Chapter 9: Pictures of the Past
The top picture was drawn mostly in white. It looked like a snowy day, however the landscape was marred by a large black tower raising from a frozen lake. The landscape around the pool make it looked like a park, I thought I recognized it but I couldn’t place it. Yet, the thing I noticed before even those was a figure standing in front of the tower. It was a young girl in a white dress, however the rest of the figure was completely white as well.
I looked up from the picture and stared and Mink. Just by looking at this picture we both knew that the person in the picture was Mink, however it wasn’t possible for me to have drawn this before the Great Change... was it? I pulled out another picture from the pile and looked at it.
It has snowed in this picture as well. However this picture had more in it then just Mink. There were eight people depicted in this picture, seven of them were standing in a circle around the eighth figure. The seven figures were facing outward from the center one and I couldn’t make out the features on five of them because they were facing away from the picture.
The one standing in the center of the ring of people was me, it was a younger version of me certainly but it was definitely me. I also recognized the two other people who’s features were visible. One was clothed all in white and it had to be Mink. The other visible one was in an orange dress, I recognized the cat ears and tail instantly, that one must be Tina. I looked at the other five figures, the two just next to Tina were in Red and Silver.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the Destiny Clock. I flipped it open and sure enough there was a White Hand. This picture was definitely showing the people who were the Hands. The other three Hands, who were they. I pulled out another picture and looked at it.
This picture seemed to be indoors, however there was a window revealing a winter landscape outside. The room appeared to be a lab of some sort, it contained all sort of complex technical equipment that I didn’t recognize, they might have just been made-up. There were two people with lab-coats working on something, a man and a women. I couldn’t make out the woman’s features because she was turned away, but the man... I could tell that the man was Bix, however it was probably the younger Bix before the great change.
There were still two pictures that I hadn’t seen so I pulled the next one out. It initially thought that this one was easy to recognize. It was a clock with seven hands, I was able to move to the last picture when I realized that something was different. This clock wasn’t of the Destiny Clock that I had it my pocket. The hands were of different colors and shaped differently. In their place were a bunch of different hand which I didn’t recognize.
The last picture was also in white but not because of the wintery landscape. It was because most of the picture was not completed. There was the back of someone that I wasn’t able to recognize because the drawing wasn’t complete. The person were facing away into what looked like a mirror. However the reflection in the mirror was my own. The one looking into the mirror definitely wasn’t me though, although the drawing was incomplete I could make out that much.
Finally I set down the papers and looked at Mink. Tina quickly snatched up the drawings and began paging through them. “Mink, do you understand these pictures any better then I do?” Since see had found them I hoped she was able to enlighten me, even a little.
“I can tell you that these were all drawn before the Great Change but you probably already knew that.” Mink smiled a knowing smile, “I believe that either there is a link between you and the Great Change or that something is wrong with people’s memories before the Great Change.”
I furrowed my brow, “What do you mean?”
“Maybe the Great Change never happened, what if the world was always like this and what happened during the Great Change modified everyone’s memories to become like it is now.”
“That isn’t possible. I mean there are pictures, videos, and all sorts of records that verify that the world changed drastically then.”
“I think that the world changing from that to what it is now is far more unlikely, don’t you think? It would also explain why everything worked out very well, because that was how it always was. Of course this is only wild speculation, there are many other possibilities that I could think of.”
I considered her argument and I had to admit that there was some validity in her thought process. However I still didn’t think that was what happened, that theory had as much validity as one where the world was first created during the Great Change. I wanted to believe that my memories were correct.
“Your other idea suggests that I am somehow involved in the Great Change. Are you trying to saw that my pictures resemble you current reality because it is possible that I caused reality to become like that.” I felt that idea was just as far-fetched as the one about how the world had never changed.
“That is defiantly possible.” This time it was Quell that spoke. He seemed to have finished thinking and begun to reveal his wisdom. “However the probably is more about what changed the world, whether it was the world itself that changed or just everyone’s memories you, Ema, are mixed up in everything. There are two that you spoke of are also people who were directly involved. Bix, and Zero both know enough that I think they had something to do with it, that is why they can predict your future because they helped craft the past which somehow involves you.”
I thought about what Quell had suggested. It certainly seemed that Bix and Zero knew more then they should. If we assumed that I had something to do with the Great Change then it wasn’t to far of a leap to guess that they were also involved. However there was one big problem that I was dealing with, “If I am somehow mixed up in the Great Change how come I’m not able to remember anything about causing it. I think that would be something that I would remember.”
“Not if you were only indirectly involved or if they changed your memories.” Chimed in Tina. It seemed that she had finished looked at the pictures and had returned them to Mink.
“Even if that is true,” I began protesting, “Then what am I supposed to do? I can’t just sit by if people begin to come after me like Bix said they would. Yet everything that I learn just makes me understand less.”
“Then maybe you should visit the source of our troubles. If you go to the black tower, the Tower of Nothing, then maybe you will be able to find something out.” It was Jamel who was making the suggestion. “You might find some answers to your questions, after all if you keep finding questions then eventually the won’t be any more questions and then there must be answers.”
I wasn’t really certain if I liked thought. However, the plan to visit the Tower of Nothing was better then any other that I had. “Alright then, tomorrow after school I’ll pay a visit to the tower and see if I can learn anything. Anyone who wants to come with me can, though I have no idea if anything strange will happen or not. However, I suspect that something will happen.”
Having a plan made me feel a little better even if it wouldn’t actually solve anything. It did make me feel like I was in more control of the situation that just seemed to spiral out of control. “Mink, you can keep those pictures, after all I drew them for you.” Mink smiled at me and nodded in thanks.
“However it is getting late and we should probably all head home.” I got agreement from everyone. Mink however seemed a little sad that everyone was leaving, though she did a good job at hiding that. We bid goodbye to her as we left and began heading back. Eventually we slip up, Jamel went to Krien’s house while Quell went to his own.
Me and Tina continued walking together for a while, after all we lived close to each other. As we stopped outside my house Tina turned to me, “Ema, I have a strange feeling. It is like a storm is coming. Be careful, something big is going to happen, something that will make our adventures in the New World seem small. At least that is what I think.” Tina looked unusually solemn as she spoke. She the laughed lightly, “Or maybe not.” With that Tina left for her house.
“Thanks Tina.” I whispered after her as she left. I didn’t know if she heard me, but she might have because her hearing was so good. I went inside and got ready for bed. I could still see the black tower out my window, it was indeed a dark owen. As I tried to sleep I was worried about having bad dreams or at least more dreams I couldn’t make sense of. I guess I didn’t need to have worried. I didn’t dream about the dark tower, in fact I didn’t have any dreams.
The next morning was a dark overcast day like the world was predicting a fore-coming disaster. However like any normal day I had to prepare for school. I was able to get up on time today so after I was done preparing I headed over to Tina’s house to make sure she was ready. When I arrived I found a groggy Tina being ordered to get ready by her mother.
It didn’t take long for Tina to finish getting ready. Tina’s mother left while I was helping Tina finish up, teachers needed to get to school earlier then students do. At least responsible teachers like Tina’s mother do, Krien was an exception.
We were running a little late when we finally left. We had to hurry up and heading to school at a quick pace. However all those fearful warning we were feeling we able to start coming to fruition. As we approached the school our path became blocked by a dark shadow. Inside the shadows was a form I remembered. Etern Void was staring at us through a cloud of darkness.
“Your crimes will not continue unpunished. Surrender now and I will show a proper amount of mercy.” Etern’s voice sounded as dark and dangerous as her eyes. I really didn’t want to know what her version of mercy would be. However I wanted to figure out as much as I could so I tried to play along with her story.
“What crimes, please tell me because I honestly don’t know what crimes you are talking about.” It seemed like a ligament question to ask her because I truly didn’t know what crimes she was accusing me of, after all I had been through so much that it could really have been anything.
She moved closer to me, her engulfing shadow moving along with her, “What crime? Don’t play dumb, your entire existence is a crime, without you none of this would ever have happened and everyone would have been happy.” Like that helped answer my questions.
“Thank you, your ambiguous answers have helped clarify nothing. Without you I might have actually learned something so thanks for preventing that, I wouldn’t want to actually know what is going on.” I couldn’t help but left the sarcasm drip out of my voice. It seemed that Etern wouldn’t be giving me any good information either.
Etern however seemed taken back, she probably wanted this to be a dramatic threatening scene where she would punish me for my crimes, whatever they were. Instead I wasn’t even budging. Maybe staring down Jamel had given me better nerves then I had before or maybe Tina’s hissing form reassured me. Despite her dark and menacing shadow Etern was not the scariest thing I had encountered.
“If your not going to tell me why you want to arrest me then I am going to school. After all it is against the law to arrest someone without charges, and I bet even with charges you wouldn’t be allowed to arrest me. However school is about to start so we had better go or we will be late.” I passed Etern and began walking down the street toward school when she spoke.
“Stop! No matter what you say I am stopping you right here and now.” She looked dark and resolute. The voice told me that I wouldn’t be able to convince Etern to back down and I would have to force it upon her. However I doubted I would able to stop her, the darkness surrounding her seemed a potent force which way beyond me or Tina. If only Arlen or Jamel were here then we might have to able to do something against her.
All I could do as she approached was back up slowly and plead with her to tell me the reason that she wanted to stop me so bad. I didn’t think that I could stand this girl down in the same way that I did Jamel, after all I didn’t understand why this girl was doing what she was doing so I didn’t know what to tell her to get her to stop.
“It’s about the tower isn’t it. You don’t want me to enter the tower.” That I could say safely, however I didn’t know what the reasons for wanting to stop me were, “However I currently have no reason to want to open the tower except to find out what is inside it. If you want to tell me what it is then I won’t open it ok.” My words seemed to fall on deaf ears.
I didn’t know what she would do to me if she managed to get a hold of me and I didn’t want to know. However just before she reached me Tina moved between us, “I won’t let you hurt Ema.” Etern raised her hand and wisps of darkness surrounded Tina and bound her arms and legs together. She collapsed to the ground while struggling to break free from the darkness.
“Stupid cat, you can’t stop me.” She kicked Tina once while she was on the ground. “You must be one of her lousy hands, what a sham. You don’t even have enough power to protect yourself, how can you possibly be able to protect her.” Etern had a dark grin on her face, she was enjoying picking on the defenseless Tina.
“Stop!’ I shouted at her, I was regaining my courage. “Don’t hurt her, after all I’m the one that you want aren’t I.” I waited for Etern’s attention to stop being focus on Tina before I continue, “However if you want to capture me then you will first have to capture me.” I turned and before Etern could even respond I began dashing away, glancing back only enough to ensure that Etern didn’t stay to bully Tina.
I had thought I would be able to escape her, I was always able to keep up with Tina and I hadn’t met many other people who were also able to do that. However as I ran down the streets and alleyways I could also see Etern when I looked over my shoulder. I was beginning to get tired when I finally realized something was very wrong, I should have reached school long ago, yet I though I still recognized the streets I was running down. It felt like I had been running in circles. My second realization was that I hadn’t seen anyone else since I had ran from Etern. It had been empty street after empty street.
I knew something unusual was happening, probably caused by Etern herself. Yet if I stopped running to try and figure it out then Etern was catch me. I knew though that I wouldn’t be able to keep up running forever and that if nothing changed then Etern would be able to catch me. Maybe I would be able to get Etern to collapse from tiredness before I did, but looking back at her made me abandon that idea. Etern didn’t seem to have a hint of tiredness in her face, not a single drop of sweat.
That was strange, not even Tina was that good at running. There must be some way that she was doing it. During my short glances back at her I tried to figure out what she was doing. Then it finally struck me, she didn’t have a shadow. Then everything clicked into place and I understood what was happening. I turned as quickly as I could as rushed at the shadowless Etern. Her form dissolved as soon as I touched it breaking into wavering bits of formless shadow. I dropped to my knees panting.
I wanted to desperately take a break but I didn’t know if I had time. I didn’t even know if not taking a break would make any difference. Where ever I was was somehow under the control of Etern and she was keeping me from escaping. I didn’t think I could run anymore or at least much longer, I had wasted all my energy running from an Etern that didn’t really exist. I guess I’m still very foolish.
I really didn’t think I would be able to escape from Etern here and if I tried I would probably only get tired which might be exactly what she wanted me to do. So instead I sat down in to take a breather and waited. I didn’t really have to wait very long.
Etern rounded a nearby corner and approached me. I wasn’t sure if this was really her or another shadow, however this one had a shadow so I assumed it was her. I gathered myself and stood up, I didn’t have anywhere to run so I had to face her. “What are you trying to gain by doing this?”
Etern stared at my with her black eyes, “You wouldn’t understand. Look at you, completely unchanged by the Great Change. You should count yourself lucky that you got to live the past five years in peace.” She held her gaze, I could make out nothing from her pitch black eyes.
A smile edged my mouth, I was finally beginning to understand Etern and with that I had some ammunition to use against her. “I see, so you are a monster.” Etern’s eyes narrowed as I spoke, I could tell that I was on track. She was like Jamel in a way, both beyond what most people began during the Great Change. However unlike Jamel whose friends and family pretended that she wasn’t a monster, Etern was probably ostracized because of it.
“Your hiding yourself aren’t you. That form, it isn’t who you really are, is it?” I reached into my pocket and grabbed onto the Destiny Clock to give myself bravery. “Show me who you really are.” Her nervous reaction told me that I was hitting the nail on the head.
Etern attempted to scoff my comments, “I don’t need to show you who I really am to stop you. I could take out your friend as I am now, even you can’t stop me.”
I laughed at her, “You don’t understand. Because you aren’t yourself I will be able to escape. It means that you don’t have the resolve to stop me, how can someone who is afraid of themselves do anything.” I pulled the Destiny Clock out of my pocket and held onto it from the chain. “You see this clock says I have a destiny. However I believe that destiny can be changed, but it can’t be changed by someone who isn’t willing to go through with what it will entail. Right now it is impossible for you to change Destiny.”
“A bluff, that is all.” Responded Etern but I could hear a quiver in her voice. She could see my resolve and was beginning to believe me. Was I right, I don’t know but I was willing to bet on my hypothesis and that gave me the resolve I needed to face Etern down. Would my resolve be strong enough to face her, I was going to find that out.
“Then let us see if my destiny can cut through your resolve.” I began spinning the Destiny Clock around in a circle. I had doubts about its usefulness as a weapon but enough had happened recently that I was willing to place my trust in it.
Etern tried to look confident and motioned at me. Shadows tendrils reached out from her toward me to capture me in the same way that she did to Tina. I swung the Destiny Clock at the tendrils and it sliced through them like... well shadows. The bits of shadows cuts by the Destiny Clock fell to the ground and dissipated. It seemed my belief in the clock had been right, it could be used to stop Etern.
Etern frowned looking worried and upset. She motioned again and the remaining shadows shot toward me. The swung the clock in the circle making it look like a shield. When the shadows rushed into the path of the chain they dissolved as if they weren’t even there. I began walking closer to Etern while I continued to swing the clock. “See, your resolve can’t break through my Destiny. Now if you want to do what you set out to do then show me your resolve, show me your true self.”
“NOOO!” Etern shouted. She seemed to be disturbed. She raised both hands and before I could react two clusters of shadows were shooting at me from different directions. I tried to stop both of them, I whipped the clock around and sliced one group but by the time that had happened the second hand gotten to me and wrapped around my hands. The Destiny Clock spun uselessly as the shadows grabbed at me and pulled me to the ground.
Etern stood over me, her worry dissipating as she watched me bound and helpless. “Ha, Destiny! Your precious destiny was beaten by me without me ever having to change. It seems that you were wrong after all.” As she stood over me and gloated I saw something down the street behind her that cause me to smile.
“Is that so? Just because you bound me you think that you have beaten me.” With my hands I pulled the Destiny Clock closer and clicked open the top. With the watch open the clicking of the seven hands on the clock could be heard. “There is no black hand on this clock,” I paused for a second, “But this isn’t the only Destiny Clock is it? There is a second one though isn’t there, that is the clock that has the Black Hand on it.” I could remember seeing a black hand on picture at Mink’s house, the one of the Seven Handed clock which wasn’t mine. “That is why you are trying to fight against your Destiny... but you still don’t have enough resolve to change it.”
I could tell that my words were hitting the mark. Etern who had regained her composure then she had captured me was now shaking in anger. “What do you know! You are just a pawn of Fate too! What could you possibly know about changing Destiny.” Etern shouted at me as she stood over me. There seemed to be miniscule black lines covering her skin.
“That’s right” I looked up at Etern, “Show me who you are, show my why you are willing to do this.” Etern saw the black lines on her hand and stepped back aghast. I saw the lines vanish as she tried to gain control of herself.
“Enough, I won’t listen to your lies any more. You are coming with me.” She raised her hand and darkness materialize in the form of what looked like a weapon. “It would be better if you came while asleep, I don’t want to listen to you anymore.” She raised her hand about to strike me.
All I did was smile. Since I had seen something on the street behind her all I had been doing was delaying her and it had pain off. When Etern was about to bring her hand down it was stopped by another hand grabbing her wrist.
“YOU WILL NOT HURT HER.” Came a familiar icy cold voice. This time however I wasn’t the target of the voice. Behind Etern was the person I had seen down the street. Jamel was there, taller then usual. Her clawed hand was wrapped about Etern’s wrist. Jamel indeed looked like the monster she was. Her legs were criss-crossed with slits as her spiderweb like legs were beginning to breaking apart. Her hair was beginning to look frosty and her smile was giving me chills. She seemed much scarier then when she had been in the depths of the castle, maybe because now her reason was more then just wanting to be free.
The Destiny Clock ticked loudly as I spoke, “It looks like Destiny has saved me, what are you going to do about it now Etern. Your not the only monster here now.”
Etern struggled against Jamel’s grip for a few seconds. While Jamel’s rubbery arms didn’t look very strong there was little Etern could do to break free from them. Using her grip Jamel drew back and seemed to effortlessly throw Etern across the street and into the wall of one of houses nearby.
Etern staggered to her feet. The cracks had once again appeared on her skin. Her hands seemed to try and wipe them off her skin. She looked back at me and Jamel, “Don’t think you have won just because your friend showed up. Next time I will get you and I will deny Destiny.” She turned and ran down the street. As she left the shadows binding me vanished.
Jamel reached out a hand to help me up, she was shrinking before my eyes. “Are you alright Ema.” Her voice and returned to her normal fluid voice and her hair seemed to be thawing.
“Yes, thank you.” I grabbed her hand and used it to help pull myself up. “We need to go find Tina. She was hurt by that girl too.” I tried to remember where Tina hand gotten hurt.
Jamel grabbed my hand as I attempted to rush away. “It’s Ok Ema. Tina was alright, she managed to get to school and when you weren’t there began to make a ruckus. Tina only agreed to go to the nurse’s office when I offered to go find you.” I sighed in relief. It seemed that everything had worked out well. Tina was alright and I had managed to escape from Etern, at least for now.
“Thanks Jamel, you saved me. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t seen you there.” Even I knew that I had done a lot of posturing when I was dealing with Etern. I had pretended I knew what I was doing and it turned out to be correct. Maybe this is just how Destiny worked but it could be a very powerful thing. I shut the Destiny Clock and put it back in my pocket. Before today I would have never expected to use it as a weapon to fend off a foe and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how good it actually worked for that.
“Lets get to school then shall we Jamel. Tina is probably worried and the teachers will probably be annoyed that I’m late and you skipped out to find me.”
“It will be fine, Krien said she would try and explain everything and that we shouldn’t get in trouble. After all it wasn’t your fault that you are late for school.” I walked with Jamel back toward school. Whatever Etern had used to cause me to become lost and alone seemed to have disappeared. It wasn’t very far from school and we began seeing more people almost instantly.
We reached school in only a couple of minutes and were greeting by an ecstatic Tina who was very glad to see that everything was alright with me. It took me a while to extract myself from Tina’s grip and then get my way to class. As I entered class I saw Etern already seated in the chair behind mine. Had she somehow managed to fool everyone into thinking that she had been here all of the time.
I took my seat in front of her and when class began again I leaned back and whispered to her. “You know your mask doesn’t suit you, I’m sure your real form would look far better. Beauty never exists despite something, it only exists because of something. I find masks to be quite ugly myself.” I could hear Etern’s nails scratch at the desk.
“Next time, next time.” I could hear her whispering to herself. I wasn’t as worried as I had been earlier. I had a potent weapon in the work of the Destiny Clock which could be used against her and friends that would come to my assistance if something went wrong.
However today was turning out to be exciting, in the morning I dealt with Etern and after school I was planning to pay a visit to the Tower of Nothing to hopefully discover something about why everything was happening.