The transmutation overcame him with ease. In the breath of a second, there was vertigo, the sensation of falling, and then nothing but light.
All was color, a brilliant spectrum of heliograph waves which originated from nowhere and everywhere. Nothing seemed to hold substance or form, just a vast neon empyrean; all-pervading, transcendental warmth. There he was weightless, bodiless, a being of pure poetic energy. The warmth of his surroundings cradled him, and he was content to remain in that divine tabula rasa.
Perhaps this was death. The thought came and went fleetingly enough. Somehow Stoph had managed to kill him. Sydney did not care; he was content to lie adrift for eternity, and beyond. He thought of the Writer, Lilith had called her Eve, he felt bad about leaving her, but his will was no match for the ebb and flow of this primordial realm.
It was at this point that he saw her. She was neither beautiful nor ugly, nor was she plain. Her features forever shifted, giving the impression that, like the Writer, the visage of a woman simply veiled a nominal entity beyond physical comprehension. An aura of wisdom and reverence permeated her form, as well as power and mystery. With sudden certainty, he knew that she came bearing revelations.
The Great Philosopher.
She floated towards him, dressed in a long white gown, arms hugging her breast, eyes closed. The gown was elegant gossamer that fluttered delicately as she approached. When before him, her arms parted in a gesture of embrace. Sydney moved closer, propelled by some enigmatic desire. And then, just before reaching the featureless being; el mulier de aeterna verba, the forerunner of every Scrivener, her eyes opened.
Two golden orbs that burned forth across time and space. Mesmerizing spheres of fiery electrum that reflected the brilliance of a million suns. He searched her eyes for an answer, and reeled at what he found there. He tried to look away, overcome by what he saw, but the insights reflected in those gilded pools drew him deeper. Sydney opened his mouth to gasp or cry or scream.
The universe shattered, and for the second time, he let go.
The ocean was a sapphire expanse, shimmering in the midday sun. Waves crashed onto the water etched rocks below, spewing salty foam as seagulls flew lazy circles on the horizon. All the while, Sydney watched from a bench. A soft breeze spirited pass, causing the high grass and wildflowers to dance at his feet. This was a tranquil place . . . yet he had not been summoned here to rest.
“What do you think?” a familiar voice asked.
Already knowing what to expect, Sydney turned.
The Great One sat beside him on the gray stone bench. She studied him with a face he had seen only once and very briefly, but knew with intimacy. She wore the shape of Eve.
In the white gown, her body had a sensuous quality that he, knowing who this was (and was not) became aware of with an accompanying sense of shame. She was of medium height, lithesome in some places, yet provocatively curved without effort. Her complexion was the color of warm tea and cinnamon. Dark hair fell in strands of gossamer braids.
The face of Eve was sharply defined and intelligent; full lips set in a statuesque expression, and intense eyes, which as a dead giving away, were not hazel but pupil less golden orbs.
Apart from the eyes, they looked exactly alike. Yet accompanying the doppelganger was an aura of energy which seemed to ripple of her in tangible waves. Sydney would never mistake the two.
“What is happening?” Sydney asked.
A butterfly fluttered past, a living kite of pink and yellow. He had never seen one such as it.
“That is an all-encompassing question.” The Great One said. Her voice, though bearing the same smoky timbre as Eve’s, possessed an echoing resonance, as if the being speaking was too much for one octave. “What do you really want to know?”
Without forethought, he asked, “Where is Eve?”
“She is fine for now. Our talk takes place outside the flow of time. It requires much energy, but I thought the endeavor worth it. So do not fear for your Writer, soon you will have your chance to aid her. Next question.”
“Why am I here?”
The Great One gave a musical chuckled, shook her head, and then replied, “Why anyone is anywhere is a question to be answered only in death. Yet that is always the first question that all races ask once they reach a state of sentience. We all have a purpose, and a choice, but ‘why’ you ask. It is simply your path, you can walk it, or you can avoid it, but the way is for you and you only. Next question.”
“What do you want from me?” He asked.
The Great One gave a faint smiled. It was a thing of ageless secrets.
“Right now, I want you to exorcise Stoph.” She said resolutely. He did not speak at once, but looked to the waves for guidance. He could feel the Great One scrutinizing his thoughts, testing his reaction to the request.
“Why?” he finally asked
“Why? What say you Sydney?” she responded.
“Because he is a being of destruction, and so it is only fitting that he is destroyed.”
“No, that is not it.” She said shaking her head. “Say the real reason. You have had time with Eve. Now say the real reason.”
Sydney wet his lips and considered all that the Writer had told him. “He is a threat to us all, to what we love, to what we cherish.”
“Better, not quiet the whole truth, whether you realize it or not, but better.” She looked away, distracted by something neither seen nor heard. “In a timeless realm time is still short, your answer will have to do.”
Before he could ask what she meant the Great One stood and offered her hand.
“Come.” she said. “It is time you became more than you are.”
Another round of cool breeze flitted past, teasing the hem of her gown and playing at the end of each braid. Sydney stood. There was so much left to be asked, but intuition told him that answers would come in time. For now he had to help Eve. And that meant becoming more than he was. He looked once more into The Great Philosophers’ scorching eyes, in them he saw forever. With a frisson of determination, he took her hand.
For the third and final time, Sydney let go.
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Akins-Anderson Sydney:They were malefic shadows, or at least looked like what shadows would be if given their own dark volition. Three of them crossed the street in what Sydney thought were trench coats and wide brimmed hats, but he could not really tell for certain. A black mist seemed to surround and permeate their very being. They were not only devoid of light, but sucked in that which was around them. It was like looking into a trio of black holes, and despite eyeless, featureless faces, he knew they were looking back at him.
With gliding steps they approached, passing people who paid the preternatural entities no mind. Whether they were invisible to others or appeared as three teenage Goths, he did not know or care. All he knew was their aura; corrupt, cold, and hungry. The Writer had told him to run. He most certainly would.
Sydney, knowing it was too late to leave by way of the front door, scooped his surroundings. A few people, noticing his panicked expression, gave him looks ranging from puzzled to concern. The Barista approached from the serving window. Head down and with swift steps; he made for the fire exit.
“Excuse me Sir!” the Barista called from behind. Sydney ignored the summons and sped up. Then, with a burst of adrenaline, he shoved the fire door open and ran.
He did not look back as the alarm blared, the sound diminishing as he fled. Instinctively he knew that the shadows were now on the chase. Fueled by the fear that only prey knows, he ran.
The door had opened up into a dirty alley way. Trashcans, cardboard boxes, and dumpsters lined the walls in haphazard ranks. Sydney moved fast but steady. He had taken up jogging a few months back and knew that if he wanted to get distance without burning out then he would have to pace himself. The plan was simple, disappear for about an hour or two and then back track to his car. Hopefully by then the shadows would have given up chase and gone back to whatever noisome realm they called home.
He left the alley and turned onto the sidewalk. Not wanting trouble with over eager police, he slowed to a fast walk. Before long the coffee house and the fire alarms frantic wails were far behind. He glanced about furtively but saw no signs of the shadows.
Just keep walking and everything will work out, Sydney coxed himself. Analyze later, escape now. The rudimentary plan did little to slow his thudding heart, but using it as a silent mantra helped to keep some of the questions at bay. Analyze later, escape now. Analyze later, escape now. Analyze later, escape now.
A few minutes later he realized two things: one, he had left his glasses behind, and two, he had skipped on the bill. The second revelation brought a laugh. All that was going on and he was thinking about a dine and dash. Not only that, the Writer had invited him to the meeting and then left him with the check. Sydney chuckled and shook his head. With a sigh of relief he sat down beside an old man at the bus stop.
“Going anyplace in particular?” the old man asked.
“Not really.” Sydney replied. “Just making a bit of an escape.”
The old man nodded sagely. He coughed a wet ragged sound and pulled his trench coat tighter. Producing a handkerchief, he said: “Sorry sorry, all this cold air is hell all on the lungs. Should probably make an escape myself.” He spat into the black square fabric, inspected his findings, then tucked it back into an inner coat pocket.
“I am Mephistopheles by the way, but my friends just call me Stoph.”
“Pleased to meet you Sydney. So tell me, what are you running from?” Stoph asked.
The question gave Sydney pause, but after a thought he answered: “Considering what’s happened today. . I am not even sure.”
“Then why run if you don’t know what you’re fleeing? Can’t even know you’ll get away. Best to just meet it head on.” The old man replied promptly.
Sydney nodded with feigned consideration. There was no way he was going to try and meet those things head on, best to just ride the bus around town for an hour or two. But to be cordial he said: “I will think about it.”
“Ah, no need for all that.” Stoph replied. “Most things you can’t really escape from anyway. You always carry it in your heart, the memory of it. Physical distance means nothing, at least when it comes to souls. Yes sir, it stays on the soul like a scent or a stain, either one or both or neither. Whatever your pick, that is how we operate, that’s how we found you.”
Sydney opened his mouth to reply but stopped. With a feeling of dread he turned and looked the Mephistopheles full in the face. It was the eyes that caught his attention; two pitch black chasms of awful nothingness.
The old man smiled winningly.
Sydney tensed his legs to flee-
And then the world went black.
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