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What is this darkness? Unnatural. So dark. I think my eyes are opened. Aren’t they? So many questions. No answers. Seems there is no hope.


Where am I? Senses are coming back slowly. Not my sight. Not at first. This place, darker than ever. Blacker than ever. Am I blind?


This is deeper than darkness. Even deeper than blindness. This has no depth, no sound, no feeling. This is compressed. Absent of everything.


Things now appear. Slivers of light; colors, shapes. Like waking, I can see. But instead of waking up from a nightmare, I wake up into one.


The first stream of light hurts. Terrible pain. I turn to my left to avoid its intensity. That is when the nightmare truly begins to unfold.


A woman’s body beside me. Not moving. Maybe she cannot move. We’re in a car. She was the driver. Her body, mangled in places. The Nightmare.


She’s gripping the wheel, trying to keep control even in death. Poor woman. But I recognize her. She is my mother. At least she was.


I’m her only son. Was. Not sure if I’m sad seeing mother dead more than I’d be sad to see anything dead. But this feels worse than imagined.


Cannot breathe. Choked by the smell of charred flesh; smoke. I never imagined what Death smelled like. This must be it. I start moving.


Body in pain. Intense. Left arm flails aimlessly. Useless. The right one is determined. Feeling for something. The door. Its handle. Pull!


I’ve fallen to the ground. Air is no relief. Reeling. The smell carries petrol now. Impure. Too sunny yet I am cold. I turn to see the car.


The car itself colorless. Scraped and turning to ash from the flames glowing inside it. I can see mother’s face. A twisted, satisfied smile.


Nightmare. I’m wondering if mother died right away or if it was prolonged. How did this happen? And how did I survive?


I look up. A highway above. Railing broken right at the bend, stretched from where a car would’ve crashed through. This is how I got here.


I have to return to that highway. Where we fell. I’ll find evidence. Answers. Something important. Everything smells dead. The Nightmare.


Walking painfully. One foot in front of the other. Walking. Ahead, the on-ramp of the highway. Behind me, a burning car. And my dead mother.


Cars ahead. Lined up on the highway ramp. All stopped. Everything’s stopped. A constant humming from the car engines. They’re still running.


Walking. Closer. Why are all these cars stopped? I climb the on-ramp for a better look. Walking past cars. Paying attention to nothing.


At the top. The highway. A trail of cars stretching out. Engines running. Small clumps of them crashed into one another. Nothing is moving.


Eyes burning. Only now accustomed to my pain. Ignoring it. Miles ahead on the highway, stopped cars. Miles into forever. In both directions.


What of the drivers? Passengers? This sea of cars. I am looking into their windows. The sound is driving me mad. Revving. Churning. Stopped.


Frantically running now. From one car to the next. Peering into each window for answers. The Nightmare. My eyes burn with what I find.


What I find affirms there is no god watching over us. What I find makes me sick with demented surprise and furious desperation. I find…


Everyone is dead. Every driver. Every passenger. Everyone. Dead. Miles stretching out into the horizon. Death has trampled across each one.


Fallen to the ground, breathing gas fumes. Cursing the world. What happened here? Why am I the only one left? All these people dead. But me.


This sea of cars carrying the dead. Idling. A massive, dead sea. Behind me, the bent and broken railing where the car I was in fell from.


Here a father driving. His son in the back seat. Both slumped over. No one saved them. Here a school bus. How many children; how many dead?


I look up. The sun is bright. Blinding. Not a cloud in the sky. Maybe one. But I can’t look at it. Too bright. Everything goes colorless.


…How long was I passed out? Minutes. Not longer. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I slept long enough to pass through The Nightmare. Maybe not…


I stand. Alone among a sea of cars into the horizon. Both directions. An endless sea of death. Staggering. Desperate. What of the car below?


Below, the car I was in. Flames. Broken windshield. The crash seems less dramatic from here. But the woman inside looks less human.


The highway looks like strips of crumpled cars filled with the dead. Is there any suffering like that of being the only one left among them?


Flames crackling wildly below. The car I emerged from bursts into flames. It is not grand.  Not dramatic or loud. Mother is gone for good.


How did I get here? How did it come to this? I could not be the only survivor. I do not deserve to be. I’ve nothing to offer the world.


Helplessness overcomes me. The Nightmare. I am not worthy of breath. Not worthy of life. I have nothing to offer. And I never have.


I’ve always been outcasted. Pain and suffering are not new to me. None of this is new. Neither is being alone. Everyone leaves. Always have.


Mother didn’t love me. Didn’t want a child. Having me only kept father near. She had nothing else. Did he love her? Or even like me?


The sound of the engines getting louder. Violent, heavy engines. Running to nowhere. Still cars. Dead ones. The sun is too bright. It burns.


Where shall I go? What is to happen next? I wander aimlessly between these cars. I am sick. Saddened. Helpless, like I was when father left.


Mother never forgave; they fought. She accused father of seeing another. I was too young. Never found out the truth. I begged him to stay.


There is one cloud in the sky. One. It has nerve to stand defiantly against an unblemished sky. Alone. I wonder if it too cries for another?


Father left; mother had no one so I was trapped. Though young, I longed for a girl who loved me. But mother despised even the idea of her.


Solomon Lily. The color of sunlight. Her hair and skin were its rays. Her eyes were pools of ice that never melted. Serene. Familiar.


We loved secretly. We loved nonetheless. Once, mother found us and tried strangling Solomon Lily with her bare hands. Almost did. Almost.


Solomon Lily left. Promised she’d return. Whispered into my ear. Haven’t seen her since. Mother either till today; I’ll never see her again.


I am aimless. One solitary cloud. Do I have all my memories? Solomon Lily is gone. Father too. Mother is dead. So is everyone else. But me.


There’s nothing I could do to get used to this scene. Nothing anyone could do. A horrific thing transpired when it seems no one was looking.


Staring into the window of a car with a family inside. A boy. Four or five years old. He is holding a toy gently. What was his last thought?


Suddenly, a voice: “I’m sure he thought everything was perfect. Maybe he thought of living forever. But what is forever?” I know that voice!


I can’t move. Instead, I see a reflection behind me in the car window. A woman. She is the color of sunlight. Solomon Lily stands before me!


She kept her promise. A tear escapes my eye. I hide it. Slowly I crane my neck to see her. I look down, first see her feet. Delicate. Firm.


I am no longer alone. I shall never again be alone. Never. But what is this at her feet? Something is not right. Sweeping feathers. Wings?


I stagger… I shield my eyes from the unrelenting sun to see. There is an angel before me! Heavenly. Floating. Bright. Is this her, truly?


“Of course it’s me. Solomon Lily.” She speaks without moving her lips much. “I came for you, specifically.” My dream come true. My angel.


She is remarkable! Solomon Lily. Wings arch toward the sky then drape readily at her sides. Whitish gold like the sun. My angel. I am saved.


Approaching without touching the ground. A hovering sculpture. Alive like me. Unlike anyone else. I finally see the incarnation of beauty.


“You need a moment?” Solomon Lily asks. My angel asks with a sense of humor. What are these wings? She’s changed! I stagger from the sight.


Standing in the grand shadow of an angel. The shadow of an immortalized goddess. And I feel more at home than ever. Even amongst these dead.


Towering above me, I now realize she answered my unasked question about that boy in the car. I didn’t speak it. I thought it. She answered.


“This scares you?” she says. It does, but I don’t admit it. “I’d be scared too, but I wouldn’t know. After all, this is my gift.” What gift?


Pink rims of her eyelids cradle intense pools of ice. Just as I recall. Curls of hair. Blonder than blonde. I trust her. Now about her gift-


“There are few of us left,” she says. “And we are bestowed powers. We’ve been reborn in a way. We’re the saviors this time. It’s our gift.”


I look into her eyes. I can’t turn away. Inches from my face. Solomon Lily might float within me and I would let her. My love for her soars.


Solomon Lily leans in. Suddenly, a gust of wind carries me off the ground. Her wings. We are climbing the sky. To the heavens. In her arms.


Deafening wind. She speaks: “We’re the only ones who can fix this. But there’s only one way to do it. You have to trust me.” I do. “I know.”


Through the unbearable wind I can hear and breathe perfectly. I trust her. Yes. Solomon Lily. She is my angel and I know I love her. Again.


We rise higher. From here I could see the entirety of the great car wreck that seems to have stopped the world. It’s worse than I thought.


We could do nothing but watch. Unscathed by the carnage. Above it all, literally and actually. Yet neither of us could save a single soul.


“Perhaps not. But we could save others,” Solomon Lily says. I could hear her voice so clearly. I didn’t speak. Could she hear my thoughts?


She’s having a conversation with my thoughts. Solomon Lily is reading my mind. My thoughts are hers to hear. She is majestic. And I am hers.


“Death stopped here. We can save the rest. There are others like us who’ll help.” Who are we? What do we matter? “We’re heroes. We’re gods.”


We glide further away from the highway, yet near enough to feel its sadness. She soon hovers a foot off the ground and I land onto my knees.


Who are the others like us? “They’re not many. Only few. Strong. I can feel them near. The survivors. We who have changed. We’re gods now.”


“We’re going to them now,” she says. “Each of them possesses something we’ll need to go against whoever did this and stop them. With you.”


Solomon Lily smiles. I feel like everything is all right. But everything is quite far from all right. Everything is bizarre. Absurd. Wrong.


What of that car wreck I emerged from unscathed? The Nightmare. It changed this world! So many dead. My mother. What of it?


“Do you believe in good vs evil?” Solomon Lily says assertively yet softly as she looks into the horizon. “Do you believe good always wins?”


Right now I think evil has a better chance at defeating good more than ever. What the hell happened? “Hell is only the beginning of it,” she says.


How did you become this… how did you… “I don’t know,” she replies. “I woke a few days ago like this. I could immediately sense The Others.”


And so Solomon Lily embarked on finding these others. Indeed they are out there ready to unite in an attempt to save the rest of the living.


Then there is me. Don’t know how I fit into all this. Don’t know if these “others” even exist. Nothing feels right. But it is reality now.


Solomon Lily could feel the pulse of everything around her. That’s how she puts it: The Pulse. I can barely feel my own pulse. What’s wrong?


Once mother said I wouldn’t be able to live without her. But here I am now. Yet I’m like anyone else, slowly dying. Maybe she was right.


Mother shouted at my father. Violent. Nothing could appease her. Wanted him gone yet couldn’t live without him. Once even tried to kill him.


Father was scorned. Hurt. Limped. Walked differently from then on. He swore he’d never return. So did mother. Today she changed that, right?


Solomon Lily kept her promise to return. Mother broke hers. Now we’re going to others who’ve survived. We’ll be together. Solomon Lily and I.


Hovering near a jagged rock, Solomon Lily points into the distance. A cave. “There. The others are there.” A pause. “And Evil is not far.”


I walk. Solomon Lily floats beside me. Side by side. Her feet do not touch the ground. Mine are like heavy bricks. I walk, though I falter.


I stare at her bare feet dangling gently a few inches above the ground. There is a slight breeze coming from off her wings. I am entranced.


Solomon Lily smiles at me. Lips stretch. They’re full, comforting. I have to get accustomed to her ability to read my mind.


My angel comforts me. This living statue. Solomon Lily is leading me to our saviors. “No,” she says. “You are the savior. We only follow.”


She has me focus on the small area ahead, shaped like a cave. “We’ll go there.” And within moments, we arrive, approaching its dark opening.


First steps resemble an actual cave. Then things change. Stairs leading down, warm lights, music playing. It’s like entering someone’s home.


I hear classical music climbing to greet me. I don’t know symphonies but I know this one. I know it! But from where? I freeze in my steps.


I recall growing up we didn’t listen to music in the house. Only father did when he was alone. He would disappear to be with his music. Privately.


I used to creep up on father so I could listen to his music as if I were listening in on his secrets. It made me feel more connected to him.


I always wanted father to catch me watching from afar. I imagined he would invite me into his room and let me be around him. Just tof us.


Haydn’s Farewell Symphony was his favorite. Never knew why. Maybe I had an untrained ear. Maybe I just needed father to explain it to me.


Something about it inspired father. At the end of that symphony, Haydn had each musician walk off as the rest finished. Until two were left.


As I got a bit older I started to relate to Haydn’s Farewell Symphony. One by one, everyone left me too. Except Solomon Lily. She returned.


Haydn’s Farewell Symphony now as I descend the stairs. Before me, warm light growing. Solomon Lily behind me. Perhaps she has always been?


“Keep going,” she encourages me. So I do. Even if I felt I was walking into my own demise I would not stop unless Solomon Lily says so.


I notice her silky wings are like blankets of dim lights folded behind her back. Solomon Lily glides as if riding the air, even down here.


Downstairs. A living room. Music playing softly. It looks like a library. Books along the far wall. Some furniture. Four people are here.


I could almost feel them prior to entering. The Others. Solomon Lily urges me forward. Difficult to take another step. Such a small space.


A hulking man fills half the room in the back; a smallish one beside him. “The Twins: Box & Steel,” she says, replying to my thoughts again.


Seated on the sofa in front, a thin young man. Smoking. Soft stubble covers his face. He’s cross-legged. He seems angry. “That’s Severin.”


Suddenly, the fourth person disappears from behind the sofa quickly. Mysteriously. I want to flee. “Nero; she’s somewhat apprehensive.”


These are The Others. Together we are supposed to unite in attempt to save the rest of the living. We are the heroes. We are the gods now.


Severin says, “Shouldn’t we introduce ourselves?” “He already knows you,” Solomon Lily commands them. “I don’t,” she says to me. “You do.”


Cryptic messages. Unfinished thoughts. One statuesque angel and four silent figures. I am commanding them? Who am I in this world? No one.


Solomon Lily enters the space between them and me. Arms outstretched, head held high. She radiates light. Fills the room. I shield my eyes.


It is strangely clear: I am to trust her; to unite with this group. It is meant to happen through her. And I am to lead them. But how?


“Box has brute force; Steel is small but can’t be broken,” Solomon Lily breaks the silence. “Together they are nearly unstoppable. Nearly.”


She continues: “Severin is a psychokinetic shape-shifter. He can move things. Only living ones; not objects. Then he can take their shape.”


And Nero? “No one knows what Nero can do,” Solomon Lily says. “But she survived and she is here. We’ll see soon. I can feel The Pulse in her.”


“You know we’re dying, right?” says Severin to me. “Enough!” Solomon interrupts. “He needn’t be concerned. He must only help us find Him.”


He is evil. He has no soul. He is what is killing everyone. He is what they call The Seether. And I have to help them find Him and end this.


How am I to lead this small group to rid the world of this evil? How am I expected to be the solution to everything? I have not earned this.


Haydn’s Farewell Symphony still playing. Been going the whole time. Longest moments I’ve ever felt. Reeling from it all. I am not ready.


The room feels smaller. Eyes forced to see. Mind trying to recover, still not believing. We’re in a battle of good vs evil? I’m not ready.


A chair in the corner. I sit. Almost fall. From here, I can see I missed something before: a small hole dug into the far corner of the room.


The Others stand around me, watch me faint. No one notices a shadow behind them. No one but shy, quiet Nero who screams, “That was Him!”


Suddenly, movement. All jump to attention. Box is mashing one fist into another growing stronger, bulkier than before. Incredibly monstrous.


Steel lifted by Severin; thrust forward. Nero is behind Solomon Lily who covers half the room with her spread wings. They act as a team.


There is nothing I can do. A feeling of powerlessness. Then I imagine that small opening collapsing. As soon as Steel is thrown in, it does.


The room goes silent; the small opening has become a pile of rubble. Steel is trapped in. Shrill cry from Box as he pounds his way through.


The swiftness one brother moves for another has me wondering if anyone would do that for me. This team is synergized. Together. One.


Box disappears into the mess. Returns with Steel. He survives. Solomon Lily is right: he couldn’t be broken. Is Box crying? I can’t be sure.


“What Box has in size,” Solomon Lily turns and says, “he lacks in maturity. He is a child inside. Deadly strong, but he’s a child.”


Steel screams: “Did you see? We’ve been looking for The Seether for so long and the moment this kid comes, evil appears! This is wrong!”


“No,” Solomon Lily says. “Quite the contrary. This is exactly right. Don’t you see how The Seether has eluded us? Now he’s here. Finally.”


I am the missing piece to this puzzle. I am to command them and put a stop to this evil. Apparently, I am the answer. Yes, I who am nothing.


I notice in his fury, Box opened a hole for us. We have a way to find The Seether. “Say it,” Solomon Lily says. “They will listen to you.”


I say it. Quietly. They listen. Box is easiest to persuade. The others take a moment. Here we are, moving rocks and stepping into the cave.


The path is long. Cold. Box is first, making room. We follow. I am behind Solomon Lily. She lights the way from here. I am a part of them.


We travel for what seems like miles. Sometimes hunched other times upright. Heart beats heavily in my chest. I wonder if they’re scared too.


Mother used to say I was the reason for her sadness. I was the reason father left. One day, Haydn’s Farewell Symphony no longer played.


One night, father slipped away. He took nothing with him. I looked at his empty room for hours on end, hoping I could make him reappear. I couldn’t.


If I played his music, would I get him back? No. It never worked. I sat in his chair, waiting. Praying. And one day I stopped doing it all.


Haydn’s Farewell Symphony is far behind us. There seems to be nothing ahead. Nothing but cold and dark. Solomon Lily moves to light it up.


Here’s a small opening. Enough for this group to stand gathered. Each of us is exhausted from digging, pushing, moving along this whole way.


They have an insatiable hunger to find this man. I do not have it. I am not even sure why I am here. What am I doing? No one can explain.


Solomon Lily stands beside me. We have a few quiet moments together. I want to ask her why she came back. I want to know if she loves me.


I’m not sure what to do. Not sure of anything. “Trust me,” Solomon Lily says. “This is your path. You are meant to do this. I am with you.”


Something about her makes me accept everything. Should I be grieving for the dead above? My mother? My lost love for you? “Don’t say it.”


Why is it so difficult for Solomon Lily to talk about love? My love. It is supposed to be OUR love. What is this denial? This avoidance?


“Love is futile,” she explains. “And love can only make us suffer. Especially here. Especially now. There is no time for us, you know.”


I never wanted to love. Never wanted to feel a part of something. Better that way. But now she has returned and I can’t feel anything else.


I never once longed to be held. Until today. Even now when she cannot hold me. I still want her touch more than anything in the world.


Her soft hand reaches my face. I feel as if she is drawing a tear from my eye. I didn’t let it slip. She is taking it. Pulling it out. Hers.


“This is what can create an entire world,” she says as she holds my tear on her fingertip. “Yet it is what shall destroy mine undeniably.”


Why doesn’t she take me away and leave all this behind? Why don’t we flee and be together? We can love each other forever; never look back.


“We’re not meant for cowardice.” Solomon Lily’s eyes are like mirrors. Reflections of myself. I suddenly know what I feel cannot come true.


Why is it that what I want has no bearing on what shall happen? “But it does,” she says cryptically. “It always has. And you will see.”


Nothing makes sense. Nothing of what I feel and nothing of what she says. All I know is that I’m trapped. And we’re all going to die. Right?


“It is your chance to change the way things are going. It is up to you to reflect Truth into this madness.” Solomon Lily is very convincing.


How do I know this is going to work when I don’t even know what it is I am supposed to do? And Solomon Lily has yet to answer my question.


We’re all going to die, right? Solomon Lily doesn’t answer. Instead she says, “If you listen to others, you’ll be answering to them forever.”


Solomon Lily knows a thing or two about answering to others. She had to leave her parents when disaster struck. And it struck. Hard.


Before she turned 17, Solomon Lily ran out of her parents’ apartment during one of their fights. An hour later the building had burned down.


Solomon Lily’s parents died in that fire. They were found in the main room. Where she left them. What happened, no one knows but them.


That’s when we met. Solomon Lily felt somewhat familiar. We connected instantly. Spoke about life. Abandonment. Even her parents’ death.


One shouldn’t question some things. Finding out who started that fire is among them. I believed in Solomon Lily’s Truth. Unwaveringly so.


People accused her of starting that fire. Walking away from it. From them. I wouldn’t blame her if she did. But she did not. And I know it.


In many ways Solomon Lily and I are the same. But she is brave. Continuing in spite of her fear makes her so. I don’t. I’m not brave.


In many ways I wish I were more like her. No one would even consider the idea of me starting a fire. No one would think I was strong enough.


Solomon Lily never had to convince me of her innocence. I knew it. I have always known it. She is my savior from this world. My angel.


Now we’re facing certain death. Together. I’m not sure anyone can be saved. Especially me. But I’m here. What we’ll do is beyond me. And us.


“Yet it’s us who are beyond all of them.” Her voice rings. Church bells singing. My ears soak up every note. Every syllable. Singing for me.


“Do you hear that?” Solomon Lily says. “Church bells. I know how you love them.” She’s right. They sound like her voice but more distant.


A scuffle at the front of the group. I don’t have a chance to tell her what I want. No time to ask. Not a chance to feel more of her touch.


Severin comes running. “Someone’s gotta do something! We found him!” Cigarette dangling. Arms glowing. What has he done? What has he done?


Nero tells us: Severin sees The Seether first. Reaches his hands out. Glowing. Someone screams. Severin tried his best. Part of him changes.


The Seether has an experiment. A woman tied to machines. Severin tries his best. Tries to move her out. Save her. Doesn’t work. She dies.


Solomon Lily controls her rage. Not for Severin’s overzealousness. Not for The Seether. For a world where such evil can reign effortlessly.


Now we are standing as one. The Others. Once outsiders. Once unaccepted. Discarded. Now we are the saviors. We are the gods. Together. One.


Steel standing solidly. Unbreakable. Box is gargantuan now. Severin smoking, arms glowing. Solomon Lily moves. Nero grabs me. All waiting.


A thunderous clap from above. Reverberating through the walls. The ground. Even my bones. It feels like moments before the end of the world.


I start to move. They follow. Solomon Lily was right: they follow. I climb to see what Severin saw. What experiment The Seether created…


The ground is cold. Moist. It is a slight climb up. Fingers gripping, feet digging. Climbing to see. Find out. Make the first move. Perhaps.


I see the room is enormous. A factory? Airplane hanger perhaps? It’s cold. Deafening. Filled with cages of chicken wire. Rusting. Freakish.


I am shocked with what I see. From fear. These mechanisms of death. Mangled wire. Torturous. I can still imagine the screams of that woman.


Something happens that has never happened before. I hear a voice in my head. An angel. Solomon Lily. Urging me forward. Nothing stops me.


There is no thought between my last step on that dirt ground and the first one close to The Seether. He notices me before I can do anything.


“Welcome dear friend. Or should I say, Welcome to a part of me,” The Seether says. When he speaks, his mouth is twisted into a kind of smile.


I cannot believe how incredibly thin he is. I expected someone more physically threatening. What I see in The Seether is more frightening.


The Seether reaches down to shove the limp body of that woman away from him. His experiment. “Don’t worry. She meant nothing to me.”


I’m most frightened by his casual demeanor amidst all this death. I don’t move toward him. Where are The Others? Behind me, naturally.


We’re a team even if we die at each other’s side. I’ve never felt so desperate in my life. I want to flee and leave it behind me. Behind us.


Our lineup, legendary. Our struggle, timeless. Box, Steel, Severin, Nero, Solomon Lily and of course me. A landscape of heroes. We who are gods now.


The Seether makes a move toward us. We seem ready. As much as we can. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I don’t want to fight you. I’ve already won.”


A confusion among us. As if not knowing where we are. Not imagining we’d ever be here. Light shared with darkness. Life confronting Death.


The Seether looks at some traps made of rusty wire but his lips twist at something else we haven’t seen: six graves freshly dug beside him.


“We’re all going to die right here.” Severin says aloud. I look at no one but The Seether, knowing full well what Severin just said is true.


“Who is first?” The Seether shouts lyrically. There is a frightening confidence in his voice. His persona. He truly is grander than us all.


I am no one. Never amounted to anything worthy of heroism. Nothing close to strength. Discarded long ago. Why are we here? Why me? Why now?


Suddenly it grows darker than before. Solomon Lily comes close. Even her Light cannot defeat the Dark. Still, she is here. Her hand on me.


“You think I’m the evil one,” The Seether says to me directly. “You really fancy yourself as knowing it all. Don’t you? Well, you’re wrong.”


“Humanity is killing itself if you haven’t noticed.” The Seether continues. “I’m just speeding up the process.” He laughs. Gets darker now.


Not sure what it is but there is something in this room. A feeling of interconnectedness with everything. Swirling fear. Growing intensity.


The Seether touches the wire traps with his long fingers. “My first act was that car wreck above. The parking lot. Really quite ironic.”


“Now,” he continues, “I want to see how far people will go for themselves. They destroy everything they touch but how far will they go?”


He slowly opens one of the wire traps. It can fit a small person. “Small yes. Enoughfor a child,” he says cynically. “The poor things.”


The trap slams shut. “What if I told you I don’t think a man would stop at trying to kill me, even if his own child was in the way?”


He is too cynical. Frighteningly so. I want to try taking him on. Run at him and see if I could fight him one on one. Maybe that is my plan.


Solomon Lily advises otherwise. “That would be wrong,” she says into my ear. Her breath grazes my skin like an afternoon breeze. A wish.


I could feel the energy of the others behind me pulsating, passing through the room. Rushing into me and out of me. Growing. Yes, seething.


He does this. The Seether. He makes energy fester and boil. You see red, do things you wish you hadn’t. Perhaps even want to kill. Seething.


“This is classic battle of good vs evil,” The Seether says. “But you know that neither is what they seem. Ours goes a little further.”


The Seether laughs maniacally before he continues. “Listen here! What you are fighting might very well be yourself. That is a true evil.”


He keeps looking at his rusty wire traps. What does he plan to do? “He is going to place children in them.” Solomon Lily says. Children??


“Yes, I plan to encase children in them,” The Seether says. “All their children. I’ll dangle them before me as a test of men’s desperation!”


“How far will they go to see me dead?” he says. “Their anger blinds them. They know nothing outside themselves. And serve no other purpose.”


The Seether’s intentions are more a lesson to the world. He admits he’s not the first one to do this. But he is happening right now. It’s his turn.


When Solomon Lily first left, I wondered how much mother hated her. She drove her out, forced my solitude. I had no one. And no one to love.


Those days were bleak. Nights were even worse. Mother told me she was all I had in the world. It was a nightmare. One I couldn’t wake from.


Mother spoke of things that made me question sanity. Hers, specifically. Her fear. Who Solomon Lily was in her mind–so far from the truth.


Nothing prepared me for my loneliness. Nothing prepared me for betrayal and heartbreak. Everything that happened could have been avoided.


No one had to leave me. But everyone chose to. I said only Solomon Lily returned. I was mistaken. Mother did too. It was earlier today…


Mother appeared before me like a ghost. Pale but excited by hope. “Your father,” she muttered. “He wants to return. He wants to see you.”


I followed her every syllable. Every hope that it ignited. Nothing could stop me from seeing him again. Listen to music together. Finally.


I went with her. I can’t recall more. We got into a small car I never saw before. She drove. I sat. I followed. Anything I could do for him.


Muttering. Mother wanted the world for me. She wanted me for her world. Father didn’t want either. She was lying. He wanted me. Didn’t he?


“If not for me, you’d be nothing,” mother said then. “You’d have nothing. No one. You think it’s so bad? You owe me.” And the car sped off.


My eyes focus before me now: The Seether stands with arms at his sides. Head held high. He is unusually intimidating. I see my own fear.


“If not for me, you’d be nothing! You and your outcast friends owe me,” The Seether says. It’s too eerily familiar. Just like mother’s words.


How long ago did mother say that? How long was it that I saw her; heard her? Today or days ago? Maybe a lifetime? I am at a loss.


“Do you hear me?” The Seether’s voice shouts into my head. “If not for me, you’d be nothing. Good against evil. Me against you, simply.”


“No reason for saviors,” The Seether continues. “No reason for gods. I bring balance to this sordid and unjust world. I bring you.”


“The villain,” he says to me, “is the one who does nothing. Moves sideways. Not forward or back. The villain here is you. Aren’t I right?”


My fists clench but it’s Box’s fists that I can hear crushing, crunching, waiting to jump onto The Seether. I raise my head. Who goes first?


No one moves. Not a single step has been taken toward me or The Seether. It’s like looking at a chess board. Minus the checkered floor.


The Seether disappears into the darkness. Moves into shadows. We jump to find him, ready to strike. Solomon Lily’s wings, alight. He’s there!


The floor rumbles. No one knows what’s happening here. Everything moves too fast. Just like the morning I got in the car with mother. Today?


The car engine rattled. I rolled up my sleeves. Sweating. Profusely. I didn’t trust mother or her actions. The car sped faster.


Mother’s intentions were unclear. During that car ride, I felt as if I reverted back to my youth. Worthless. Not needed. Desired by no one.


In and out of memory and the present. The Seether is in the distance destroying the ground we stand on. Mother is in my mind destroying me.


He shouts for me to hear: “I’m asking you to realize what worth is. Stop sniveling about like a sycophant. Your design is your demise!”


“The world is changing!” his voice climbs over the breaking ground and walls. “If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing!”


“I want you to try stopping me!” The Seether shouts louder than the destruction he’s causing. “Do something. And not wait for it to happen.”


The Seether is willing to destroy himself to make this point, believing he is only one insignificant thing sacrificed for something grander.


That must be true freedom. I do not have such convictions. No such beliefs. Not sure what I believe in. Does that make me the evil one?


A Legend is one that is remembered. Not the safe one or the quiet one. A Legend stands for what he believes in. And does so out loud.


A cloud of smoke rises from beneath the ground. We cannot see each other. Solomon Lily takes flight. She is a beacon of light above us.


Box crushes his way through wire traps. Steel follows him, making it to The Seether. Severin is looking for a clear grasp at the villain.


Each thinks they can overcome this evil. They think they might actually win. All but one: Nero. She has not moved. Yet she is not scared.


The Seether has moved aside where no one reaches. The wire cages are destroyed. He was going to use them. We stopped it yet he eludes us.


“We’re like a child’s lost balloon,” says The Seether. “Some see the child’s loss, some see the balloon’s freedom. See freedom with me.”


I don’t recognize this kind of confusion. This kind of duality. Part of me is infuriated by him. The rest wants to agree. To be right.


I start walking toward him. I cross the path of good vs evil. Further from Solomon Lily and the others. Closer to The Seether. Not sure why.


Solomon Lily calls out to me: “Stop! This is all for you. You created all this! We’re each a part of you.” I turn to her not understanding.


“Do you know why Haydn had each musician leave one by one?” The Seether shouts. “To make a statement.” Suddenly, a shriek. More destruction.


Steel withers to a ball. In pain. Falls into the cloud of confusion before us. Box goes rushing for him. He is next. What is happening?


The Seether stands, arms outstretched. Waving them maniacally. Like a conductor of evil orchestrating our demise. Threatening us all.


“Haydn didn’t like the rules the prince had,” The Seether says. “Musicians as hostages. Haydn had them walk off stage to make his point.”


The Seether is confident he has the upper hand. Box and Steel are being destroyed. Nero cries. Severin is next. Solomon Lily? She’s here.


With a hand’s wave, The Seether takes Severin down. To the ground. You can hear Nero shriek. Our world is ending! And I cannot even help.


“Why are you avoiding the truth?” The Seether shouts. “You and I are alike. I’ve lost everyone. I can die in peace. Can’t you say the same?”


The Seether aims to destroy every last one of us. Darkness. Clouds of smoke. The smell of gasoline and burned rubber. That, and the hot sun.


Mother said: “Your father wants to see you. Wants to return to us. So we sped off in the car.” I watched her. She seemed manic. Terrifying.


I didn’t know where we were going. She drove carelessly. Sounding crazier with every turn. From the passenger’s seat, my own fear grew more.


There was some traffic up ahead. Odd for that time of day. What time of day was it? The sun seemed hotter than usual. More cars than usual.


Why was mother speeding? What was her hurry? I gripped the dashboard to stop myself from shifting. She gripped the wheel. We went faster.


Too many cars on the road. She couldn’t make it around all of them. Why was she speeding? Hot sun. Blinding. Mother showed her madness.


I didn’t feel safe there. Where was my father? Why were we going so erratically? Too many cars. Up ahead traffic was tight. Slow down. Stop!


“Stop!” Solomon Lily shouts now. “We’re here for you. Because of you. Haydn’s Farewell Symphony you know so well. One by one they too left.”


“And one by one we’re leaving you the same way now,” Solomon Lily pleads. “Your own Farewell Symphony.” Her arms lifting. Nero cries more.


The Seether waits. For me. His lips part into a smile that seems to cut the world in half. The ground opens. Nero reaches her hands up fast.


The roof starts to crumble. Everyone is dying. Box, Steel, Severin. But Nero puts her hands up. I see the sky fully now. Sun. Extremely hot.


The unblemished sky. Peaceful from the heavens. Not here. From here it’s hell. Suddenly Nero screams and instantly combusts into a downpour.


Yes, Nero has a power after all: she’s able to become water. Never knew how to use it. But can this be done only once? Did she leave us now?


I’ve never known a clear sky above heavy rain. Truly we are in hell. Solomon Lily starts to cry. Nero is gone. The downpour has taken over.


Death starts to settle. The Seether has fallen under the crushing rain. Solomon Lily glides to me. I love her. I am not complete without her.


Solomon Lily’s eyes are looking back at me for something. I want to tell her. I want her to know. I need her to know. Right now…


Mother drove too fast then. No way to keep control of the car at that speed. Something wrong was bound to happen. And something did.


Back now, The Seether appears amid the hellish rain. Closer to us. “One has to love in order to feel,” he says. “And also to fear its loss.”


Something starts to change. Solomon Lily takes my hand. I look at her. Into her. I love her. I say it. “I know,” she says. “Now trust me.”


I trust Solomon Lily. I will follow her anywhere. She knows I love her. We start to climb into the sky on her wings. The downpour stops.


There is a lightness about me. I almost no longer exist. I float. The Seether below. Calling out to me. Solomon Lily has me in her hands.


Mother turned the corner too fast. No time to stop. Wanted to take my hand. I pulled it away. She mumbled her madness. Fear overcame me.


There was a wall of cars. Mother’s shrill cry. Her body stiffened with every bit of her strength. Not sure if she even wanted any of this.


“Ironically, you did this!” The Seether says. “Before we were gods, we were monsters. Before we were gods, we were nothing!”


The Seether is right. We were nothing. But what are we now? Gods, perhaps. But Severin said it perfectly: we are all dying.


Solomon Lily and I climb to the heavens on her wings. The sun is brightest now. We reach the sky. Her wings do not melt. We climb higher.


I can no longer hear The Seether. I can no longer see much at all. The sun is burning my eyes. I love Solomon Lily. I will love her forever.


I follow Solomon Lily into the light. I follow her into the heavens. Her feathery wings, drapery, light upon light. Flowing, flowing.


Just as the car approached the turn on the highway, mother twisted her face into a smile. The rest of her still clenched. The car spun.


Before we reached the wall of cars ahead, mother gripped the steering wheel tight and turned it to one side sharply. We almost hit them all.


Our car veered to the right. The world spun out of control. Everything was suddenly above us. We were falling. Mother was gripping. Smiling.


I don’t remember what my body felt, but my mind went directly to Solomon Lily. I loved her. Loved her forever. There was nothing else.


The way I can clearly see her now, I saw her clearly then. It was as if my angel was guiding me from death. Now my angel guides me to death.


Light upon light. Right before the darkness. Taking flight on Solomon Lily’s wings. The car crashed into the ground. Mother did not survive.


The car wreck. I did not survive it either. My body crumbled under the weight of its crashing body. Unforgiving metal. A box made of steel.


I am severed from this life. From this pain and suffering. Nothing can reach me now. Nothing but my love for Solomon Lily.


It didn’t look like it but it rained heavily after The Wreck. Unblemished sky. Then downpour. “Nero” is Greek for water. I didn’t know that.


Haydn’s Farewell Symphony plays. All the musicians have left the stage. All of us have left. All but two. Solomon Lily and I. Playing alone.


I know I have loved. And I will love forever. I cannot be the villain. Those who do not love are the villains. I am not one of them.


Her name rings like church bells clamoring in the morning. I follow my Angel of Death into the heavens. I hope that is where she’ll be.


To think, right before I died – until the very moment of my death – I was at my most alive. Loving her.