CHAPTER ONE: I Will Not Bow
"I'm such a freak and no matter how hard I try, that's all I'll ever be. No one knows how hard it is to get through the day. Everyone walks around so jubilant, taunting me with their stupid smiles. But what do I have to be happy about--nothing!" Travis' voice rang out through the desolate cul-de-sac. As he walked the rain soaked street his thoughts drifted back to last time was happy: the night he died.
Time held no meaning as Travis floated through an endless abyss uncorrupted by light or sound. As Travis floated onwards, an overwhelming sense of peace cradled him in its embrace and tears of joy streamed down his face.
His eyes popped open after what felt like a sledge hammer smashed his chest. The discombobulated wailing of machines and a million conversations greeted his ears, but seconds later the boy flat-lined.
Tired, Travis looked up at the people that surrounded him and thought, Will someone turn off that stupid light. Had he known the hell that awaited him, he'd gladly have given anything to remain forever in that perfect abyss. While other kids played tag and had sleepovers Travis was trapped in a hospital bed. His only links to the outside world were the books and DVDs the librarian gave to him. More often than not his parents were busy working or taking care of his younger siblings, and over the years the staff at St Michael's Hospital became his surrogate family. Nurse Jenny and the others would stop in and check in on Travis and made sure to gush over how much he'd grown since last they saw him.
"Yeah, pump a kid full of steroids and see if he don't shoot up a few inches and pack on some pounds," said the voice in Travis' head.
"Fuck my life," Travis said as his inner musings were interrupted by the presence in his mind.
"Will you just shut up! Do you know how annoying it is listening to you angst all day long?" it said.
What? Travis replied mentally to it.
"Don't what me shit dick, you have no idea how I hate being stuck with such a weakling like you. Grow a pair already. Oh boo-hoo, you're a freak big deal, get over yourself."
You know it really does suck out loud having you as an alter ego; you're such a smartass who doesn't know when to shut the hell up and let a dude chill with his thoughts. It's a wonder I haven't been fitted with a straight jacket years ago. All things considered, my mental state is quite adequate given the scope of my early childhood trauma. Granted this isn't the optimal situation, but at least I haven't experienced dissociative episodes or woken up covered in blood, thought Travis as he walked around the block.
"For the millionth time, if I have to listen to your bitching then speak English motherfucker. This aint no vocab lesson, so cut the verbal masturbation already. And who says you aren't pulling a Jekyll and Hyde? It aint exactly like you're in total control of that old noggin of yours."
Not funny. Remind me again, why I put up with you?
"Much better douche nozzle, and you know I'm the closest thing to a friend your antisocial ass is ever going to have. Hey wait, No, I don't want to go."
Eat a dick, and with that parting thought Travis severed the mental link and the voice was silenced. Memories of a life free of sickness rushed back to him when the least of his worries were getting to go out and play or avoiding the crazy nuns during Sunday school at St Barth's. Back to a time when he was just a normal kid who had friends and he wondered, if his family never moved would he still have gotten sick. Would Marcus, Michelle and the others have stuck by him if he still did, or would they have shunned him like everyone else did?
Try as he might, the tears wouldn't be denied their due this time. As if in response to him the wind picked up and the April drizzle became a deluge. Travis knew it would probably land him in the hospital, but he just don't care. Head tilted forward, he removed the hood of his favorite gray hooded sweatshirt. For the longest time he stood there as the storm bared witness to his tormented soul.
ENOUGH, he thought to himself and tossed the black curls out of his eyes. Travis clinched his right fist white-knuckle tight and the tears stopped. He put the soaked hood back on and then berated his moment of weakness. He knew better than this, crying solved nothing. People come and go; all attachments are pointless wastes of time and energy.
He ripped the pocketknife from his pants and savaged the tan flesh again and again. The blade bounced the pale moonlight across its surface as it blade traveled back and forth across his forearm. The metallic scent of blood filled the night air and the warmth of inflammation overtook him once more. Although a pale comparison, it reminded him of the abyss and he was at peace. He knew he should have felt pain right then, and on some level Travis supposed he did. Yet only a dead emptiness filled him as he calculated how much gauze and Peroxide would be needed this time. He ran his fingers along the cuts, surprised at the ferocity of his actions. The cold sensation of congealed blood intertwined with the searing skin intrigued him and he wondered if he should just end it all. No! He couldn't do that, wouldn't do that. He'd come too far, been through too much to allow them to win. He was better than that, than them.
"Earth to Travis, are ya done with your period yet?"
Self mutilation, menses--ha, I get it.
"Thank you, thank you very much. Now if you're done being all emo can we go home?"
Fine, replied Travis and he trekked home. For once luck was on his side as his parents and siblings were nowhere to be found on the way to the bath room. He went about cleaning off the coagulated blood mechanically, only stopping occasionally to get more Q-tips and gauze. He flinched as the Peroxide fizzed in the lacerations and shooting pain raced up his arm. As the crimson tinted suds rinsed down the drain, like a crack of thunder a voice hammered into his ears chilling him to the bone: "Blood will rain from the heavens."
"And on that note let's get to bed before this night gets any weirder," Travis said to no one in particular. Quite confused, but tired none the less, he finished cleaning the bathroom and hid the bloody hoodie under his bed. A dream like none before filled his head.
The sky was pitch-black, the only light from a sea of flames that stretched out as far as Travis could see. All around him islands of bones and corpses were piled high into the sky. The stench of rotten flesh and death choked his nostrils. In the distance stood a massive thrown that radiated an atmosphere of despair.
"Blood will rain from the heavens, ash will consume the air, death will cover the land and none will you spare. As water turns to fire the sleeper will awaken and sire the end of..."
Before the cold voice could finish, the landscape changed and Travis was running for his life through a desert. Sweat flowed from every pore, dripped into his eyes, stung them and continued downward into his gaping mouth. The salty taste filled his mouth, gagging him as his feet pounded the rocky terrine. The harsh sun beat down upon him as he continued onward. The ground steeped upward. Travis pushed forward with every ounce of his energy his 4'11 and 130 pounds could muster. His lungs were starved for Oxygen and he took massive gulps of air. The hammering of his heart and his aching muscles screamed for Travis to stop. No, ever forward he moved, pulled by some unknown force to the rock face in the distance. So close now, just a little bit more and he had done it. He clawed at the craggy cliff, his fingers reduced to bloody stumps. He finally got a footing and hoisted his body onto the plateau and then, "Travis Maxwell Johnston if you don't get your high-yellow ass out of bed this instant you're grounded for a week!"screeched his mother Sarah. Heavily sleep deprived and soaking in sweat he checked the clock and sighed seeing that it was 6:45 AM. No time for a shower he gave his armpits and genitals a cursory wash and discovered he was fresh out of deodorant.
"Can this day get any worse? This is me we're talking about. Of course it can get much worse," he bemoaned to himself. Rolling out of bed, he checked the aftermath of last night's little mishap and stopped dead in his tracks. Not a cut was found and only the faintest of scars marred his left arm. Too tired and pressed for time to delve further into this latest development now, he raced around getting ready for school Grabbing his backpack and keys, he was out the door before his mom had a chance to nag at him again.
His family wasn't poor, but they weren't exactly rich either; his father was an electrician at one of the big three and his mother a RN who worked in Farmington Hills. Her parents didn't approve of her marrying an African American man; however they endowed Travis a hefty trust when they learned of his birth. But as with most things in life there was a catch. He had to attend a private school and was limited to $200 a month allowance until his eighteenth birthday. Since first grade he attended Azure Plains Preparatory and hated every minute he was there. Their uniform consisted of a white dress shirt under a red blazer, with black dress pants and shoes and except for gym and casual Fridays had to be worn every day.
The bus arrived and Travis began the gallows march to his seat and drifted off to sleep for the forty five minute ride. He dreamed of the desert path again, but this time it felt so much more real. He saw the cliff in the distance and charged forward, the only sounds were the steady cracking of rocks and the murmuring of blood in his ears. In an instant he had scaled the craggy ledge and hoisted himself on the plateau above. Exhilaration drenched him to the core. He surveyed his surroundings: the scorched earth was barren of all vegetation. Curiosity drew Travis to the cliff's edge. The wind swirled around him and whipped his hair around. He lowered his head to shut out the wind and his eyes locked onto the great abyss below. He knew this was why he had been pulled here. Its depth was so vast that the mighty sun's rays were but a ghost on the void's outer most edges. It called to him and he had no choice but obey. Deeper and deeper he plunged into the chasm. Liquid warmth and supreme peacefulness wrapped around him: finally he's back home. However, his bliss was not to last; an intense inferno encased him in its blue radiance.
"No. No. No!" Travis screamed till his lungs were raw. He grabbed his head and shook it helter-skelter trying to wake up. He tried to tell himself that it was only a dream, but it was of little use as he felt the flames lapping at his flesh. All looked lost and just when it seemed he couldn't take anymore, the blaze receded. Realization dawned on Travis: he was never in danger for the inferno came from within him, was him. Coursing through every fiber of his being he felt the flames strengthening, purifying him.
Before this process could be completed a dark presence intervened and the dreamscape shifted back to the ghoulish land of death, blood, and fire. A lone structure in the distance caught Travis' attention. As he edged precariously closer, it came into view and what lay before his eyes stopped him cold. Towering above him was a throne of bones and rotting flesh upon which he sat. His doppelganger's dead eyes bored right through him, chilling him to the core. He turned away, not wanting any further part in this, but halted as the demonic him began to speak.
"The sleeper will awaken and sire the end of everything. The dark prince will sit on a throne of despair and all will know your pain."
"That voice, you're the one from before, but how? I wasn't even asleep then," Travis said.
"Child anything is possible if I will it so. Fool this no dream. You are on another plane of existence and I've brought you here to end this retched existence I've been exiled to."
"Yo Voldemort wannabe, I'm happy for you and I'm gonna let you finish, but Harry Potter had one of the best prophecies of all times, all times," Travis said with a smirk plastered on his face. The ground shuddered and cracked wide open as white tendrils busted forth and pursued the boy. His legs pumped to put distance between them, but running proved futile. He struggled to get free, yet only succeeded in strengthening his imprisonment. Strolling towards him, the demonic Travis exuded smugness and triumph as he spoke.
"Silence insolent whelp. You speak of matters far beyond your station. The war between good and evil has been fought throughout countless ages but always ends in a stalemate. I grow tired of this. Join me and you will have power beyond anything your kind can comprehend," the creature said.
A cataclysmic explosion rocked the landscape as an ever expanding blue inferno obliterated everything in Travis' wake. The tendrils retreated back to their master like scared puppies and the discombobulated look on the creature's face brought a smile to the boy as he let loose a maniacal laugh. Travis charged forward, determined to show it just how strong he was. A yard separated them, but then he was flung backwards. Catching himself with his left hand he rolled forward and blasted the creature with a wall of fire. Stupefied, it dropped to one knee and erected a white shield around itself.
"I chose my vessel well, perhaps too well. However, your valiant efforts are futile. Playtime is over."
Spurred on by the creature's challenge, the boy unleashed every ounce of power he had in a torrent of fire and fists. Undaunted the shield remained intact and Travis was tossed aside like a ragdoll. He struggled to regain his footing. Every part of him ached and just drawing breath was a herculean exercise. Then Travis collapsed onto the scorched earth and convulsions racked his broken body. Sensing the eminent defeat at hand the creature's shield lowered and the boy was impaled by the tendrils. Unbelievable pain flooded his body. Travis knew this was the end. With every second he felt his life flowing out of him as this monster took him over. The bitter taste of blood greeted his tongue as he felt the coldness in his chest spread ever faster.
"Ah," he couldn't help but let escape his lips.
"Yield and your suffering will end, resist and it will be legendary," the creature taunted.
No, it can't end like this. he won't let it, Travis thought to himself, he don't care how long it took or how painful it was. He didn't care whether this was a dream. Travis would defeat him. All his life he had be a victim, let others dictate how he should live his life. Never once did he stand up for himself. If Travis died here then it would not be on his knees.
"Aw, is baby about to cry?"
"Shut up, you don't know the first thing about me. You think I will bow down because you say so? Fuck that shit!"Travis roared back at the creature. Searing tears streamed down the boy's cheeks and he ripped himself free. The creature's tendrils evaporate into plumes of smoke. Travis lumbered forward, fueled by an ever rising fury born of a lifetime of repressed emotions. He no longer saw the creature, but the faces of all those who ever made him feel weak. Everyone who ever picked on him; made him feel left out; like a freak. He saw them mocking him and felt something in him fall away. Then he saw countless faces screaming for justice, for vengeance, for him. And at long last their cries were answered.
The creature's domain was ripped asunder as a scream exploded from Travis' lungs, bring with it inconceivable energy. The demon's throne crumbled and was consumed by the boy's blue inferno. The creature attacked him again, but it was too late. The sleeper was awake and Travis would not be denied.
The creature's tendrils weren't enough to satisfy him flames. They hungered for all of it. The creature raised its shield, but the boy shattered it into a thousand shards. Smiling darkly, Travis laughed and his body turned into a sea of black flames, and engulfed the creature.
"Fool you haven't won anything. I am that which is ageless, the darkness which lurks in the hearts of all. The dragon who born the eternal sea of evil. I am Oblivion."
"If you're quite through with your vagina monologue, time to die," Travis said.
"You are mine through and through. Even now I feel your hatred growing, your soul calling out to maim and murder. We will meet again and you will yield," Oblivion said then faded away.
"Bring it on."
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