every rock overturned, and every river skimmed. Yet they found no trace, no track, no hint of where August had gotten to.
Lilac soon settled into the idea of having to manage her home all by herself. Taking on the tasks of two people on her own. She tried to find joy and passion in the upkeep of her house, the one she once shared with her beloved. Thus far, she has been successful for 5 years, 20 seasons, and many celebrations. With her friend wishing to visit once more, she had to make sure that all the tasks were completed and done with no issues to avoid any of them thinking she was giving up on her cottage. She couldn’t give up on it. It meant so much. Held so many memories.
It was also the only place she could be close to August. You see, she had constructed a basement years ago with the help of August, his safe haven from the world. They had put their heart and soul into it and kept it a secret from the world. It was truly a place only they would know of and it was. Now it sat in disrepair, Lilac unable to bring herself to clean it, unable to stand being down there for too long. But she could not leave and let someone else find out her home's secret. Especially now that August’s body was starting to break through the ground. This summer she is going to have to dig deeper to hide his body from everyone. Her mask and blade buried deep down with him. She would hate for someone to finally find her beloved and all her tools
The darkness never bothered him. Some may say that he was born with the darkness, the cold being part of his very essence. So standing alone in the alley was more like home to Zander than being in his room ever was. He enjoyed being in the unseen, being hidden, being free. That is the exact reason that even at home he had removed all lighting fixtures from his room, closed all outlets, and covered up his windows. So that the night would allow his room to enter into the darkness he thrived in.
But that was when he was still at his house. It had been 3 weeks since he left, caused by his father demanding his son to “put on some damn light”. This had been Zander’s final straw. His parents were his polar opposite. Both needed the light to feel safe, could not allow for darkness to infiltrate their lives. For them, every room had to have light reach every corner and leave no shadows or spots for darkness to reside. This had always been a point of tension between them. Where Zander could handle having to be in the light most of the day, when it was his time of the day, he would retreat to his room and to the darkness. His parents never dared to tarry near his void, consuming all light. A place where your eyes saw nothing, and nothing saw you. That was at least what Zander had always thought. That was until something did see him.
Zander remembers the night when we had finally retreated to his room, his void. Where he thought nothing could be seen and nothing could see him. It was the night the golden eye of a cat, but far too large appeared before him. It spoke nothing through sound, but through Zander’s mind. A link that was established that night and has kept held since then.
“You have found peace in darkness” it spoke with a ghostly whisper directly in the mind of Zander, who was transfixed by the eye’s appearance, its glowing presence, and how it entered his void no through the door. “You are confused, we can sense that,” the entity continued, “we are of the darkness too, yet we have been formed by true darkness where light is forbidden to approach. You have entered its lesser appearance through effort of your own.” The eye blinked out of existence as Zander sat against the wall, the feeling of the solid object aiding him feeling grounded.
If there was darkness beyond this, Zander had to know. He had for so long been bound to find solace in his void, to know that this was his home’s brightness to this creature was a thorn which buried itself in his side. He must find a way to enter this world of complete blackness. It was that night which began a downward spiral into the world of dark. Zander did not know, but he had opened a doorway which was only able to be shut from inside.
He spent weeks learning all he could of darkness, of beings once thought to lurk in it, creatures and monsters believed to have come into existence in the presences of nothingness. Between myths, legends, folktales, and any other literature he dove into the world he had already built his comfort in. It was also through this, that Zander came to hear rumor that those who were accepted by the void were gifted. They were able to form and warp the void, the liminal space, to their desires. Travel instantaneously. Disappear without trace. Consume light like a black hole.
The further he studied, the more he knew, the more the information began to change him. At first it was near unnoticeable. His already jet black hair began to consume all light and not reflect it back in the sheen his peers had come to expect. His fingers began to darken, as one may expect to see a dark witches fingers to occur, nails and fingertips blackened to the same all consuming blackness of his hair. It was only when his left eye began to change that the changes became known. Slowly his eye lost all color it was born with; changing from its once blue-green to a darker tone, and finally to black. If one was to look it would seem that his pupil has consumed his entire iris. Yet, it did not stop there, day by day it expanded and consumed more of the white in this eye. It took not even a week before it was only if he strained his eye that any white could be seen.
He had learned that he could control the discoloration of his hands, making them appear normal during the day and allowing the blackness to overtake them as he entered his void. His parents took notice and attempted to infiltrate his room with light, but even with lamp after lamp plugged in and the bulbs known to work, the darkness persisted. Not allowing the lights to even show in the darkness. His parents grew more and more fearful of their son, as he was constantly in his room. A room that now would eat any ambient light before it could cross the barrier of the doorway.
It was the night that his parents saw his eye had turned completely black that they chose to speak with him. Feeling whatever was going on was hitting a climax. That soon whatever was taking hold would be all consuming like their son’s room.
They took their son, who had once simply been an oddity into their living room now flooded with lights from all angles and sat him down. “What is going on with you?” his father asked. “What have you done?” his mother begged. Neither taking notice that some of the lights had stopped shining and slowly a shadow was growing in one corner. They became so invested in interrogating Zander that they had forgotten to check behind them as the shadow reached them, sending a shiver down their spines. But it reached not for them but for their son. It met his foot and as he reached down inviting it into himself, that was when his parents saw what their son had become. As in a moment, Zander once sat in front of them was gone, as was the shadow which called to him.
It was then he stepped out into the alley, consumed with the blackness he loved. Yet still too bright for him to find absolute comfort. But it was not time for comfort. It was time to be free. He heard the footsteps wander towards him, he saw the eye he had seen once before, and he heard the voice.
“Welcome dear Zander, I am pleased to see you have not failed us.” In the shadow sat a pitch black cat, one eye golden, the other consumed with the same darkness Zander’s eye now held. “It is time we speak in private about the future.” With that they both stepped into the shadow Zander had only recently emerged from. It was that night that the local power station failed and thrust the town into a true darkness. Yet it was still bright to Zander and his companion; soon, so soon, the town would see the peace in the darkness.