A/N: If there's one thing I intend to do, it's to finish this story. Even if it takes me forever (well 10 more years give and take at least) to do it. Being part of the working class sucks. It just means I have absolutely no more time to write.
*cue in drumroll* Here's chapter 13.
O.O.O.O.O (change of scene)
13. Dire Dispositions
I felt like a zombie – my limbs moved all on their own through the ritual of getting up, washing my face, brushing my teeth, changing into clothes presentable enough so I can walk down to the kitchen, etcetera etcetera.
The shame of the previous day just kept on replaying itself through my head like some damaged film that even a wink of sleep became impossible to achieve. It didn't matter how tired my body felt; my brain just refused to cooperate.
If yesterday happened a week earlier, I wouldn't be feeling this rejected and stupid. Heck, I wouldn't be caught dead in a room alone with him in the first place. There wouldn't even be chance for him to get in close proximity of me. I would've screamed bloody murder.
I sighed. How can I forget about the memory erasing thing? Eventually my stupid brain would've fixed itself and my state of mind would be right where it is now. Only I'd probably be in a mental institution instead, after having myself admitted, thinking I was going crazy.
And all the while I would probably still be thinking of him.
Stan. Stanley. StanleyfuckingRayver.
Even saying his name in my head caused by stomach to turn itself upside-down.
I walked to the bathroom mirror and stared at the dark circles around my eyes. My hair was also a mess. I not only felt like a zombie, I actually looked one (minus the mud and the torn shirt that would be from crawling myself out of my grave).
I walked back to the room and sat myself on the bed. The sandwich he'd given me lay unfinished in its plate beside the now-cold-and-frothing chocolate, still in the tray he had used to deliver them. Even staring at actual food couldn't make my stomach going.
What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn't normal that I'd get so depressed over something so… miniscule. I should be acting cool and detached. Somehow I couldn't even pretend to be that way. It's like my emotional quotient plummeted beyond below average.
I used to wonder what could be wrong with people who get this way – even disliked socializing with them. How ironic that I was now in the same boat.
The clock on the bedside table beeped 6:00 AM.
It should be safe to go down. Although I wasn't sure what 'safe' meant anymore. I just hope Stanley would still be asleep. I wasn't sure if wanted to see him just yet.
It took a huge amount of will power to get my legs working again. After the feel of the soft mattress on my thighs, all I wanted to do was to curl back under the covers again.
Back to zombie state, I turned the doorknob, walked the long corridor and down the stairs.
I ran a hand through my hair and realized that I forgot to comb it. But why would it matter, really?
I knew people were already up and about as I crossed the living room, but was surprised when I saw that Eliot and Sophia were the only ones in the kitchen before me. There was just too much clanking for two persons to be making.
Eliot was the first one to notice me. He was in his usual spot behind the counter that they all seem to mistake as the dining room table. I forced a smile and waved.
"Hey Camey, good morning!" he chirped. At least somebody else got a good night sleep.
"You guys are like chickens, getting up so early in the morning." I hoped I sounded normal, whatever that was after the past few days.
"Don't you mean roosters?" Sophia turned from her seat. A fork with a piece of cut sausage was still halfway to her mouth. "I don't think chickens make this much noise."
I shrugged and took the empty seat beside her. I let my hair fall on my face so she wouldn't see how horrible I looked as I reached for the glass of orange juice Eliot had laid down in front of me. The liquid stung my dry throat as I gulped half of it down.
Eliot then laid a plate of pancakes on the counter and I pretended to hungrily drag it towards me and started cutting it like cake.
In my peripheral vision I saw Sophia and Eliot exchange a worried glance. Either my trick with the hair didn't work or I just looked so haunted that the gesture turned out to be nothing but a futile attempt to hide my horrid state.
"Camey are you –" Sophia began at the same time Eliot said "Stan, hey!"
Sophia's hand was on already on my shoulder and her brows knitted when she felt me tense at the sound of Stanley's name.
I shook my head at her silently inquiry when she sought my face for answers and smiled, hoping it was enough to get the message across: I'm fine. It's nothing. I'll talk to you later… maybe.
Whether she got it or not, she nodded before turning to the approaching footsteps behind us. "You must be really tired. You're usually up by five."
Stanley shrugged and quietly took the seat beside me.
I focused on the pancakes. Fork. Pancake. Put in mouth. The last thing I wanted to do was look at Stanley sitting beside me and make myself feel worse about myself. I wasn't a masochist.
Sophia and Eliot glanced at each other a second time that morning. I didn't have to be in my normal state of mind to notice that they've figured out something was up. They didn't have to know the depressing details to realize that that 'something' wasn't something good.
"Can you pass the salt?" Stan asked without looking at me.
I turned to see the accusing salt shaker beside my plate. I reached out for it and placed it on my other side so he can get it for himself.
"Thanks." He took it after a few good seconds, as if making sure that my hands were nowhere near it anymore. I knew I was just letting the hurt get to me and was only assuming such things, but I still felt something tug at my heart.
Eliot coughed as if to break some transparent sheet of tension that was starting to envelope the whole kitchen. "Sophie and I are going to warm up in the garden before we start training."
I turned to him. "Training?"
He nodded and grinned, probably hoping to lighten the dark mood. "Contrary to popular belief, I wasn't born with this awesome body." He flexed his biceps, veins popping here and there to accentuate his point. "This is the fruit of sixteen years of cold, stinky sweat."
Sophia rolled her eyes and started to get up from her seat. "Always the overly dramatic." She put a hand on my shoulder. "Yell if you need anything." She smiled.
Next thing I knew, Stanley and I were alone, and after a few seconds, the silence was pushing hard on my chest. Or was it really the silence?
I snuck a glance at Stanley. He seemed to be intensely focusing on the sausages and bread on his plate. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was giving it his best to pretend I wasn't even there; probably sparing us both from a very awkward conversation.
I stared at what remained of my pancakes, the fork in my hand barely touching the end of the plate.
He may not want to talk to me, but I'm not one to tolerate a cold shoulder.
All my feelings of not wanting to even see him suddenly vanished, replaced by an inexplicable courage. I took a deep breath and dropped the fork in my hand noisily on the plate.
He turned his head towards me for the first time, obviously startled.
I returned his stare, only I was sure mine threw a thousand daggers his way.
"About yesterday." I started.
He looked down on his plate again and started cutting sausages. "Yeah?" he asked before putting a piece in his mouth.
Oh how unbelievably this guy can tick me off!
This time I turned half of my body to face him and opened my mouth, ready to start an argument, when somebody walked into the kitchen with light, but still audible, steps, and interjected.
"Good, you're both here."
I knew it was Theresa before I turned to look. Hers is the only voice capable of such apathy.
"Grandfather wants you in the library."
Stanley didn't even bother acknowledging her.
I picked up the fork again and turned back to my pancakes. What awesome timing you have. In my head I was glaring at her, although in reality I mimicked Stanley and acted like she hadn't came in.
"Now." She added when neither of us made a motion of getting up. After a few seconds, the sound of her footsteps told me she was gone.
Stanley stood without further ceremony. "We should go see what Gramps wants."
Feeling defeated I got up and followed him.
Maybe it wasn't yet time to venture into something we both might regret after a few days. Or maybe I was making a bigger deal out if it than he was. Or maybe it's just not worth our time and attention. Or maybe I was the only one willing to go over that thin line between a sort of friendship and something else – something more…
There were too many maybes running through my head that I floated like a ghost behind Stanley as we made it through the same corridors to the library. The awe I felt the first time I walked through them was gone. This time, the walk just seemed too long – too suffocating.
I was too deep in my own thoughts I almost didn't hear Stanley when he addressed me for the first time after what seemed like a few hours, even though it had been only a few seconds after we left the kitchen.
In my head I willed him to go on. I almost said it out loud, but I suddenly couldn't find my voice. So, I simply waited for him to continue.
He shook his head slightly, as if to clear some cobweb that got caught in his hair. "I just want to say I'm sorry about… yesterday." He finally said.
Again, my voice failed me. What was I supposed to say to that? Before he walked out on me he already told me he was sorry – but sorry for what exactly? All I keep getting out of him are these seemingly unfinished sentences.
Sorry. I was starting to hate the word.
He sighed audibly. Was he nervous?
"Just… Sorry that I…"
My ears perked. That cursed word again. The heavy feeling was returning to my chest. My mind was hazing. There was absolutely no way I was going to let him keep on saying sorry – no way I was going to hear it over and over again; not if I could help it.
"You already said that yesterday." I said through gritted teeth to keep myself from shouting. "I get it – you're sorry. Stop repeating it like a broken record." It even surprised me how collected I sounded.
He fell behind a step or two, his face now turned to me. My retort obviously came as a shock.
I sighed, which also helped to calm the gathering storm in my head.
"Forget it, okay? Nothing happened. Nothing was supposed to happen. Let's just act like yesterday was a bad hallucination or something, and move on." I regretted the words as soon as I said them. But I was pissed. No way was I taking them back in my current state of mind, even if I could. Where I got the nerve to tell him off the way I did, I had no idea.
He stared ahead and for a few seconds we remained silent.
Then he spoke again. "You're angry." His tone was a-matter-of-fact, but with a tinge of sadness and amusement at the same time.
"I'm not." Lie.
"Yes you are." More dash of amusement this time.
"No I'm not. Just…" I debated what to say next. "You don't have to rub it in." Despite the attempt at filtering, the words went right out of my mouth.
"Rub what in?" Again, he fell a few steps behind. He sounded confused. I couldn't blame him. I hadn't exactly laid out the answer like an elementary reading material.
I shook my head. "Nothing. I just… I already heard you the first time." I said calmly this time. Or was the tone in my voice resignation? "You're sorry. I get it."
The silence was longer this time before he spoke again.
"No. No you don't get it." In a snap he was the one who sounded angry and it was my turn to look at him in shock. What was he getting mad for?
"I'm not sorry for… what happened." He sighed. "I only said 'sorry' yesterday out of reflex. What I'm saying sorry for now is walking out like that."
He is sorry for what again? I wasn't sure if I heard him right.
At this point we've stopped in front of the library doors. I knew we should just stop talking and go in where Grandfather Raymond was waiting but I couldn't bring myself to turn the knob.
"I don't want to pretend like yesterday never happened." For the first time he looked me straight in the eye. His green eyes were sparkling but more like the forest from afar when drenched in a heavy downpour of rain than the usual emerald. "I just don't know if…"
My breath was caught in my throat. I didn't dare break eye contact and waited.
Then the door opened and I was dragged back to reality.
Theresa was standing before the entrance, her usual expression unchanged. If she caught a portion of the conversation, she didn't show it. She probably just didn't care.
It was Grandfather Raymond's voice that finally severed the moment. "What are you standing in the hallway for?" He said the words loud enough to reach us from his usual seat.
We glanced at each other for a few seconds. Finally looking away, my own gaze on the floor, we went inside just like we were told.
Grandfather Raymond was sitting in his chair with a different leather-bound book in hand. Quietly, we walked towards him and stopped before the coffee table.
He looked up from his book and met my eyes. I saw no sympathy in them – his eyes held mine with a tight rope as if conveying a silent challenge. Do not disappoint me.
"Well? Sit down." He gestured to two chairs newly placed across his couch.
He closed his book with a loud thump and placed it on the table. His hands were steady for his age, which only made him seem more that just a stubborn grandfather.
"I don't find joy in beating around the bush so I'll tell you everything you need to know about what you will be going through in the next few weeks." His attention was still on me. "Or months– or years; depending on how capable you are."
Years? I pursed my lips to stop the shiver that ran down my spine upon hearing his words. The thought of losing a year or more of my life was not included in my list of things to do before I turn forty. Not that I actually had a list.
"What do mean capable?" Stanley's voice snapped me out of my silent panic.
Grandfather Raymond's attention was on him for the first time since we came in. "She needs to remember her previous lives if she wants to learn how to use her powers. And if she wants to have complete control on all of them, she'd have to remember her life as Safrin herself. This is how all her reincarnations learned how to use theirs."
We remained silent as he shifted a little in his seat.
I snuck a glance at Stanley, his face was suddenly ashen white, which made me realize that what Grandfather Raymond had said was explanation enough for him. I lost all hope of my task ever coming close to a being a piece of cake.
My skin prickled at the heaviness of his stare. I dared to return the look, hoping that mine contained at least half of the intensity his eyes had.
"I'm assuming you don't know yet what it means to remember your previous lives – how much of your mind and spirit will be exhausted in the mere attempt of it," he began, for my benefit.
Surprisingly, I remained calm.
Grandfather Raymond crossed his leg, the thick veins in his hands popping as he clasped them over his knee. "One mind can only hold just enough information from a single person's life – mostly things one needs to remember to go through the normality of a day, a week, or a month. This is humanity's limit. Too much knowledge and the brain starts deleting some older information that is no longer needed. By 'deleting', I mean 'storing in a different level of your consciousness', where, of course, one can always take it out from, provided one has the right stimulants to push the data back out."
"Think of the brain as one, big computer, huh?" I didn't mean to say the words out loud.
"One, big, computer with living cells as chips, yes." He answered me.
"And since your cells are living, they are capable of growth, development, adaptation, reformation, and lot of other things normal computer chips are not." Stanley joined in the conversation, obviously getting his bearing back.
"So you're saying the mind's capabilities are limitless?" I asked, intentionally this time.
Grandfather Raymond shook his head lightly. "Theoretically, and of course, ideally speaking, yes. Although, as much as cells are capable of all those things Stanley just said, they also degenerate, like any normal living thing. When overworked, they get exhausted, some cells even die."
"Oh." That's right, like yin and yang.
"Especially if they are damaged to begin with." Stanley's elbows rested on both his knees, his hands clasped together between them. His head was bowed that I couldn't make out his expression. He looked defeated.
Damaged. The word echoed in my head. So that's what Grandfather Raymond meant when he said it was depending on how 'capable' I was. And frankly, I couldn't say that I was capable. I was currently more like 'damaged' than 'capable', given how I was depressed as hell since yesterday.
I looked at Stanley and had to stop myself from reaching to him. He was definitely beating himself up because of what happened – that I was now damaged and incapable of the task 'cause of my depressed state of mind. I could just feel the guilt radiating from him in waves and waves of heavy air.
"It's no different as thinking of the whole person as sick." Grandfather Raymond said.
"Like when somebody gets the flu. You don't get up and go through your same routine. That'll be like torture to your body." I nodded to myself.
"Exactly – but worse." He leaned back in his chair. "In your case, there are too many lives you can gain access to – each life unique in its own way. Assuming that the older your past life, the deeper it is in your subconscious…"
"It'll be like digging from one side of the earth to another to get to Safrin's memories." I sighed and slumped back to my chair, feeling dejected. Had I really thought I could pull this off?
Stanley turned his face slightly towards me that I could make out the fear in them. "It's not just that." His voice suddenly sounded grave. "Since all your past lives accessed the same memories, the path you'd be taking to the other side will be branching out infinitely, each one entwined with more than one other path like a, big, spider web of memories with no pattern whatsoever."
I was doomed to fail.
And then a possibility hit me. "But don't they all access the same memories? Why can't I just pick the newest one – memories of the one before me – and just go through her memories of all the other lives?"
"Not all reincarnations get to remember everything," Stan explained with a sigh. "They can't choose what they remember and most of them die before they even make sense of the chronological order of the memories."
"Some of them even thought they'd gone crazy and had already admitted themselves in asylums when our family found them," Grandfather Raymond added.
My brain strained to process the impossibility of the situation. It was like being buried six feet under hard, dehydrated soil with nothing to dig myself out but my bare hands; I have no tools and no water to soften up the soil. It was the epitome of being screwed.
"This is bu – stupid." How I just wanted to swear, but stopped myself when I saw the warning in Grandfather Raymond's face. Clearly, he wasn't a fan of resulting to needless cursing to release stress. I crossed my arms over my chest. "How can you even know all these?"
"Journals," Stanley replied, which explained everything. Of course they kept journals. It's like passing on a patient from one generation to another. I wanted to vomit at the thought of myself being some kind of sample put under the microscope while the Rayvers take careful notes of my behavior.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to shake the feeling away. "All the other reincarnations did it, right?" I looked at Grandfather Raymond. "How did they do it?"
"Normally it will come to you, slowly, as you grow old. Although in your case," Grandfather Raymond paused and pursed his lips like he didn't want to be the one to tell me I was sentenced to death. "Time isn't something you can afford. There are creatures out there bent on seeing you dead and you have to be able to protect yourself. Although we are here for that purpose, we can only do so much."
That's right. I didn't want to be a burden to them, so I wanted to know how to use my powers. I had to snap out of my self-pity and depression. Get a grip. There are more important things in life than me sulking over some guy.
I looked at Stanley's hopeless form and felt my conviction winning over. I want to be able to protect you somehow. I told him in my head, wishing he could hear me.
I turned to Grandfather Raymond with determination. "So what do I do?"
He nodded, obviously satisfied by what he saw this time. "First, you need to train your mind – make it stronger. For now you must learn how to control your thoughts – your focus. You should be able to detach yourself from this world at will. Think of your mind as a separate entity, and you as its master."
"I think I get it," I replied.
"Cam, you don't have to do this," Stanley interjected, shaking his head without looking at me. "Didn't you hear us? Your mind being exhausted is one thing, but your spirit? If it turns out that you can't handle it midway through training, you'll be broken beyond…" he struggled with the words. "Repair." He looked at me with haunted eyes.
His mouth opened again as if he was going to add something but stopped and closed them again in a grim line.
This time, I let myself reach out to him and placed a hand on his arm. "I can do this. I know I can." Even I was surprised at how much I believed it. "I won't let you risk your lives for me without lifting a finger to help myself. That's not me." In my head he was a big part of the 'you' I was referring to, but kept it to myself.
I smiled reassuringly before addressing Grandfather Raymond again. My hand stayed where it was. "So, how do I do this again?"
For the first time, Grandfather Raymond smiled. I wasn't sure if he was simply amused by my ignorance or my resolve. "Meditation."
The door made a soft click when I closed it behind me. I stood there, with my back resting on the hard wood for a few seconds before I was able to make myself walk back the way I came.
Stanley said he had something to discuss with Grandfather Raymond and stayed behind. But only after he'd made sure that I could make it back alone. I only had a vague idea what it was he wanted to talk to him about, and that was working on the assumption that every kind of 'problem' revolved around me.
Before I excused myself (although it was more like Grandfather Raymond dismissed me), he gave me a specific routine for the week – meditate every morning and every night starting at ten minutes during the first day then gradually increasing the time by five-minute intervals, until I am able to zone out my surroundings at command.
At command. He had said the exact words, which made me feel like I was some sort of dog he was training to go fetch or play dead.
Since I still had the rest of the day free until I had to lock myself in my room to meditate, I decided to wander outside to get some fresh air, which was one good luxury available when you're stuck in a house surrounded by a thick forest. Besides, I was feeling mentally and physically tired and didn't want to risk 'breaking' myself by stressing myself out.
I somehow found my way to the garden without taking a wrong turn. I put a hand into my pocket and felt the corners of my phone touch my fingertips. Last time I used it was to talk to Andrea and tell her what was going on, only to find out that she had known something, although not everything.
Guilt turned my insides. How could I have forgotten about my best friend? It wasn't normal that we hadn't talked for days. Normally, we'd be inseparable – I would meet her and Fred for lunch, sometimes with David and Patty, and then again after classes, just so I could go fifth wheel on the four of them. It wasn't an ideal scenario to be stuck with four lovebirds, but they never once made me feel out of place.
Back in school and with my friends was where I belonged – where I used to belong, at least. It never occurred to me amidst the cheap horror movie marathons, all the shopping, and all the food trips that I was destined for something more… fated.
But you did. You did feel like you were supposed to be somewhere else when you're with them. It was in those few silent minutes when they are cuddled up like most couples that sometimes you think you should be going somewhere, doing something.
I sighed at the subconscious thought. Grandfather Raymond was right. At the moment, I had no control over my thoughts. It was like it has a life of its own andit was hell bent on making me realize just how naïve and stupid I was.
I took my phone out of my pocket and flipped it open. The battery was still about a quarter full, which wasn't surprising since I haven't been using it a lot lately. I scrolled down the list of names and stopped at Andrea's. Should I call her? What would I even say? I missed her, of course, but besides that, I had nothing else. I couldn't tell her most of the things that I wanted tell her and it would just kill me to force myself not to.
Giving up the whole idea, I opened my inbox instead and started to write her a message saying that I was sorry for not keeping in touch, to trust me when I say that I was fine and she shouldn't worry, and that I promise to explain everything when I get back – if I ever make it back. Of course, I didn't say that last part. I said I loved and missed her and added lots of 'x's and 'o's as if it would make things a whole lot better.
With another sigh, I hit 'Send' and placed the phone back in my pocket.
Every step I took further into the garden fell heavy on the wet morning soil and bermuda. I knew I needed to exhaust my depression before I start with the meditations. Otherwise, it would just make damaging my brain all the more easier.
"Camey!" It wasn't until I looked up at the sound of my name that I realized I have been staring at the ground as I walked. Great. Even my face wants to plummet to the mud.
It was Eliot, waving at me with what looked like a dirty rag in his hands. He had the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his shoulders and was standing near the hood of his Hummer.
I forced a small smile and walked towards him. "Cleaning up?" I asked the obvious when I was within earshot. Well, of a normal human being anyway.
He grinned. "My baby needed washing. It's good exercise too."
"Your baby?" I chuckled. "Does 'your baby' have a name?" It seemed in his character to be attached to something as luxurious as his car.
He patted the hood with the hand holding the rag. "Of course. Name's 'Hummey'."
"'Cause it's a Hummer. You're quite original." I said with sarcasm.
Eliot laughed. "Hey, beats calling her 'Rosanna' or 'Bridget'. That'll just make me weird."
Despite myself, I laughed too. "You have a point."
"So," he started as he walked to the other side of the Hummer and leaned on the hood beside me.
I mimicked the actions and let out a sigh. "So…" My voice trailed to silence.
"Tess told me Gramps called you two to the library." He glanced at my direction. "What did he want?"
I let my shoulders slump with the weight of the memory. "He told me what I have to do if wanted control over my powers."
"And?" he prodded after a few seconds when I did not continue.
"He said I need to remember all my past lives."
'Oh' was all he could reply and he did not ask for any more details. I began to wonder if every Rayver understood what it meant to dig into an endless maze of memories.
"Grandfather Rayver said something about stimulating the brain so I guess I need something of the sort if I'm to make it any easier. But I have no idea where or how to even start." I made a gesture of exasperation.
Maybe I took his silence to mean that I should just continue ranting or maybe I just couldn't stop myself at that point, for whatever reason I simply continued. "After getting my memories of you guys back I hadn't had a breakthrough of my own. I can't even remember what happened that night my mind was erased."
Eliot suddenly stood from where he was leaning and threw the rag to the top of his Hummer. "Or maybe you do."
I stared at him with an eyebrow raised.
"You start with your own memories. That night you mentioned, you want to remember, right?"
He grabbed my wrist, forcing me to put my weight back on my feet and away from the Hummer. He started walking in the direction of the forest with me in tow. "If it's a stimulant you need, I think I know just the place."
Eliot released my wrist when he was sure I was following him into the coppice. The smell of wet grass and wood in the morning enveloped my senses. The air was still but felt damp on my skin as we walked further in the woods that was their backyard.
"Where are we going?" I asked after a minute or two.
"You'll see," was his vague reply.
The young plants and bushes surrounding us slowly became tall trees reaching up to the skies with every step we took. I strained my neck to see how high they were but only managed to make out the long branches spread out like arms of a giant welcoming somebody home. The light of the morning sun seeped through the small openings and dotted the ground with patches of its warmth.
Beyond the trees I could hear the sounds of different birds, probably calling to one another, and of squirrels and other animals I couldn't identify. My knowledge in the subject of animals stopped with the general 'cats', 'dogs', and 'birds' that I didn't even bother to distinguish what kind of bird it was that I saw gliding through a relatively large opening in the leaves of one tree as we walked by and merely let the sound of the forest sooth me momentarily from my troubles.
It was a different sort of calm that I found in the forest, which made me understood a little what people who always went on hikes were raving about. It felt as if I could run, jump, and scream my lungs out if I wanted to, and nobody would judge or hate me. Although I doubt nature would forgive me if I screamed and ruin their peaceful quiet.
I was so lost in my thoughts and awe that I almost bumped into Eliot. I hadn't even realized we'd reached our destination if he hadn't called out 'we're here'.
"I thought that maybe seeing this place would do the trick for you."
I stepped around his large frame to look at what he was referring to and my breath caught in my throat when I saw where he had taken me.
Before me was a mausoleum of dark grey marble. Ionic columns stood on both sides a meter from the door, the tip of the heavy marble roof above laid on top of them. Vines covered most of the columns and the roof to make out what they really looked like. Five steps of what looked seemed like black hard stone, amidst the thick moss and alien roots covering them, lead to a large iron door about a meter and half wide. Here, the air smelled heavy and damper, if that was even possible, and I could make out the sweet smell of the moss present in almost all surfaces – the stone steps, the mausoleum walls, the large rocks scattered here and there, the trunk of trees.
"This is where we took you that night." Eliot stood still a few steps away as I shuffled from one part of the place to another, taking everything in.
I know this place. The thought tugged at my mind. Suddenly, I could hear a low buzzing somewhere.
Eliot walked up to door after a few minutes, placing a hand on my arm to lead me as he passed.
I put a hand over the door as if in a daze, the buzzing getting louder a notch. It felt cold under my touch, and as if it was connected to some source of electricity, I felt pinpricks of energy in my fingertips. I was in not in the right state to wonder why it didn't hurt, or why I didn't pull my hand away which would be the normal reflex of a person. Instead, I brushed some of the cobwebs covering the metal plate screwed in level of my eyes.
"What?" Eliot turned to me, his green eyes in shock.
I hadn't realized I'd said it out loud but repeated the words for his sake anyway. "Safrin." I pointed at the words on the metal plate.
"You can read that?" This time, he sounded even more shocked.
I turned back to engraving and it was like I've just seen it for the first time.
It was in a writing I wasn't familiar with, at least on a conscious level. The characters looped and turned at odd angles, making it impossible to figure out where one started and another began, and even harder to figure out if it conveyed a word or a whole sentence. But I was sure I knew what was written the same way I was sure that my name was Cameron Krow. "I don't know how I can understand it. The characters don't make sense, exactly, but I'm sure it says 'Safrin'."
The prickling was getting strong, now it felt like sewing needles were being pushed through my fingertips over and over again, but still I kept my hands where they lay. The buzzing in my ears was also growing louder, sounding more like the idling of a car.
"I guess that counts for something." Eliot shrugged. "We have to tell Gramps about this if we're to make sense of anything. But for now I think you should see the inside."
I kept my eyes on what's written on the nameplate, half losing myself to the current in my hands and the humming in my ears and half listening to Eliot.
He placed a hand on my shoulder and his face was painted with worry when I turned to him. "It' up to you, Camey. You wanna go inside? We can go back to the house if you want to." His eyes sought answers from mine. "You look dazed."
I shook my head slowly, finally finding the motivation to lift my hands from the door. The humming in my ears went back to a low buzz at the disengagement. "I want to see what's inside."
Eliot nodded once and grabbed the ring which served as a knob, pulling the heavy clunk of metal open without any effort.
The smell of damp mixed with dust wafted outside. It was like airing a big book. And unlike the air outside, the air inside felt thick and heavy on my lungs when I took a shallow breath. The room was no bigger than my room back in the apartment I shared with Andrea, with gray painted walls, cobble stone flooring, and finished cement ceiling. By common sense, I would assume a room like this would feel cold, but instead, it felt stuffy, like someone's been keeping a furnace going for too long.
I took a few steps further into the mausoleum. Cobwebs lined where the walls meet each other, the ceiling, and the floor. Other than the stains on the floor, which I assumed came from melted wax of candles, and the hands made of stone protruding at intervals from the walls, each holding a torch for light, the room was bare.
At the thought of lighting the torches, I suddenly realized that the light from the door had been our only source of illumination. I searched the room again, taking note of all the details I could see, ending up with a list that was longer than I was comfortable with. In such poor light, I was sure I shouldn't be able to make out what was at the farthest end of the room. And yet I could see even the spider the size of a golf ball as it scurried to a hole between the wall and the floor at our intrusion.
I can see in the dark. I let go of a shaky breath.
If I was complaining about my lack of personal breakthrough before, I was straining to take everything that has happened the moment we reached the mausoleum now.
I turned at the sound of metal scraping stone and saw Eliot pushing the door further open until the hinges cried a deafening screech. "I forgot how primitive this place still is. I have nothing to light the torches with me."
"It's fine." In a split second I decided to keep what I've just discovered to myself. I turned back and faced the room. "It's empty." I stated the obvious.
Eliot stopped beside me. "That night we took you here to erase your memories was the first time I ever saw the inside of this place. I think it's been used by generations for Rayvers for rituals. Or god-knows what else."
Again, I was only half listening to Eliot as the buzzing slowly regained its humming quality.
As I stared around the room for a third time, colored images, sharp, distinct sounds, and memories of how things felt unlocked themselves from the safety of my subconscious mind;
The torches were lit; bright red flames crackled and danced as if directed by a non-existent wind, making the hands holding them seem made of flesh rather than stone.
Shadows flickered on every wall.
A sharp pain from my shoulder made its way throughout my whole body.
I was convulsing.
I could make out the sound of rustling clothes and panic voices.
The light and the shadows turned a deep, dark, red.
A scream… My scream.
And then everything went dark.
My limbs felt limp; my feet cold.
There was a feeling of being spun inside my own head. My head throbbed.
I could hear a distant droning.
I opened my eyes; but still there's only darkness.
At some point I remembered to breathe. There was relief in every successful rise and fall of my chest.
Then, the droning was louder. It became a sort of humming. Then I could make out voices – chanting.
Finally, a voice that called out to me in gentle successions: "Cameron."
I drew a deep breath as the memories faded away and I was back in the room again. I closed my eyes to confirm that there were still there.
A sad feeling settled at the pit of my stomach. I was dying. The implications of the vision struggled to sink into my consciousness. But unlike when I've first dreamt of it, this time I was sure – it was Stan's voice calling me back that night. He called me back.