“You better than this,” a voice said. The tone was deep and the words struck hard.
The young man turned around. There were more faces.
“Better than all this,” the voice continued, “I can shows you a way.”
The young man went to respond but no sound came from his throat. It felt as though a thin membrane covered his insides. Like the compressed lid on a carbonated drink.
“Come with me,” the voice said.
The young man felt someone grip his arm. At least he thought it was his arm. There was no way to tell. In his short years he had always known that he had two arms, and that they were always by his side. They grew from his shoulders. But now, well, how could he be sure that what he knew was real? Perhaps he had only thought that he always had arms by his side, growing from his shoulders. It sounded inhuman now, to think that things protruded and grew out of him. But everything he had come to know had changed. Everything had vanished, slipped into a void of darkness. Now it had resurfaced, but everything was somehow different.
Daylight had turned purple; grass had turned to red dust. Houses transformed into low, red hills and trees had completely disappeared. The world had turned black. The boy, for that’s all he really was, had left the comfort of America and was now in some alien world. Some desert. But who’s to say that this was not how it had always been?
Perhaps there had never been a school, with its bells and lockers. There had never been modern geography, history or further mathematics. Hundreds of people may never have walked through the corridors, up and down stairs or sat in classrooms. In this moment the school could only have been a fleeting thought in the young man’s mind, along with all those people and the town that he had been born in. It had all been taken away. The boy had woken up into a new reality.
Voices had asked questions. He had spoken, but the words were not his. His body was not his. His thoughts, memories and feelings belonged to someone else. He had existed, once but it was not enough. All the young man had now was a fading sense that he had been somebody. That, and a burning fire of anger inside him.
“I sees you boy,” the voice said to the young man again, “I sees that fire. You got passion in you. I can show you how to use it.” The young man was plucked from the shadows. Cold reality bit him where the comfort of thousands of other lost souls had concealed him. The boy was too lost to feel vulnerable.
“You ain’t like the others,” the voice said to him. The roar of thousands of the other souls had quietened, as though the young man walked away from a powerful river. “You don’t deserve to get caught up in all them other losers like that. You got talent boy, I can sees that.”
The young man’s eyes had not yet adjusted to his new existence. Daylight had been taken from him. It had been replaced with this other incandescence. Warmth from the sun had turned to the chill of a thousand shadows. The young man had not yet developed. He was covered in an invisible membrane that stopped him from breathing, seeing or feeling. The young man was being born again.
“I understand your fear,” the voice said to him again, “We all been there, but I saved you now boy. I’ve saved you the heartache, the confusion. The anger. All those other fools, they gonna carry on down that same path and spend their entire afterlives piecing together this and that and wondering where they all went so wrong, but I’ve found you boy. I here to tells you the truth. You dead. You dead and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.
“The boy I look upon right now is just the soul of that boy who walked in some god’s blue daylight. He ain’t got your face, your voice or your heart. But you carry his anger. And I here to show you how you can give it back to him.”
An arm draped around the young man’s shoulders. A hand littered with gold jewellery gripped his shoulder and gently pushed him forward. The young man followed his companion blindly through forgotten alleyways and caves.
“Lucky for you I found you,” the man said, “You gonna stay with me for as long as you needs boy. Ain’t no way you gonna run around that city looking for answers, not like them other fools. You special. I can see that. Anyone can see that, plain as the nose on they face. You got gifts, talents, a je ne se qua that is so rare to find in the youth of today. No, you got talents and you gonna stay with me while I teach you how to use them. I gots a job for you.”
The young man’s eyes started to sting. Reality started to form. He blinked as though it was the first time. The young man stepped into life. Light caught his attention to the right. Darkness shrouded the rest of his space. A figure formed in front of him. He was dressed head to toe in black and white. White shoes with a black trim; White trousers with a black belt; White shirt with a black tie; White jacket with a black handkerchief.
Gold glittered from his hand, neck and face. The young man blinked again. A man stood in front of him. Gold teeth glittered when he smiled. He extended a hand that was covered in rings of all sizes and colours with a manner of colourful jewels.
The young man uncertainly took the hand and shook it.
“Welcome to Necropolis,” Papa smiled.