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Elys – Chapter 2: Delirium
Grey and brown bricks. Empty sidewalks, empty road. Lucas recoiled at this colorless world. His world. Gone were the enchanting colors of Tarpaul and the forest. He clung to images of the vast, beautiful island as morning fog clouded his view of the blanched town.
Something brushed his arm. Lucas tensed up and spun. A face full of freckles met him with a grin.
“Oh c’mon, I had to do it. It’s like a horror movie out here.”
“And I’ve run into the worst monster imaginable.”
“You’re damn right. Where were you tonight? I tried getting a hold of you like a million times.”
“I was… with a girl, and then we got attacked, and then-“
“Wait, wait, wait. You? With a girl? Chel’s gonna kill you. …You did talk to her before you ran off with this other chick, right?”
“You’re a dead man walking.”
Lucas bit his lip. “You don’t know the half of it.”
“You wouldn’t believe it.”
“I still wanna hear it.”
“You’re gonna think I’m crazy.”
“Fine.” He took a deep breath. “I got shot. Some random guy just walked up and-”
“Shot? Holy shit, are you okay?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess so? I mean I’m here now, right?”
“Dude, no wonder you weren’t at school yesterday! I didn’t think you were that much of a wuss to skip just to get out of this.”
Lucas paused and took out his phone. It’s Friday. But it was Wednesday when I-
“So you fought off a dude with a gun? Shit dude, I didn’t think you had the balls for that.”
“I didn’t. I don’t know what happened. Look, I literally just now woke up on the street. I don’t remember being taken to a hospital or… or anything.” Lucas raised his eyebrows at his own words. “I just got shot and passed out… then woke up over a day later in the same spot? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yeah, that’s crazy. Someone would have seen you, right? You didn’t get dragged into an alley? Thrown in a dumpster?”
“No, I was right on the sidewalk.”
“Then how could anyone miss it? I mean I don’t always look for dead bodies on my way to school, but still. I guess you really were just… gone. Never thought you’d wind up back here, huh?”
“I mean you tried to play hero, then you died. You had your little party up in heaven or whatever, but now you’re back here. Or maybe you didn’t make it and high school really is hell.”
“Well at least Chel will put me out of my misery.”
“Welcome to Silent Hill,” Vic said, waving his arms in the fog.
“Now that’s a reference I didn’t expect you to make. I thought you didn’t-“ Lucas stopped.
He stared at the boy looking back from behind the storefront window. A mess of warm auburn over hard, copper eyes. Skin in need of more sunlight. Spindly arms and legs, and a stomach that could pass as moderately slim if covered by a shirt. That’s me. I’m back in my own body.
“Earth to Lucas. We’re gonna be late. Well, maybe not late late, but you know what I mean.”
Lucas peeled himself away. “Sorry, I just… had a weird dream.”
“A dream? Is that it? Dude, we’ve been worried sick about you! First you start avoiding us all the time, then you get yourself killed, and now you want to talk with me about your random dreams?”
“Vic, what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that things aren’t wrong. We’re almost to school, and all this time you haven’t been just giving me one-word answers or trying to get away from me. You’re talking with me like… like the last goddamn year didn’t even exist.” He sighed. “I’m sorry. That was out of line. It’s just… look, I know what happened was horrible. But the way you’re dealing with it, it’s not right.”
“Oh, well thanks for bringing that up,” Lucas snapped.
“I know, I know. I’m a pain in the ass. But I was doing the best I could. Maybe I was trying too hard, you know? And maybe we don’t have as much in common as we used to. But I thought I knew you. I knew you avoided me because you didn’t want to face me or Chel or anything else. Because it hurt you.”
“So now you want to talk about this stuff? You thought talking about movies or girls or… or any of that shit was helping?”
“I was waiting for you to talk to me about it.”
“But I didn’t want to talk to you! At all!”
“Then why the hell are you so eager now? Why do you walk and talk and laugh with me as if there’s nothing going on anymore?”
“Because you stopped fighting. Because you stopped caring. You got your own ticket out of here, because someone else did it for you.”
“Vic, I swear to God-”
“What? You don’t want to admit the truth? That you don’t even want to be here?”
“Shut up! Or else…” He clenched his fists. They were in the middle of the schoolyard, but no one seemed to notice.
“Or else what? You’ll kill me now?”
Lucas grabbed him by the collar. If looks could kill, Vic would be finished.
Vic tilted his head to the side and looked down on him. “So it wasn’t an empty threat? That’s strange. The Lucas I knew never followed through on anything. You couldn’t even kill yourself too.”
Lucas’s fist rocketed into Vic’s chin. “You’re fucking dead!” he hissed. He tried to lunge at Vic, but it felt like trying to move underwater. Dammit, body! Move!
Vic stopped staggering and stood straight, watching as Lucas fruitlessly waved his limbs.
I’m not getting any closer! What’s happening?
“This really isn’t like you, Lucas. Is that really you?”
“Nah, I think I’ll speak my mind while you do whatever it is you’re trying to do there. Maybe you should try, I dunno, using your legs to get closer?”
I can’t! I can’t use my legs! Why?
“Oh well. If you’re content to just keep flailing around at me from a safe distance, I may as well just stand here and keep talking.”
“Come over here and let me hit you!”
“Waiting for things to happen to you. Now that sounds like Lucas.” He paced back and forth, just out of reach. “But I still can’t tell for sure. You’re awfully violent for someone who claims to be him. Oh? Could it be that you’ve been in a fight before? No, that can’t be it. The Lucas I know only wishes he could do something interesting with his life.”
“Will you just… j-just… shut up!”
“Are you crying? Oh my God, you are! Lucas, it really is you!”
Lucas’s arms fell to his side. He couldn’t keep going like this. The weight pressing down on him was just too much.
Vic hugged him and looked at him with a calm smile. “I’m so glad the real you is back.”
“We didn’t think you’d come back to us,” Chel said.
“Wha…? What are you talking about?”
“We thought you were leaving us behind,” a student passing by said. Lucas didn’t recognize him.
Another student approached. “You wanted to escape so badly.”
“Vic, what the hell are you pulling here?”
Vic put his arm around Lucas. “We’re just curious is all. Tell us, Lucas. How was it over there?”
“Were you having fun?” Chel asked. “You’re already thinking about that other girl, I bet.”
“It was… It was just a dream. That’s all.”
“Just a dream? You mean even if it wasn’t real, you’d rather be there than with us?”
“Why wouldn’t he? Over there, I bet he can do whatever he wants. Maybe he can finally forget what he’s done. What kind of person he is.”
Vic gasped. “Is that true, Lucas? Are you trying to run away?”
Lucas opened his mouth, but no words would come.
Chel glared at him. “I knew it. You’re a lost cause, Lucas. Know what? I’m glad you’re gone.”
“Same here, Chel. If he wants to escape reality so badly, I guess I’ll let him.”
Vic, Chel, and all the other students silently filed into the school. Lucas was frozen, unable to move or speak. The doors closed in front of him.
The school collapsed on itself. Buildings all around him shattered. Debris swept around in a circle. A vortex of shadow closed in on Lucas. The world was swallowed up by darkness. From within the void, two glowing red eyes appeared.
# # #
Lucas lurched forward. He was in bed.
That was… a dream. A nightmare. Or is this the dream?
He stared at his hand in the moonlight, then looked away. Then looked at it again. It was the same.
I’m not dreaming. I think.
“Hey, rukshit!” Allie’s voice rumbled through the wall. “Told you keep it down!”
“Sorry. Had a bad dream.”
“Have ‘em quietly.”
“Yeah, yeah. Hey, you have a mirror in your room, right?”
“When the sun’s up.”
“Just let me see something.”
“That’s not the sun. Your world not have night and day?”
“No, we do. Listen, I just… I need to look at myself.”
“No need. You’re ugly. Happy?”
“Guess so. Good ni- Get the hell out!”
Lucas grunted as Allie literally kicked him out of her room. “S-sorry. Oww.”
Allie rubbed her eyes and motioned to a corner of her room with her head. “Mirror’s there. Use it and get sleep. Auros knows I can’t with you up.”
Afraid to speak even in thanks, Lucas stepped back into the room and squinted at his reflection. He was definitely in the larger, more athletic body. But it was too dark to really make out any details.
“Allie, can I ask you some questions? About how I look?”
“Didn’t think you’re this shallow.”
“It’s not that! I’m in a different body and I want to know how I look.”
“Same as yesterday.”
Lucas sighed. “What I mean is, my body is different than when I came to this world.”
“Knew that,” she mumbled.
“So… do you remember the color of my hair? My eyes? What is my face like?” Ugh, this is a lot more awkward than I expected.
“That’s why I call you that. Hair looks like those little black patches of feathers ruks shit.”
“You mean the name didn’t mean I was stupid?”
“I mean, you are. But no. Ruks are too smart for you. Wait, you don’t know what those are.”
“Are they birds?”
“Ruk’s a bird, like the Albatross is a boat.”
“Woah. Sounds… huge.”
“Yeah. Huge sound. Hurts my ears. Huge shit, too.”
“And my hair looks like that.” He tried not to focus too much on the mental image as he stroked his hair.
“Bugs get on ‘em, they eat ‘em off. Get some of their feathers, too. All comes out in a big clump.”
Lucas shook his hands in disgust. “I get it. Enough. What about my eyes?”
“Deep blue. Like the sea.”
“That was surprisingly poetic for-“
“Sick of that color. Never want to see it again.”
“Oh… U-um, what does my face look like?”
“Dammit, go back to bed already!”
“Just this one last question.”
Allie furrowed her brow. “You’re how old?”
“No, really. How old?”
“I’m seventeen. Do I look older?”
“Yeah, about three years.”
“Woah. That’s… that’s kind of cool, actually. Um, how old are you?”
“Wait what? Then why’d you-“
“Go to sleep,” she said with a stone face. A small flame ignited in her palm.
“Okay, okay. I’m sorr-“ The words caught in his throat when he turned around.
In a corner of the hallway, concealed by the shadows, two glowing red eyes stared back at him. Allie flinched at the sight. Her flame sputtered out, and the house was cast into darkness.
“Allie? What is that?”
“D-don’t know. Never seen anything like it.”
“Can you get it out of here?”
“You do it.”
“No way am I going near that… thing!”
“Hah,” she snorted. “Got a nice new body but you’re weak-kneed still? That’s how it is?” She inched closer to the shadowy creature. She wore a calm smile and held out her hand like she wanted to pet it. Lucas noticed her other hand held behind her back. Tiny white sparks jumped between her fingers. “Easy, easy,” she cooed.
The creature’s eyes flickered to her for a moment, then back to Lucas.
“You wanna try?”
“I said no!” The creature jumped in excitement. Allie shrieked, then swept her hidden arm in front of her.
The house was bathed in a bright flash. Lucas saw the form of the creature: a vaguely humanoid shape crawling on all fours, seemingly made up of a vapor resembling the darkness between stars in the night sky. The sparks struck the shadow, but bounced off and danced around as it continued to idly sit and stare. Then, each crackling ribbon of light lost its glow, until they were nothing but black wisps lazily floating in the air.
Allie backed away. She was shaking. “Get it out. Now!”
“What’s gotten into you?”
“Dark mana. Black magic. It’s made of it. And I let it make more. Get it out of here!”
Lucas cursed under his breath, then slowly approached the shadowy creature. “Hey, buddy. Who’s a good little… creature of darkness?”
“Said kill it, not coddle it.”
“Well I don’t have anything to hit it with. So unless you want me to smack it-“ Something pressed into his hand. It was a sword, like the ones the navy had.
“Don’t. Touch it, I mean.” She shuffled away from a darkened spark that wandered too close.
Lucas locked eyes with the shadow. Just looking at it gave him chills. But it was too… human. Oh God, what if that’s a person? No, just think of it as a monster. It’s an enemy, and I have to fight it. Just like the swill. He gulped, recollecting the beating he took. It’s different this time. I’ve got a real weapon. I’m ready. I can do this! I need to be the hero! He held the sword out in front of him. His knuckles turned white from gripping so tightly. He gritted his teeth and launched into a sprint.
He thrust the sword into the shadow’s head. The blade cut all the way through and stuck in the wall. A spray of black liquid scalded his hands, and he almost let go. He kept his grip and pried it out, stumbling backwards and onto Allie’s bed. Lucas and the sword hissed, covered in the shadow’s fluid.
“You get it?” Allie asked. The shadow had not moved nor broken eye contact.
“I… I don’t think so. It didn’t seem to react at all.”
The shadow’s face contorted into a sloppy imitation of an open mouth. It violently shuddered, and a wet gurgling sound rose from the orifice. It waved its arms forward in exaggerated arcs.
“Allie, what the hell am I looking at?”
“Not joking! You… did that yesterday. When you killed the swill.”
Lucas scrambled across the bed and took cover behind it. “You mean it’s trying to use lightning magic?”
“Don’t know. But this thing is just mimicking. Don’t think it has thoughts or feelings.”
“So it can’t go scared-crazy like me?” He peeked his head above the bed. The shadow was still waving its arms.
“Said it’s stupid. Can’t use magic. Kill it now!”
“Can’t we just wait for your parents? How are they still asleep?”
“Took watch tonight. I had to stay and look after you!”
“Then doesn’t that mean you should be the one to fight it?”
She knelt beside him. “Auros’s great big earth-splitting spear. You don’t go and kill it, I’ll take yours,” she whispered while making a crude gesture with her fingers.
Lucas felt the still unfamiliar weight of the sword in his hand. He thought twice about commenting on how she ought to “take his” if he did kill the shadow. He slowly crept up from around the bed, holding the sword with both hands.
The shadow stopped moving as it kept its eyes trained on him.
“Sorry, whatever you are. But you’re gross, and you’re scary, and you’re probably not sentient so I shouldn’t even feel sorry. But I’m gonna have to kill you.”
“S-sah-ree… so-rry.” The shadow choked.
“Oh God, it’s trying to talk. This is… This is just… Nope.” He raised the sword and brought it crashing down onto its head. The blade sunk down to the neck, splitting the creature’s head in two. “Nope! Nope! Nope!” He pulled back with all his might. The sword came loose, but the shadow stumbled forward. Its black disfigured arms wrapped around him as they tumbled to the floor.
“Luu-caaass,” it cried with the two halves of its head. Lucas screamed. The shadow screamed. Allie swung her foot into the shadow’s side. It released its grip and fell against the wall. A dark tendril shot from between its heads, sending Allie spiraling back across the room.
“I’ve got… I’ve got this,” Lucas wheezed. He flung himself at the shadow, driving the blade across its chest. Black liquid poured onto him, burning his back and arms. He fell to his knees, using the lodged sword to pull his torso and head up.
The shadow’s split head was now a writhing mass of indistinct appendages which attempted half-heartedly to create something barely resembling a human face. As Lucas groaned under the blistering deluge, those unwavering soulless eyes studied him. Its face continuously changed, sculpting its features with tiny arms and hands it morphed from its shoulders.
Lucas’s eyes widened at the finished product: the face of a girl, with long scraggly wisps for hair and sunken eyes. The thin-lipped mouth robotically opened. Lucas trembled. He felt dizzy. He grinded his teeth and dug his palms into the sword’s handle.
# # #
Allie opened her eyes. She choked on the hot air. Nightmare where I set everything on fire? Haven’t had this one in- A flame licked her leg. She yelped and rolled away. Not dreaming!
The house was burning. Fire was everywhere. She stumbled into the hallway. Could she get out in time? The smoke was suffocating her. She thought she heard voices in the distance.
“Lucas? What hap- (cough) happened?” A piece of the roof fell at her feet. She hurdled over the debris. Her foot was caught and singed. She hit the floor, hard.
Calm. Don’t panic. Breathe, slow. In… out… good. Got this. Just need to focus. The flames wanted to burn everything, to lash out at everything until nothing remained. But she could soothe them. Quell their rage. She slowly rose to her feet. She waved the fire away in a small space to plant each careful step.
“That’s the way, right. Too little, I get burned. Too much…” She saw the glow of fire outside as well. “…this happens.”
All of Tarpaul was ablaze. Sailors, women, children, and all fled from their homes. The navy was gathering everyone to the beach or trying to put out the fire with buckets of sea water. Intense flames erupted from a nearby house. Something whizzed by and crashed into the general store. Black whip-like appendages shredded the building from inside, and the shadow leapt into the open street. Its form loosely resembled a young girl, but its body was carved up. Dark tendrils protruded from its numerous cuts.
Allie wanted to retreat, but her burning home was the only way backwards. Dammit, Lucas! Where are you? Don’t be dead.
As if on cue, Lucas appeared in front of her. His back was turned, but she could feel murderous intent emanating from him. The shadow launched its whips. Lucas weaved around them and closed the distance with inhuman agility. His sword flashed in the fire and moonlight, severing the whips in a flash of steel. He brought his left hand up to the shadow. Allie felt the heat from the blast of fire wrought forth. In its wake lay a stretch of scorched earth, and ashes that had once been homes. The shadow’s disfigured form became indistinguishable. Its very existence seemed to be weakening as wisps of darkness gradually evaporated. The glowing red eyes faded, and the rest disappeared without a trace.
“Lucas? Stop! The hell are you doing?” Lucas turned to her. He was shaking. Tears streaked down his face. His eyes were almost on fire, reflecting the overwhelming destructive desire that had taken him.
“Just go away.”
“Said don’t use magic, didn’t I? Said you need to learn control, didn’t I?” She fought back tears of her own.
“I didn’t mean to. I… I lost control.”
“Damn right you lost control. First you’re in a freakishly strong body, now you’re using powers you can’t control? Don’t know what’s worse, the dark mana or you.” Why was she lashing out at him? Didn’t she herself fear something like this would happen someday?
“Shut up!” Lucas roared, clenching his fists.
“You shut up.” She sighed and softened her voice. “Know how it feels. Everything you’re angry about, even things you got over a long time ago, they’re all in your face at the same time. Sucks. But no excuse for… for this.”
“I know it’s no excuse. I know that. But guess what? I don’t care. I killed that shadow thing. What did you do? Huh? I did what nobody else was gonna do. I saved lives! I don’t care if magic is dangerous… if you think I have to learn how to control it… if I end up going crazy.”
“Lucas, you don’t want that.” The people of Tarpaul gathered. Shouting and cursing.
“No, this is what I’ve always wanted! I got to leave everything in my shitty old life behind. Now I’m here. I want to be a hero, dammit!”
Allie slapped him. “Think this is being a hero? Don’t know about your world, but in mine we don’t worship people who burn down villages. And what good did this do?”
“He saved this island from the dark mana,” an old man said. At once, the people were silent. He wore a robe of white and gold. He held a staff that was regal in style, made entirely of a pure white ore, yet incredibly simple in shape. He himself was like the staff, ornate in dress but plain in demeanor.
“A-Augur? Sorr- uh… Pardon my, um… Ugh. Look, he basically destroyed Tarpaul. Don’t justify that.” A round of jeers echoed the sentiment.
He nodded. “Regardless of how pure his intentions may be, his actions have caused you all a great deal of trouble. However, we should not be so quick to exact punishment on one who managed to drive away the notorious Will of Darkness.” With a wave of his hands, guards directed the crowd away, toward the town to help douse the fire. He then turned to Lucas. “You are the Outlander, correct?”
Lucas glared and huffed. Guards restrained his arms and forced him to his knees.
“Was this your doing? Was it your magic which destroyed the dark creature?”
“You’re damn right.”
“But you are an Outlander.”
Allie stepped in. “Not sure. Says he’s from a different world. Not the Outer Lands.”
“A different world? Tell me, what is your world like?”
Lucas gritted his teeth and struggled against the guards.
“Lemme help,” Allie said. She leaned close to Lucas. “Just calm down, okay?” She held her hands close to his head. Auros above, what’s with this mana? What made him so angry? She gently pushed back against the flow of mana. Her eyes steadied on his, closely watching the burning rage within. “Help fight this.”
“I don’t want to. Didn’t you see what I could do?”
“Yes, Lucas. I did.”
“I don’t want to let go of this… this power.”
“Believe me, you do.”
“But what if I can’t use it again?”
“Hope you never do.” Lucas turned away. “Hey. Look at me.”
“…I keep messing things up.”
“Know that. But don’t have to hurt yourself over it. You’re what you’re angry about, right.”
“But if I stop caring about it-“
“Don’t have to stop caring. Listen, you know how magic works?”
“Yeah, I think I get it.”
“Then promise me something, okay? Promise you’ll learn how to use it.”
“You want me to… keep using magic?”
“You’re not using magic, you’re letting it use you. Promise you won’t let that happen again.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I promise.”
“Okay, good. Now play nice. Or it’s your head.” She turned to the Augur. “Good now.”
“Lucas, was it? You’ve just been through mana delirium. It’s an unfortunately common occurrence among those with the gift of magic. But no Outlander has ever been known to use magic, much less suffer from mana delirium.”
“Allie told you, I’m from a different world. I’m not from these Outer Lands.”
“The Outer Lands are not one specific place. Though there is one particular continent closer to Elys where most of our Outlander population is from, the Outer Lands are called such simply because they are not Elys. They are not Auros’s land.”
“So even if it’s like a different universe, it’s still part of the Outer Lands?”
“This may seem unbelievable to you, but we have stories of visits from beings who claim to be from a land beyond the stars.”
Wait, this world has aliens?
“Those stories are of uncertain truth at best. But you never know,” he said with a smile.
“Wouldn’t that explain how I can use magic?”
“I’m afraid not. I expected young Allision here would have been more than willing to explain the origin of magic to you. Simply put, magic is the power of our god Auros. A handful of Elysians are born with the ability to bend the will of mana, a divine essence.”
“And this divine gift causes them to go crazy?”
“Magic was originally intended to be beyond mortal reach, but a chosen few are tasked with it as a test of their control over desires and emotion. Those who master their volatile nature are given great prestige. They are our heroes.”
“So what does that make me?”
“That remains to be seen. You are alive and now of sound mind. With the proper training, you may indeed fulfill your wish.”
“Just gonna let him off like that?” Allie crossed her arms.
“His punishment will be his service to Elys. As has been yours, according to your father.”
“Young Lucas, you have a choice to make. The Order is mobilizing to encourage support of the Favillan Institute of Magic in their studies of the recent dark mana outbreak. Your abilities and experience could be invaluable. Shall you wait to be dealt with by those you have wronged? Or will you offer your body and mind to a cause greater than yourself?”
“An angry mob, or a magic school? This sounds like a pretty obvious choice.”
“I am a man of patience and mercy. But I am still a man.” The Augur towered over Lucas, the way an ancient pillar stands firm with its crushing burden suspended above. “You will learn discipline and control over the power you have been given. If you still prove to be a danger to those around you, I will have no choice but to rescind these pardons.”
Lucas gulped. “You mean sent to prison, right? Not, you know… executed?”
“Whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of my people.”
“We are desperate for the aid of any capable magic users we can find. Your curious identity is to your advantage in this as well. As long as you cooperate, you will have the same rights and protections as any other subject of Elys. So tell me. Have we come to an understanding?”
He smiled. “A wise choice.”