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Ragnarok: one hundred and sixty days later
I have stood alongside Thomas Phear and Angelo Katsith in this battle against the everlasting dusk, but guns and ancient superstition can do nothing but protect us, it can't win us this war. For victory to be ours we need more. We need a trap for the dark force, and for that we need a poet. Thomas has pointed out to me that bards, in some accounts, have the power to capture evil within the pages of books and song. I intend to exploit this.
Modern tales tell of film stealing the soul, whether it be photographs or motion picture seem arbitrary. But if it is true then this battle is not unique and I find myself inquisitive. Considering the time-line of our struggle, did I let the demon into this world, or has it always been here and I am just another gatekeeper, or is it even me?
We have found a new study. I have dressed it to look as much like where I first so the dark force as a can, and I have begun typing a new book.
Katsith points out to me that the last time I wrote, there was but a single page that was not mine slide into the final copy, a page wherein I am the poet of old, and I was given the weapons of my ancestry to duel Dark Force with, but Dark Force did not play fair. The weapons I have, the knowledge to use them I did not.
It would be different this time, I know the rules, and I am ready for his attack.
As the poet of old I am not bound by Dark Force, instead I am bound to him. And that means some peace of what he is, is within me. He binds the fabric of my world in on itself to create his legion. I can do the same to the world. But it won't be easy, and I am going to need to pay a price to fight this monster.
'With a quivering hand, Phear picks up the page and instantly he understands... Gordon Meadows has sold him out to the demons.'
As I type these words, my heart sinks into my chest. By no means is this certified to work, but it's the best changes we have.
'The boy Katsith, who has fought largely on instinct, is yet fully unaware of the fate that is to befall him. Thomas turns his eyes to the boy with saddened disbelief, then back to Meadows. Even as the reality dawns on them, the darkness gathers outside the windows like a school of fish, thousands of tiny orbs of condensed shadow swarm as if a sallied mass.'
For there to be any victory in all of this, I can see that there are many things that must come to pass. First off, I must lure Dark Force into a form that I understand, then I must lead him back into his own world, and at last I must find a way to lock the door. It is to this end that I must betray my friends. Honestly I would never have thought of what I am about to do, but I can see the stakes.
If violence is the only way to stop someone hellbent on bringing pain to others, then violence and non-violence are no longer moral principles but tactics.
'With the utmost of ferocity the windows shatter. Phear stands gripping the page of Meadows' book like a page of scripture to save him for the darkness, but that page holds no magic that could save him. He is thrust into the air, dragged by the charging mass of evil. Wind howls like a rabid beast, lights burst into flames, books are purged from their resting-places. As Phear finds his feet, he struggles for but a breath, gripping himself by the sides of his head. Dark Force is within him, and he fights from his soul. He can’t win. Thomas' eyes fade to a deep purple and he is dead, there is only the dark force now.'
This is where I got into trouble. Now that IT is here, what happens next? Well, I need a weapon that can beat HIM. A gun or a knife isn’t good enough, if it were the other poets would have won. No, I need something more colorful, something intangible, something that means nothing in this world but in Dark Force's world is the equivalent of a nuclear warhead in the palm of my hand.
I turn my eyes on Katsith, his headband with cat ears on it, he wears them in the loving memory of his beloved Keith. Angelo believe that his death marked Dark Force's entry into this world, and that it has somehow protected him so far. Maybe he is right.
Now, as a poet this is one of the most difficult decisions to make. Angelo needs to die in order for the cat ears to work for someone else, but how? He can’t just drop dead, so someone needs to kill him. I most certainly could do it, but do I want to be the antihero? Or do I let Thomas do the job? I could do that. But how do I know what to do next? Enter Shakespearian law, the three part drama, and this is the crescendo of the second act.
'Thomas, now as Dark Force takes but a moment to look at his new body and find it is good. Yes his strength is now limited to that of a mortal man, but this is hardly a problem, as any methamphetamine addict could point out, fear of mortality is a man’s greatest weakness, and pain doesn’t hurt if you don't feel it. Tom is a powerful-looking man for a schoolmaster, his eyes glow as he dances about for a moment to understand what he is, then grins like a lion thrusting his gaze onto the tender flesh of Angelo. Not yet understanding what has happened, Angelo's attention is fixated on chasing the shadows away. Tom holds his arms out, calling the shadow to himself, and only then does Katsith take notice. He reaches for a bottle of water, knowing well the effect it has on the evil, but he can't reach. Tom grips him by the arm and twist him about, then with one hand grips his neck and crushes it with the most nonchalant exasperation. Tom drops the body and chuckles triumphantly, the poet has failed, his plan backfired. This man Thomas, Thomas is no weaker than he was before.'
You see in classical drama, there needs to be a distinct possibility that the hero is powerless in the end. There is no fear if clearly the hero can stand toe to toe with the devil. Faust for example outsmarted the demon in his tail, and Dante outran the devil in his epic. So the same must be true of me, I cannot beat Thomas in hand-to-hand combat.
'Drunk with power, Thomas walks around the office, smashing apart the furnishings with his bare hands just to prove he can do it. The look on his face is not one of anger or rage, but instead of intoxicating joy. Gordon takes the opportunity to steal the neko-meme off the dead child’s head.'
The final act is now in motion, the trap is set, the hero will be tried, the hero tempted, and the vile one will taunt my ineptitude, he will be terrifying. The only thing left to see is will this be a Greek tragedy wherein I die alone and shamed, or a western adventure where a lone warrior overpowers an insurmountable force for honor and glory? I think I now already. To carry on now will require Asgard like selflessness.
'The vile one sees the poet take the cat ears and giggles madly, proclaiming that such childish things can do nothing to help him.'
Ragnarok has come, the time of man has passed, what was and what is will be no more, that cannot be changed. The transformation has done nothing to hinder the monster it seems, he still commands the darkness.
'The monster calls on his minions to slay the poet and solidify his claim on our realm. The poet draws his flashlight to frighten the darkness away, then makes his escape. Dark Force follows. As the two of them step outside a collapsed sun can be seen underfoot, and the monster is suddenly aware of the trap. The poet has opened the door to the cage that once held him and is now there in the cage once again, but the door is still open, one of them can leave, what Dark Force doesn’t understand is how. Dark Force is unaffected by the super-gravity of his dead planet, and part of the deal of entering Earth was that he needed to gift that power to another, so Meadows can withstand the force as well, at least momentarily. The cat ears in his grip have taken on the form of a tiny star in the poet's hands, the one thing that this world does not have. The minions of the dead world flee from the punishing light.'
Light, we take it for granted, no man can understand what it must mean to live in a world without light, but that is all Dark Force understands; to him light is a weapon, to use it is only light.
'The light protects the poet form all the evils of this world, and from Dark Force himself. It is also the key to his escape, as a shield the neko-meme is impenetrable. But the poet can now see he can not save himself and overcome his foe at the same time.'
'Unfortunately, Dark Force knows this as well, and so sends forth the blunt of his power. Waves of darkness topple into Meadows and bounces off the wall of light. Dark Force laughs at the poet, then turns to walk back into the human world, knowing well that the poet doesn't have what it takes to lock the door. After all, who brings a shield to a sword fight?'
And to be fair, Thomas wasn't wrong; I was afraid. Besides, I'm no soldier, I'm no Viking, I have no delusions about what “death” means.
'“You can't hope to stop me, poet. Your weapon can't protect you and vanquish me.” The poet looks to the cat ears, and understands that he is right of course.'
'The poet walks to the edge of the world and looks down into the sun, “But you see, I haven’t made up my mind yet,” and with that Gordon throws the light into the sun and it is reborn in a flash. In the moment that the protection fades, a school of evil light descends on the poet, crushing him.'
And that is how I die...
But now time for some disclosure.
Outside of a dozen forgotten, the only person I have ever harmed is myself. I did not betray Thomas Phear, or Angelo Katsith, they in fact helped me construct this bit of performances art. Angelo divined that the use of the word poet in my story had double meanings, and Tom pointed out that in eastern Europe and Asia the words writer, story teller, and actor often share a single noun. This understanding leads us to the consistence that poet and bard are one and the same, and so we need booth conquer our nemesis.
And so I was sent out into the darkness to make a deal with the dark force. I showed him the book, I offered it as a gift to him. He accepted it. I went back to the loft and took down the magic charms that protected us, then sat down at the computer to enact the last pages of the script. The dark force saw the theatrics and played his role. So long as the three of us did as the pages instructed, the dark force would leave our world.
Which meant Thomas, Katsith and myself needed to allow the darkness to calm us.
But then the unexpected happened: the dark force was sent back to sleep for another decade, but sent us back in time beforehand, Angelo back to school, Tom back to his home on the lake, and me back to my uncle's cabin.
Thomas was still hunted by the memory of the dark force and sleepwalking.
Angelo was still largely lonely in the school.
And me, I still had to write my next book.
We each were given a gift by Dark Force it seems. Angelo met a girl the day he was destined to meet the evil presence, someone just as lost as him. They could be lost together. Tom sleepwalked right into the mines and found some old cave-drawings; he told his story to the school and found some level of fame.
Me, I got off the drugs, cold turkey. I finished my book this time without the evil. But withdraw sickness still ran its course. My uncle will find me in the winter when he comes up here camping.
This leads me to my last thoughts. I never told you what Dark Force was.
Mostly because the answer wouldn't mean a thing to you, it simply has no merit on the story. But he did have a point to make. The greatest stories in the world aren’t the ones that go one forever, but are the ones that get retold every generation.
I have tried to imagine the timeline as Dark Force must have seen it. In my lifetime, he has lived as a timeless snake god only to be banished by a child spell-caster, and an ancient dream-eating phantom sealed in a church by a young girl that shared his power, and a withered emperor slain by his own black knight. A century before that he must have been at best locked in a tower, slain by a maddened kiss. Before that maybe he was a serpent, embattled by the old gods of Asgard and Greeks. I can only imagine where he will be next...