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Some people have inner children.
I have an inner demon.
Not of guilt, conscience, or even emotion - it is very real. Inside me. My name is Lorenzo Salvestri, and this is probably my last testament. It's hard to write like this, but I will try. So the world can know. Or, at least, anyone who can find this.
I have been given a key to the city. The pass through the skeleton's closet - I have opened Pandora's box, and trod in it. I have seen what could be seen and what couldn't. I never thought of myself as normal, or conformist. I never got along with others. I always knew I was different - but not like this. Bait for the fish. Meat for the grinder. Food for thought. Crossed paths. All these things sum up my life, and I have seen them twice over.
That's what he called me. Who's he? He is the little thought-leech in my mind, who clings tight and just won't go away. It's his job, he says, and somebody's got to do it. Lucky me. Like a sore that won't go away, or a fly that keeps buzzing in your ear, but so much more. He's in. One with me. Or trying to be. Through doors and walls, physical or otherwise. Before then, the only spirits I dealt with were the 90 proof kind.
This is my story. If you think I'm lying, a crock, or mentally unbalanced, read on.
It's going to be a wild ride. If you think I'm telling the truth - good.
Either way, I congratulate you on finding this. How, why, when and where, that's your thing. This is mine.
Better or worse, this is my story, and I'm keeping at it.
Pandora's box is officially opened for business.
There was a great noise in the sky, and from the ground, rose an answer.
From the skies came a tainted light, the first, but not the last. Like a fallen bird, it was cast into injury, but not death. As if pain was a renewing force, a breath of new life, a tainted light formed into dark. From will, came force, and from force, came presence. It willed itself into unlife.
Through ground and dirt, blood and bone, time and space, it ploughed into the very core, and into realms beyond, finally crashing into what would be later known as the Pit. The source of all evil. A demon's nest and a snake's haven. It looked around, gazing at utter darkness. In its mind's eye, it saw death. It saw evil. It saw hatred.
It saw potential.
Then came a sound so loud and tremendous that it shook heaven. It rattled creation above it, and two beings held each other close. Seven figures looked down silently.
Still as statues, they would wait - wait until the time was right.
The sound that shook them so was laughter.
That day was not unlike any other. Working at the firm. I was a lawyer then. Yes, defender of truth, justice, and the mighty dollar. Lorenzo Salvestri. Me. Six hours of court cases, child abuse, welfare trials and substance abuse. So far. Carl told me to rest then. Carl, who always hated me and pined after my job (among other things), offered some advice.
That was the first odd thing. Alongside my brain, my eyes were tired. Sifting through other people's lives left me little time to look after my own. I hailed Conway, my boss, and took my lunch break. I stepped out into the bright sun and, after a bit of walking, into Central Park. Found a good bench and sat on it. Next to me was an old man, with tanned skin, long white hair, clad in tattered clothing. He was sleeping, and mumbling to himself.
I took a bite of my sandwich and looked around thoughtfully. Kids putting around on their scooters. A couple jogging down the path. A man chasing after his dog. A yuppie, talking to his phone. A teen feeding a couple of pigeons some seed.
I checked my watch. 1:15 PM. May fourth, two thousand one. Plenty of time, I thought.
Taking a page from the old man's book, I leaned my head back and began to sleep.
That was when the second strange thing happened.
Ohio. Grandpa's farm. He then owned it, and my family and me used to visit every summer. The old man waved at me. I was a boy then. The tractor rumbled, and the sun shone brightly. I was dreaming a memory. He's almost thirty years dead now.
I've had the dream before, but it was never lucid.
I knew it was a dream. I walked toward him, smiling. It felt like eternity, walking through those cornfields. I used to wonder if they would go on forever. I clambered onto the tractor, and took a seat.
" 'Lo, grandpa." I panted.
" 'Lo, 'Enzo." he gave me a near toothless grin. He looked behind me "Beau'ful, ain't it?" I nodded. "One day, boy, it'll all be yours. If your pappy sees fit, that is." He smiled again. Turning my head, I saw the farm that I would never have. The IRS took it after he died. I said "Wow" over my shoulder anyway. Might as well play the part. Then, I heard a peculiar sound, that of glass breaking. Thought he cracked his glasses. He wasn't wearing any.
"Grandpa?" I looked at him. His body had frozen. Seized up. Utterly still. He had stopped blinking. Then I looked closer. It was not glass that had broken, but it was his very face. A fissure, no longer than a pencil's breadth, ran the length of his face, and branched out like a snowflake. His face was glass, and someone had taken a hammer to it.
I waved my hand in front of his face. Silent. I looked at the crack -- no blood, or any injury I could see. Ever so gently, I ran the length of the fissure with my finger. Cold, deathly cold. It felt as if though nothing was there. I decided then that since it was a lucid dream, it couldn't hurt me.
I jabbed my finger at it.
It shattered. He fell apart like glass, pieces of him broken off in serrated shapes, like a deformed jigsaw puzzle. My index finger was cut up from when I jabbed "grandpa" and was bleeding onto my arm. Suddenly, there was a booming crash, and the world around me began to fall apart. Everything cracked and disintegrated, from the ground to the very sun. I stood there in shock as they, along with me, fell into the void. A dream had turned into a nightmare.
I fell, down, down, down, screaming for anyone, anything, as I kept on falling... and falling. It was like nothing I had ever felt before - a never-ending sinking feeling, but in total blackness. Then, from the void, I heard a loud echoing voice, resounding in my ears.
The Gate of Storms has opened.
Then was a great light, so bright that it burned my eyes. I was sure they melted. I heard glass shatter. Then there was laughter.
I woke with a start. People gave me sideways looks and women rolled their eyes and edged their kids away from me. I heard "suicidal freak" and found that my sandwich was still there. A couple of pigeons cooed from above my head and flew off. Kids were still putting around on their scooters and the old man on the bench was still muttering. Weird, I thought. All a dream, and dream s can't hurt me. Grandpa told me that.
He was wrong.
My heart raced - had I gone over my lunch period? Was I late? Will I be fired? I pulled up my sleeve and checked my watch.
1:16 PM. May fourth, two thousand one. And on my sleeve, there was deep, red, blood.
I cleared my thoughts. Only a second had gone by, when my dream seemed to last for at least an hour. I need more sleep, I decided then. My eyes were red and carrying extra baggage. Only an hour and my day would be over - 2:00 was checkout time for me and my brain. At least I still had time to finish my sandwich, which I then took a huge bite of.
I spent the rest of the hour doing paperwork in my office, which was a welcome change to unpredictable dreams. I know now when my office looks like a good place to be, something's wrong. I carried on like a good slave and filled my outbox.
Ding. Timeout for me. Striding down the corridor, I saw that Carl and my other workers had left. Ingrates. Cutting schedule ahead of me. Mr. Conway would have their heads - but he, too, was nowhere to be found. The usually busy Conway-Smith firm was now a ghost building. I left anyway.
My old loafers hit pavement loudly as I walked down the street towards home. I admired the green trees; I still think they're the only natural things in the city.
I miss them.
Then, a shadow fell upon me. A shadow with wings. Pigeons? I nearly mistook it for a pigeon, until I realized it what it was: a cuckoo. It was gray, and landed, blocking my path. I raised my hand to shoo it away, but it looked at me, and froze. Then, it tossed its head back and began to sing a song I had not heard since I was ten years old. The...clock. My eyes met its own as I thought - it was a never-ending staring contest. I tried to hop over it, but, suddenly, its still body was eye level again. I tried to run around it, but the bird swivelled.
It had become rock solid, its feathers slowly turning to stone, as my eyes met its gaze again. I looked around at the people around me; they too were frozen in movement, and the land around me turned stone-gray. My mind panicked - was this another dream? No! Impossible...
The things and people around me frozen in place; spilled ice cream frozen mid-air, the spit couldn't touch the street, and people's steps were stuck in place like glue. The cuckoo resembled a stone statue, glazed over. Its gaze never left mine, and the song that it sung never stopped resounding.
I was frustrated. Annoyed. Confused. Exhausted.
"What do you want?" I said, throwing my arms in the air. "Is this some sick joke? Am I going insane?" I jabbed a finger at the cuckoo. "And what the hell are you?! You don't even belong to this continent! People here have only seen you... in.... clocks..." My knees stung as I stumbled to them. I thought of kicking it, breaking it, ripping it apart - then making a break for it.
Suddenly, its stony eyes began to glow, and the same booming voice I'd heard before resounded all around me again.
Quoth the voice: "Tua consilia omnia nobis clariora sunt quam lux."
The light burned brightly, and somehow, I knew what that meant: "All your plans are clearer that light to us." I'm still not sure what it was trying to say.
"Who is this?! Who are you?!" I shouted again. The light dimmed, and I was met with silence.
It's all in my head, I thought. Knows my plans, does it? I pedaled backwards, and kicked the stony bird with all my might - at least, tried to.
The bird somehow slid out of the way and I fell. Its eyes glowed again and my body froze, like the rest. I had only my thoughts to listen to - raging against my mind. The cuckoo perched and sat there, its eyes glowing like red sapphires but saying nothing.
Then, there was a great rumbling, and from the pavement formed a face. A gray one, with no real features, but the outline of one. Its tongue lolled out and its mouth resembled a black hole, and I was on the event horizon - the very rim. Everything around me was sucked up, with the exception of the cuckoo. And me.
The face was my own.
My "face" opened its mouth wide, and the entire sidewalk began to collapse into itself. I was helpless. I then realized that this was not a dog-eat-dog world, but a me-eating-everyone else world. Not what I was used to, but now it's not so strange.
I was literally sucked in by me, plunging into a deep, black, void. Before I fell in, the cuckoo simply back flipped in, even though it had no legs. Then I fell in. There was first extreme cold, then heat. I was wracked by emotion - happiness, sadness, elation, depression, scorn, adoration; all at the same time. Memories flooded in chronological order behind my eyelids, so I watched them upside down.
I saw everything from my birth (through my eyes), first dates, fights, family trips, root canals, bad movies, entire books, wrestling matches, dances, thermonuclear hangovers, stupid dares, best friends, worst enemies, old rivals, new acquaintances, dingy apartments, funerals, weddings, wakes, mom, dad, grandpa, bloody noses, ten years in a cubicle and everything I had ever wanted to remember or forget in my thirty or so years of life.
My thoughts began to break down into more and more abstract ideas as I
I knew this because:
Then I saw a plum deify a hamburger.
This was the time I was lost my mind. Like you haven't already. Oh, shut up. That's the voice in my head; albeit one of them. Don't listen.
I was in a state between falling and rising; not standing still, but just so I knew I was moving. I was walking on the sword blade between heaven and hell, but I wasn't falling from it, I was going through it and everything in between. It wasn't a stairway to heaven, more like a never-going-anywhere-in-reverse escalator.
Then my eyes began to burn again, and they opened. The sword blade I was talking about? It began to curve and warp, chip and serrate, to be worn with use. I know this, because I was holding it in my hand. Also, it was more like a vorpal sword blade - I blinked twice, and in my hand was the head of the Jabberwocky and some old man rushed me from behind. I raised the sword against him, but I blinked again and I left.
I blinked again, and I was underwater. And I was much smaller. The size of a house cat, say. Shape, too. And body. And mind. Plus, I was drowning, in a fish-bowl of all places. The memories of the cat told me that it had jumped in because it was hungry for the fish; I stopped thrashing about and hopped out of the bowl. There was a crying man with his back turned and his face in his hands. I leapt once again - out of the window. My eyes hurt from the bright light and the blinking.
The memories of the people (and animals) I had become were lodged in my mind, them just yet, I somehow knew they were there.
I opened my eyes to see that I was in the hands of a man.
Well, not me - just somebody's head. Actually, it was more like a skull. I got picked up and was spoken to as if I was alive (which I am) but then I blinked and was gone.
My eyes opened to see a younger crying man, talking to a fallen man on a ship. It was moving, powered by the same powerful wind that ever-so-slightly blew his hair to the side. The fallen man, who lay still, was dressed in a captain's regalia, and, I suppose, was dead. I also saw that land was not far off, and that people gathered on deck, waiting for them. Tears grew in my eyes, but were turned to steam as I blinked away.
I walked through the lives of a thousand people; fictional or otherwise. To my mind, it mattered not - as long as I thought they were there, they were there. I knew their memories, their thoughts, and their feelings. I knew their lives. This was not a dream anymore - this much I knew. And from their memories and thoughts, I experienced a life born again, a life ending, sorrow, happiness, and had been and gone to every conceivable place - earth or otherwise - hell, heaven, and purgatory - been there, done that.
Hot. Very hot. Fire, brimstone, the whole deal. I didn't get too far beyond Charon's boat; the gate of hell is made entirely of bone, which is stacked, restocked, and refilled every day by the thousands of lesser demons that live inside it. I found this out while poking around the gate.
face is unlike anything I've ever seen. In place of a neck, he has an arm, holding a skull. He stopped me with a single hand, saying in a tongue I did not know but understood:
Imagine a waiting room. Pitch white, full of chairs and people. Some were praying, and they were slowly fading away, as if leaving. Others were banging their faces against their chairs, but no one was sleeping. It was a never changing room; it was self-same. Every conceivable type of music was being played; but, at the brain numbing and
soul-rending kind: Elevator music. I left as quickly as I could.
Warm. Fun. Happy. I didn't see too much, though I know now that Heaven is what you make it. I know this because I spent my time there flying. Not in a plane. It is shapeless, formless, and in all ways, perfect. I wished I could’ve stayed longer, but I got pulled back.
Then, I turned my back on the doors, and kept on thinking, "There is one
"My name would be only be pronounceable to you if I removed your tongue," the man said with an icy air. "You may call me Bengus."
"I'm-" He narrowed his eyes. "I know who you are, Lorenzo Salvestri."
How does he know my name? I wondered.
"Oh, I know much more than that, O Lorenzo. I know why you are here. I know
"Get me out? I have lived a hundred lifetimes, seen the world; why would I want to leave?" I said.
"Fool," he said with narrowed eyes. He then resembled a snake, I thought. He still does.
"Those memories in your head? How many do you think you can handle? A
few more trips like that, and your mind would explode from the effort. It would fall like a pine would - loudly, but never to rise
again," Bengus continued.
"Once cut, pines never regrow," he said bluntly. Now I began to realize that all the things I had experienced were not without their catches. A want crept into my mind - get out, as fast as you can.
"First, why am I here? Where is
here?" my voice echoed around the blank room.
"Aah, but I do," said
Bengus. "Here is your mind. What you have done has not been done since the days of
Pandora," he said wistfully. I swore he said:
"No; Pandora simply believed in a false god. What she did was of her own mind. I can tell you right now that God and, ah, The Guy Downstairs are very, very real."
"Well, how do I know you're not 'of my own mind?' Considering I'm here? You don't..."
I answered with only silence.
"In fact, Lorenzo Salvestri, you are her descendant. Though your direct ancestors were the same people who overtook the Aztecs, your are of her blood as sure as are you of theirs. That explains your peculiarity. Pandora opened the box; no-one gave it to her, she imagined it, created it with her own mind. That box was her Gate of Storms."
"Her Gate of Storms. Let me explain: every person has the Gate of Storms within them; in all of humanity's history, only you and Pandora have been able to open their own. The Gate controls the limits of the human mind and soul; what can go in, and what can go out. The Storm's part is what it keeps out. Mind storms, and the like, you see?"
"Like a muffler."
"Right. Everyone except you two hasn't noticed it, much less make it come into form. Pandora opened hers not knowing what would happen, and thus, from her mind, came all the evil the myth talks about. But, what she liked most - hope - stayed with her. You are Pandora's Twice Born. Her descendant-twin. You even look something alike.
"And what I liked most.... were...?"
"Your Grandfather. The cuckoo. Both of these things remind you of something that you both loved and hated. Search your mind."
I sifted through the multitude of memories I had attained, and found my own. I loved my grandfather, and I hated the cuckoo. The cuckoo, in fact, had caused his death; he had never heard its song before, and when he did...he died. Heart attack, they told us, but I still doubt that. Bengus had a cogitative smile on his face; I knew he was poking in my mind.
"The only way for you to leave, is to open the Gate of Storms. Again."
"It was opened once in your dream. When you entered, it closed behind you. For you to leave, it needs to be opened again."
"Shinrai ni atai suru hito inai," I said. What did I just say?
"You see? The memories are getting to you."
I remembered: I took the form of a samurai in Oda Nobunaga's time; it means "There is no one I can trust."
I returned with: "Pero...Yo no hablo japon..." I clapped my hand over my mouth.
"I see you have visited your ancestors." My parents spoke Spanish rarely, and I never picked up on it. Now I had a command of the language. Great. Memories were trickling out of my head like water. What I said was:
"But, I don't speak Japanese..."
"Concentrate. Think of your grandfather and the cuckoo. Think." He almost hissed, but caught himself. I can hear his cursing now.
Grandfather....cuckoo...what does a grandfather remind me of? A tower; he was
always taller than me. And what does a cuckoo remind me of? A clock.
"Yes. Everyone has one. Now, it is time for you to handle your own."
The tower rattled and shook, its unwieldy structure shaking back and forth, swaying uncertainly.
Before it fell, the cuckoo popped out of its door, and there stood a giant cuckoo. The bird was ripped open, like a suit, and from it my grandfather stepped out, dressed as he lived.
I couldn't hear him. I yelled with all my might, "YOU ARE GONE." And the Tower fell, grandfather and all. Bengus stepped out of the way as the mighty tower collapsed to the ground, and exploded. I was unhurted. I was jubilant. I was happy. I was exalted. I was a fool. I felt like something had knocked me in the back of my head, and I woke up, free of this place and of the Gate.
Then, I heard a voice in the back of my head: "I am FREE. Fool. Do you know they used to call me? Der Täuscher. The Deceiver. Now, the only bastion protecting you and the rest of humanity from me is gone. I followed you out of Hell and have been since you woke up from your dream. Bengus thanks you, human, for your body, and your mind, are both mine."
I woke up, sitting in a subway station bench. The station was empty, and dark. I checked my watch. May seventeenth, two thousand one. Had I been gone for thirteen days? How did I get here? And....why am I so old? My skin had turned dry, wrinkly, and disfigured. My bones were brittle and I had shrunk a foot in height. My clothes hang loose around my now smaller body. I am half-blind and almost deaf, and I can barely move. My mind was and is a treasure of memories, fictional and truthful, but my body suffered while it prospered. It matters not to Bengus, though. All he needed was a vessel, and he got me. He'll use me to get to others. He is a demon, after all. In less than a week, I had aged fifty years.
Which is why I'm writing this. He used me to gather all the lives of the people I visited, so he would know who, where, and how to find them. I was tricked so that while I experienced the past, he would be able to learn from
it. I visited Heaven for the sole reason so "Der Täuscher" would be able to visit there. He tells me he has not been there for quite some time. This is why I am writing this. So the world can know. So that anyone can know. I write this with the last ounce of strength and control I have left. I exist only in the back of my mind, and writing this has been a strain on mind and body. Be watchful, O reader, for Bengus walks about. Keep wary of the Gate of Storms, because the last son of Pandora has been destroyed
for it. Me.
-Bengus, Der Täuscher
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