The creators eye mover o.., p.14

The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I, page 14

 

The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I
 


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As Michael and Maya entered his house, they gasped and covered their noses at a horrible smell. All of the familiarity of the house Michael grew up in was gone. The rooms were still there, but it looked like a hurricane had whipped through. Beams of light pierced through the shattered windows and illuminated the dusty air. Broken glass covered the floors along with ripped books, clothing, and moldy green food. The furniture was torn apart and its stuffing lay strewn about like exposed organs.

  The demons had left nothing unturned, unopened, nor unmolested in their search for information. But by the shattered windows and utter disarray it was clear that they went beyond mere reconnaissance. The place stank from far worse than rotting food. He supposed that after they were done searching the place, they celebrated their victory by trashing it. Indeed there were burns on some of the walls in the shape of a star like those he had seen on the chest plates and badges of the demon soldiers.

  Glass crunched under their feet as they made their way to the kitchen. They stepped over heaps of refuse, careful to avoid slipping and touching anything toxic.

  The kitchen smelled especially vile, as that was where most of the food lay rotting, splattered on the ground and even smeared across the walls. Michael was pretty sure it was his leftover vegetable soup that now spelled “Roundhead Profaner” on the wall.

  Every cabinet lay open and the doors were even torn off some. Michael walked over to the pantry where the will was supposed to be. It still looked like an ordinary wooden cupboard just large enough for a person to step into.

  “I still have no idea how to make it open,” Michael admitted.

  “Could it be his name?” asked Maya.

  “Maybe.”

  Michael turned to the cabinet and spoke his father’s name. He waited a moment, but nothing happened. He tried his father’s other name, then his mother’s, but nothing happened with either.

  “Did he have a pet, or a place that he loved?” Maya suggested helpfully.

  “No pets, but maybe a place.” Michael spoke again to the cabinet, “Aaru!”

  Nothing opened.

  “Geminon! Arimbol! New Canaan!”

  Still nothing.

  “Is there anything else that your dad told you?” Maya asked, trying to jog his memory. “No story that seemed especially important?”

  “He told me lots of stories about his work. He traveled a lot to catalog the Folds in Arimbol. They were great stories,” he said wistfully. “I loved listening to him and kind of wished I could travel to see all those things, but there was nothing that he seemed to focus on or repeat to me.” Michael turned to Maya and scratched his head. “I suppose I didn’t know my dad very well at all. He wasn’t around a lot, and according to Sefu, half the things he told me were lies.”

  Maya cast Michael a sympathetic look. Her eyebrows, furled together over her soft hazel eyes, urged him to keep thinking.

  Suddenly, he realized one simple bit of truth. He stepped inside the cabinet, placed his hands on the wood paneling that made up the back wall and proclaimed, “My name is Michael Endwar.”

  As if responding to his touch and recognizing his voice, the edges of the floor lit up. Michael quickly stepped back. The wood faded away and revealed a staircase of white marble that descended to a dark passageway.

  Michael looked back to Maya who appeared awestruck.

  “Your mouth is hanging open,” he observed, proud that he had figured it out. “Come on, let’s go!”

  •••

  As they entered, the cabinet immediately sealed behind them, completely darkening the stairway.

  “Now what?” asked Maya. “Are we going to have to feel our way down?”

  But as she said this, the walls, floor and ceiling began to glow an ethereal blue.

  “Well, that works!” she said appreciatively.

  “Maybe you should wish for a couple of steaks while you’re at it,” Michael joked.

  Maya laughed. Her laughter made Michael feel more at ease. He was glad that she was with him. He was nervous about what he might find in this cellar or what his father’s will might say.

  As if sensing his anxiety, Maya took Michael’s hand. “Don’t forget,” she whispered, “You are Michael Endwar.” And with that, they began to descend the stairs.

  With his free hand he touched the glowing blue walls. They were cold and felt more like glass than stone.

  They came to a landing, then turned and continued down another set of stairs in the opposite direction. They descended numerous flights in this manner. After the first ten, Michael stopped counting. He was shocked that such an extensive passageway existed under his house without his knowing. He wondered how often his father came down there.

  After a seemingly interminable descent, they arrived at a long hallway. At the far end was a warm, bright light. There was something strange about it that drew him in, but also repulsed him.

  “I do not look forward to climbing back up,” said Maya. “Do you suppose we can talk to another wall and make an elevator?”

  Michael smiled at her as they continued down the hall, still wrapped up in the strange convoluted feeling.

  •••

  Michael’s eyes had to adjust to the new room. It was as bright as daylight. Indeed, the entire ceiling was open to the bright azure sky. A bird flitted by, silhouetted against a few wispy clouds. But then Michael realized that it was not real. It was some sort of a projection. The room was perhaps two or three times his height, but they were deep underground. There was no breeze or fresh air, but still the illusion made the subterranean chamber feel less claustrophobic.

  Michael scanned the square room. The walls and floor were all made of the same blue stone as the hallways, but did not glow. There were doors at each of the walls and at the center of the room was a large white platform. Upon it stood a faceless statue of a male figure made from white marble. It stood proudly with its chest out and its arms locked behind its back. Most startling of all was that, sitting at its feet, was a shadowy, stooped figure, staring at a white bar in its hands.

  “Mom!” Michael exclaimed as he ran to her, his heart beating in his throat. He kneeled down and put his hands on her shoulders. “Are you okay?”

  She did not look up.

  “How did you get down here? Did dad bring you here?”

  She continued to stare at the white block of stone in her hands. Michael thought that she seemed okay. She did not appear to be hurt, or scared, hungry or thirsty, just vacantly afflicted by her mental illness.

  Maya continued around the room, peering into each door. “There’s four beds in here,” she said of the first. “And this one,” she said, walking over to the room opposite the entry, “is a bathroom. Wow, there’s a waterfall in there!” She walked over to the last room and went inside. Michael heard her call from within. “Michael you have to see this!”

  “Is it the Eyes?” he called back, still stroking his expressionless mother’s shoulder.

  “Um, no, but it’s pretty cool!” she said.

  “Hold on,” he let go of his mom warily. “I’ll be right back,” and he followed Maya into the last room.

  It was massive— far larger than the atrium with the platform or even his house above. It was filled with tall shelves stocked with thousands of cans and bags of food. There appeared to be a huge variety, including all kinds of preserved vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats. Michael grabbed a bag of sweet almonds, tore it open, and crammed a fist-full in his mouth. They were crunchy, salty, and tasted amazing after a day of traveling. Maya likewise grabbed a bag of dried fruit and gobbled it up as they explored the rest of the chamber.

  Several of the shelves were devoted entirely to medical supplies. At a quick glance Michael saw all kinds of gauze, pills, antiseptics, and bottles of herbs. At the back of the room was a counter with all the makings of a kitchen, including a sink, stove, and an array of utensils. ‘A person could live for years down here with no need to go outside,’ Michael thought.

/>   Beyond the kitchen was another door that led to a smaller room filled with supplies of another kind. Weapons lined the walls― swords, knives, spears, and more. It put even Sefu’s ample armory to shame. Michael did not even recognize what some of them were. ‘Did his father know that an invasion was coming?’ Michael wondered. ‘What exactly was he preparing for?’

  There was also a table with two machines on it. The machines both had headsets and microphones, several switches, lights, buttons, and number keypads on them. They were identical except for the labels affixed to the top of each. One read “Arimbol” and the other was marked “International.” There was also a clipboard with blank paper, a few pens, and a small book bound in black leather.

  Michael was about to reach for it when a loud buzz rang out from the atrium that made his hair stand on end. Had the demons returned and found the bunker? But then the drone coalesced into a familiar voice. “Michael…” it said.

  “Dad!” Michael exclaimed.

  “Your dad?” asked Maya, surprised. “How did he―” she began, but Michael was already running back to the atrium.

  •••

  Michael returned to the atrium and sure enough he saw his father standing on the platform, facing the entry way.

  “Dad! I’m here!” Michael exclaimed, overwhelmed with relief and happiness. His parents were both okay and his dad would be able to protect them. “How did you get away from the demons?”

  But his dad did not turn around. He continued speaking, “…my son. You are here because something has happened to me. I may not be alive any more to tell you about your past, so I have left you this message.”

  Michael reached out to touch his father’s shoulder, and suddenly his heart sank into his stomach as he realized the illusion. It was some sort of projection of light and form that emanated from within the marble statue, which in his excitement he had completely forgotten about. It was incredibly realistic looking. He noticed his mother had turned towards it as well. She listened intently and aimed the white stone block at it, which Michael now suspected was some sort of device that turned on the effect.

  The recording continued, “You must now know that I am a Creator and that as my only son, you are my heir.”

  Michael was crestfallen, but tried to compose himself enough to listen to his father’s secret message.

  “When I die, my title and abilities as Creator shall be passed on to you. You will be able to Create form from nothingness, to transform matter into whatever shape you desire, and to even change yourself. You will also be king of Arimbol and ruler of Aaru on the planet Geminon. The current leaders are only retainers. They loyally await the return of their true king.”

  “I am also sorry to say that along with my powers, you must inherit a long and bloody war. The Light and Dark Creators have battled since the dawn of time. The kingdom of Aaru borders Elysia, ruled by the Dark Creator Acheron. If I have been slain, it is likely he who orchestrated it.”

  Michael was glad Sefu had explained some of this before. He would have had no clue what his father was talking about otherwise.

  “But we have fate on our side,” the statue continued. “When I reached adulthood, I visited the great Oracle Fold of Geminon. It told me a prophecy that not only effects me, but you, all of our descendants, our kingdoms, and the whole universe. It told me, ‘Your line shall bring an end to the war between Light and Dark.’”

  “At first I took it to mean that it was my responsibility to find and defeat all the Dark Creators. I went after Emeron and his son, Acheron, first.”

  “By interrogating captured soldiers we learned that the royal family would be visiting a city near the border to celebrate Alo, their spring festival. Instead of attacking with the full army, which would have led to many deaths, I snuck in over the mountains with a small group of my best Movers, including my top general, Sefu, my closest advisor, Leyon, and several trusted others. It was a very risky plan to sneak a dozen humans into Elysia without being noticed, kill the royal family, rob them of their most powerful weapon, and make it back safely to Aaru.”

  It sounded impossible to Michael as he recalled the map that Sefu had composed from the sandwich. They would have had to traverse all the way from meat to apple.

  “I never would have considered it if it wasn’t for the prophecy,” his father went on. “It guaranteed that my line would someday end the war between Light and Dark. And as I had no heir, I felt invincible.”

  “The plan almost worked. We snuck over the mountains. I used my Creating to grow false horns on our heads and some forest dyes gave us believably green complexions. I still have the nubs of those horns hidden under my hair. We infiltrated the pavilion where I killed the king and queen in their sleep, drawing Emeron’s spirit into his very own Eye, but we failed to accomplish the last, vital part of the mission, which was to assassinate Acheron. To his fortune, he had not attended the festival that year. Hidden far away in the capital, he became heir to Emeron’s powers.”

  “We snuck back over the border before anyone knew what happened, but the news that his parents were murdered reached Acheron before long. He was furious. He rallied his people into a nationalist frenzy and in a few short weeks bowled over our borders and razed our western cities.”

  “Our capital filled with refugees and we heard horror stories of the atrocities committed by the demons. I became despondent as I realized that my successes had only brought misery to my people. I had not increased good in the world, but had fanned the flames of Darkness. I began to reconsider my destiny.”

  Michael remembered what Sefu said about prophecies― they can be tricky and are subject to interpretation.

  “The Oracle stated that my line would end the war between Light and Dark, but I realized that the prophecy did not explicitly state who in my line would do that. My duty wasn’t necessarily to win the war, but to ensure the birth and safety of the one who could. I realized that destiny would be fulfilled no matter what I did.”

  “I also concluded that if I and the Eyes were no longer in Aaru, then the demons would abandon the rigors of occupation and go home. So I went into exile along with the twelve warriors who helped stage the raid on Elysia. We first went south to the neutral kingdom of Minos, but this threatened their truce with the demons, so we soon had to go somewhere where Acheron’s fury could not scald us. By good fortune, Leyon discovered an ancient text in the Minotian libraries that described the whereabouts of a secret land on Earth that could keep us hidden. The demons lack the technology for space travel, so this seemed like our best chance to find sanctuary. The Minotians gave us a small ship and enough fuel to send us to Earth.”

  “We landed in the deserts of the southwestern United States and I immediately sought to meet the top leaders of Earth. The first authorities I met took me for a lunatic and my twelve soldiers as cultist followers, but after a display of Moving to the right people, we were able to meet with the leaders we sought.”

  “I told them that I would be taking over Arimbol. I did not seek their permission, but required their protection and secrecy for the sake of all that is good. At first they resisted, but after a more impressive show of Moving, they were convinced to keep our secret and lend aid should Arimbol ever be attacked.”

  It sounded to Michael that his father’s display of Moving to the earthling governments was not so much an instructive demonstration as it was a thinly veiled threat.

  “Even with Leyons’ old book hinting at the location of Arimbol, it took us nearly a year to triangulate the correct bearing so we could penetrate the Shield Fold. At that time, Arimbol consisted solely of the grouping of three islands we call Dwarka.”

  Michael scowled, realizing that everything he had been taught in school about Arimbol’s founding was some grand deception orchestrated by his very own father.

  “After causing so much destruction on my home planet, I wanted to Create something good. I wanted to use my powers to build a more perfect world with enough
food, water, friends, and beauty for all. So, over the next three years I Created the islands of Arimbol that you know today. I pulled the land out of the sea. I sculpted the mountains, flattened the plains, and seeded the forests. I spread the unique flora and fauna of Arimbol all over the archipelago and recalled more familiar ones from both Earth and Geminon. I built the cities and the house that you grew up in. Then, when I was ready, I invited deserving people from all over the Earth to populate this new country.”

  “Besides making Moving easily accessible to all, we discovered that there was another aspect to the Folds surrounding Arimbol— all those within it could understand each other, no matter what tongue they spoke. We attributed this effect to what we now call the Babel Fold.”

  “Although I Created this new utopia, I did not want to be its leader. I had failed at keeping the people of Aaru safe. I only wanted to have a child and live peacefully and anonymously so he might grow up to be the great and victorious Creator described by the Oracle Fold.”

  “I offered Sefu my crown, but he refused. Instead, I gave the crown to my advisor, Leyon. I made my other advisors governors of the major islands and chancellors of the four Moving Academies.”

  “Wait! What?” exclaimed Maya. “My father is a chancellor! Is he from Gemiwhat, too?”

  But the recording went on, “Sefu did not agree with what I did next. I wanted to purify my line to speed up the prophecy. I did not want another woman’s destiny to interfere with my own, so I left to the Shambalah Mountains. There, I spent the next three years taking on the greatest challenge a Creator can pursue— the Creation of human life. I Created a wife who soon became mother to you, my heir.”

  Michael suddenly looked aghast at his mother still sitting listlessly on the dais. Her wild hair draped over her dim eyes.

  “I made her beautiful. I made her the kind of person that I could love and who I could enjoy a life of peace with. I made her the kind of person who would be a loving, caring mother…”

  Michael tried to soak this in. His mother was…a Creation? Was she even human then? And if she wasn’t, then what was he? The question made his skin crawl.

  “…but before you were even born, I realized my great error. Strange things started happening all over the islands of Arimbol. Sometimes they were good, like the giant raspberries you like from Palmyra Forest. Sometimes they were beautiful, like the Flying Waters near Quivira, but sometimes they were dangerous, like the vortex that devoured a village on Lemuria. The land I built was failing, so I could not live the anonymous life I hoped for. Leyon and the other governors explained these phenomena to the populace as Folds and I have spent the last nineteen years managing them as Assessor of Folds. But in truth they are my failures as Creator. The only true Folds in Arimbol existed before I ever arrived.”

  “But they portended something much worse. For twelve years your mother worked without a glitch…”

  Michael winced at the words his father used to describe her― like some sort of faltering machine.

  “…but I worried someday something would go wrong. Then she had her first seizure. The complex networking of her nervous system that I strived so hard to perfect had broken down.”

  Michael stared at the woeful creature he had nursed for the last seven years. Unable to speak or take care of herself, she was locked in the shell of her own defunct mind and body. And his father― what arrogance did he have to Create life, to Create worlds, to attempt to manipulate prophecies and fix destiny? It was so irresponsible to expect his son to clean up his messes while he watched his friends go off to college to pursue their dreams! He didn’t want any of this.

  “Michael, you have always been smart, creative, and responsible. You will be a wise leader and a great Creator if you choose to be. If I am dead, then you already have my powers. Remember that the prophecy is open-ended. You too have the choice to fight or wait until a new Creator is born. So long as you remain the only one left in our line, you cannot be killed, but as soon as you conceive a child, your immortality is compromised. If you follow that path, I suggest you hide better than I have.”

  “If you decide to take up your sword against the Darkness, you will need one of the Eyes. You must draw the Ki from the Dark Creators when they are slain. Leyon is my most trusted servant and knows where one Eye is hidden. The other I can see from my mind’s eye.”

  “What the heck does that mean?” interjected Maya. “He wants you to take on the lords of Darkness, but he hid the only thing you can defeat them with?”

  Michael barely heard Maya and had all but stopped listening to his father. He was fuming.

  “Moreover, the European and North American governments have promised to send aid if Arimbol comes under attack, but they must be alerted. Every town has a communications center. There is one above ground here, but there is another located in this bunker in the armory. Find the international communications link. There is a small black book next to it that lists the names of several countries and numbers associated with them. Those are the contact codes. They will link you directly to special receivers belonging to the head of each nation and used only for this purpose. They know the importance of this call, as your survival is theirs as well.”

  “Whatever you may think of me, know that everything I have done has been to help you rise to this challenge. The Eyes are but a veil between this world and the next. I love you, son, and hope that someday our Ki will meet again.”

  With that, the projection faded and the room fell silent. Michael’s father was gone.

  •••

  Maya comfortingly wrapped an arm around Michael’s shoulders, but he barely noticed. He heard his mother murmur something. It was not so much of a word as a whimper. She looked at the white control block in her lap and gripped it tighter. Suddenly a whirring sound drove the illusion into action again. The blank face of the statue sprouted a nose, eyes, and other features as Amon’s form coalesced and began to speak again.

  “Michael, my son. You are here because something has happened to me...” it repeated.

  Had his mother just been sitting there watching this recording over and over again? Michael felt sick.

  “I’m going to go see about the comm. center,” said Maya.

  Michael nodded emptily and followed her into the back room. She sat down at the table by the radios and opened the black book. The first page gave instructions on how to use the devices. Maya traced the words on the page with her finger.

  “Here’s what we’re looking for,” she pointed. “‘Only use the international line in case of an emergency such as in the event of natural disasters or foreign military incursions. Phone numbers connect directly to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Belgium or with heads of state belonging to NATO. Select a contact and dial the corresponding number code into the transmitter.’”

  “Seems simple enough,” remarked Maya. She turned the page. In bold letters at the top was listed “Arimbol.” Below it were dozens of names and numbers of towns scattered across the archipelago. Maya flipped the page. The top was titled in bold, “International” and directly underneath that was written “NATO Headquarters” and a corresponding string of numbers. Below that were the names of several countries in alphabetical order along with their own digits: “Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.”

  “Well, let’s try NATO first,” Maya suggested hopefully. She put on the headset for the international line and dialed the code.

  “Do you hear anything?” Michael asked after a while.

  She shook her head. “Let me try again.” She located a button labeled ‘End Call’ and pressed it, then dialed the numbers again. “The numbers make a tone when I press them, but then it just goes silent. Am I just supposed to wait until someone answers?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe try another country. How about the United States? That’s where my dad
said he first landed.”

  Maya looked up the number in the little black book and dialed it. “I heard the number tones again, but that’s it.”

  “Crud,” griped Michael. “I forgot that all the comm. lines are out.”

  “They were out in Alexandria, too. Do you think the demons are blocking them?”

  “Seems like,” Michael shrugged disappointedly.

  Just in case, Maya dialed all the rest of the numbers including the other cities in Arimbol, but no one responded.

  “Your dad said that there are comm. centers in every city in Arimbol. Let’s take the book with us. Maybe we’ll have better luck elsewhere.”

  Michael nodded, discouraged. They left the headsets and blinking lights and returned to the atrium. Maya took another bag of dried fruit from one of the shelves. Michael considered taking something, too, but had lost his appetite.

  •••

  When they returned to the atrium, Michael’s father was beginning his long tale again. It seemed that his mother had started it a third time. She was still sitting at the edge of the stage staring up at the phantasmic sculpture. Michael knelt beside her so he could look her in the eye.

  “Mom,” he began tenderly, “Arimbol is no longer safe. There are bad people here who want to hurt us. I need you to come with me. Uncle Sefu is upstairs. He wants to take us somewhere safe, okay?”

  She did not move.

  Michael stood up and extended his hand to her. “Mom, I need you to come with me. You can’t stay here.”

  Still, she refused to look at him. He clutched her arm and tried to lift her to her feet. She always let him guide her around the house as he went about his chores, but he was surprised to find her resisting.

  “Mom!” he beseeched her.

  He pulled harder, but was shocked at what happened next.

  “No!” she shouted.

  Michael could not remember the last time he heard her voice. Sometimes she seemed lucid and would understand him, but she had never spoken.

  “Michael...” said Maya, stepping towards them.

  But he wasn’t listening. Tears welled in his eyes. “Mom, you have to understand,” he pleaded. “Dad is gone. You have to come with me. There are people who will kill you if they find you!”

  He tried to pull her up one more time, but she threw his arm off and crawled onto the stage. “No! No! No! No!” she cried as she reached out for her husband. She grabbed onto the statue’s legs like a petulant child refusing to go to the dentist. Her tears flooded the white marble at his lucent feet. Through all this, the apparition merely

  continued its speech, describing his own failings and Michael’s destiny.

  Michael stared helplessly at the sobbing woman, a mixture of pain and horror across his face. Despite the destruction of her mind and nervous system, the one thing that remained was her love for this man. Michael could not believe that her devotion extended beyond even her son and her own life. He wondered if she really loved Amon so much or if he had Created her that way.

  “Michael,” Maya said gently behind him. “She should stay here. It’s not safe for her to travel with the demons after us. She has managed to survive here this long. She has food, water…she’ll be okay.”

  “…someday our Ki will meet again,” spoke Michael’s father, finishing its speech and fading out once again.

  Michael knew Maya was right. He placed his hand on the ankle of his sobbing mother. “Mom, I’m sorry. You can stay. I’m going to try to bring dad back for you.”

  She did not raise her head from the marble floor, but continued to cry and clutch the control. She squeezed it again and the projection began anew. Michael wiped the tears from his cheeks and watched her for a while.

  Maya touched his arm, “Let’s go, Michael. She’ll be okay.”

  Michael nodded. “Goodbye mom. I love you.”

  •••

  Sefu awaited them on the south side of town. He stood on a hilltop leaning on his staff. The ocean breeze blew the tall grass in gentle waves. The great bear was nowhere to be seen.

  “Did you find it?” Sefu asked as Michael and Maya joined him.

  Michael only nodded morosely. He did not feel like talking.

  Sefu put his arm around the boy and said to him in a lowered tone, “Now you understand why I could not speak to him anymore.”

  “There was a comm. center there,” Maya said.

  “Oh?” asked Sefu.

  “We found a book of codes and tried calling for help, but no one answered.”

  “Huh,” pondered Sefu. “Seems like the demons figured out how to jam a signal. They were never able to do that on Geminon.”

  “He also said that King Leyon knows where one of the Eyes are and he gave a clue to the location of the other. He said that he could ‘see it from his mind’s eye.’ What do you suppose that means?”

  “I’m actually not sure,” said Sefu, scratching his short white hair. “I’ll sleep on it.”

  “So where do we go from here?” Maya asked.

  “We need to find a ship and get off this island— either to the U.S. or to the capital to find Leyon. I searched the waterfront and the beach, but all of the boats are gone. I suspect the demons sank them. They have no idea whether Amon had more children, so wouldn’t want anyone to escape.” Sefu turned south and began walking. “With any luck, there are still boats at Caral.”

  Maya squeezed Michael’s wrist and then hurried after Sefu.

  Michael took one last look at Canaan, the town where he was born, and had spent his entire life. It was beautiful with its red tiled roofs sloping down through the hills to meet the shining blue sea. He had wanted to leave for a long time to go study, visit the other islands, and maybe live somewhere abroad. Leaving always symbolized freedom from all the responsibility imposed by his mother’s illness and his father’s job. Now he was leaving, perhaps never to return, but it was not the way he imagined. He did not feel free. Instead he felt the crushing weight of a new responsibility that his father had sprung upon him. He was no longer beholden to just his small family, but to his village, his country, and perhaps the whole cosmos. The thought made him feel incredibly small and helpless.

  Michael held his palm out in front of him. He closed his eyes and concentrated on a small piece of black lead forming in his hands. He imagined it already formed, round and perfectly smooth. He forced all of his will to make it so. His forehead felt warm and his temples ached slightly from the effort, but when he opened his eyes, there was still nothing in his hand. He felt slightly relieved. The onus was not on him yet.

  CHAPTER VII

  THE RIVER

 
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