Eden’s End: Illusionary Birth
by J. H. Zech
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
A dirt trail led through an opening in a thicket of pine trees. Aside from a few branches and leaves crunching under his foot, only the cicadas’ cries made any sound. It was getting dark; Keuvei took a flashlight out of his backpack and turned it on. He walked forward with only his cone of light showing a sliver of the path ahead.
Keuvei kept his eyes peeled, however futile it was in this darkness, where he could scarcely see his own feet. As he acclimated to the sound of his steps and the cicadas, he could make out the faint rhythm of his own heart.
An exorcist fearing the darkness and the supernatural would sound silly to an outside observer, but the opposite was true. Only someone who feared and disliked the supernatural would go out of their way to vanquish it. That was why he had joined The Organization. Project Eden’s End would bring about the end of the supernatural, spirits, demons, and even gods.
Finally, he arrived at the edge of the lake, a patch of the water yellow from reflecting the flashlight, and the rest an impenetrable black.
“Suni, if you are there, please show yourself,” Keuvei said.
From the emptiness, only silence answered. He would have to try again tomorrow. He turned to leave, but the sound of water rippling came from behind him.
“Do not turn around,” a female voice said.
“Why not?” Keuvei asked, his back facing the voice. Goddess or not, he was talking directly to a supernatural being. It wasn’t using any telepathy, and it could displace water, meaning it had physical form. Only higher-level beings could do that. He had to be careful.
“You are an outsider to this village. I will not allow you to gaze upon my form.”
“But the fact that you have appeared means you’re willing to talk.”
“Yes. I have a general idea of what you want. Go ahead and ask,” she said.
“Five people have disappeared from this village so far. Did you spirit them away?”
“Then what happened to them?”
“You would never understand.”
“I’ve studied many forms of spiritualism,” Keuvei said.
“I don’t doubt your knowledge. But you would never understand their feelings, and thus you cannot understand what has happened to them.”
“Did you do something to them?”
“Nothing that they did not wish for.”
Then what had they wished for? And who could grant such a wish? “Who are you?”
“I am Suni, the goddess of Somira Village.”
“But the original Suni died a long time ago. Who is the current Suni I’m talking to?”
A splash came from behind him. Keuvei turned around, but she was gone, leaving only fading blue vapors of spiritual aura. She had run away from his question. He breathed out a heavy sigh. He had made it through an encounter safely, and the conversation actually had provided him some useful information. Satisfied for now, he decided to turn in for the night and followed his map and flashlight to a motel.
* * *
The next morning, Keuvei awoke to the sound of his cell phone ringing. His eyes half-open, he felt around the night stand for his phone and picked it up. “Hello?” Keuvei yawned.
“Where are you?”
“Who is this?”
“It’s Mayor Gim. Get over here at once,” he said, his voice forceful.
“That’s what I’d like to ask you. Another person has gone missing.”
Keuvei bolted up in his bed. “I’ll be right there.” Had the encounter last night made Suni desperate? In any case, the risk of the disappearances accelerating was high. He had to finish his task by tonight. He picked up his contact lens case from the night stand but set it back down. Seeing spiritual energy all the time gave him headaches, but he needed to be prepared to use his abilities at any time today.
A little later, Keuvei arrived at the mayor’s mansion and used the black handles to knock on the door. The butler greeted him and led him to the room where Keuvei had met the mayor yesterday.
Mayor Gim was already sitting down, and there was no tea or cookies this time. Keuvei sat down across from him.
“What have you been doing?” Mayor Gim asked.
Keuvei gave a report of what had occurred last night, not mentioning his conversation with Ūnje.
“And? How soon can you get rid of this Suni? We already have another victim.”
“About that. Do you know of a Hana that committed suicide a bit over six months ago?” Keuvei asked.
Mayor Gim’s expression grew fierce. “Where did you hear about that?”
“That’s not important. She claimed to be the reincarnation of Suni, and her suicide preceded these disappearances. Why didn’t you tell me about her?”
“That had nothing to do with these disappearances. She was not in her right mind, and she committed suicide. She wasn’t spirited away. End of story.”
From the mayor’s reaction, Keuvei could tell that the mayor had hid this fact for both of the reasons he had guessed. The mayor didn’t want to air his son’s dirty laundry and, as a result, he didn’t want to believe Hana had any connection to these disappearances. There was no point in pressing him further on it; Keuvei wasn’t a judge or a police officer. “We’ll set that aside for now then. Can you tell me about yesterday’s victim?”
Mayor Gim slid over a picture of a brunette high school girl with a ribbon tied at the side of her hair. “Nabi Bak. She was one of the top students at the high school.”
“Weren’t all the victims hated by the community?”
“Maybe she was. I don’t know anything about her. Here’s the contact information for her parents.” He handed Keuvei a sticky note with the details. “I’m giving you one last chance. Make sure you get rid of this Suni or whoever.”
Keuvei didn’t need to be told it was his last chance. He marched out of the mayor’s mansion and headed for the Bak family’s house.
* * *
Later, after a conversation with the Bak family, he came out of their house. He had learned that the family was poor, and that Nabi had become a top student through her own efforts. She had taken the top student ranking last semester, outperforming a girl from a rich family who had dropped to second as a result. Given the other stories, he had already known at that point where the Bak family’s tragedy was headed, but he let them say it. They needed to say it, because no one else would listen.
The rich girl was, coincidentally, the mayor’s niece. Rumors about Nabi sleeping with teachers to get test questions beforehand had spread. It didn’t tell him anything about the disappearances, but rather left Keuvei struggling to convince himself that humanity deserved to be saved.
He had rushed out of the motel, so he had left his backpack behind. Keuvei walked back in the direction of the motel. A slim young man was walking away from the motel toward the edge of town. His shadow fuzzed for a moment as if it were made of static. What was that? He approached the man. Keuvei had no plan, but he couldn’t have this clue walking away just yet.
“Excuse me,” Keuvei said. “Are you from around here?”
The man turned around. He had a backpack with a water bottle slotted on the side and was wearing a tacky souvenir T-shirt that read “Somira Village” in a speech bubble coming from a cartoon bear. His getup practically screamed tourist. The mayor did say there were occasional tourists. The man looked at Keuvei and paused. “A foreigner?”
“Yes. I’m here for work though.” Something about this man gave Keuvei an unsettling feeling.
“Figures. No one in their right mind would visit this dump for fun.”
Keuvei raised an eyebrow, looking at the man.
“Oh, this?” he said, pointing at his T-shirt. “I bought it when I got here yesterday. I didn’t know how crummy this place was going to be. I had planned on staying here longer, but I’m cutting it short. Hopefully you don’t have to stay here too long, either.” He walked past Keuvei, heading in the direction of the bus stop.
This feeling that made his skin crawl, what was it? He focused his gaze on the man. Keuvei’s eyes glowed, and everything became tinted red. He saw the man’s Essence, a glowing blue sphere connected in a web to countless other spheres, other Essences. A distortion like static surrounded his Essence though. Had his memories been altered? The only kind of being that could do something like that was a god, or a demon.
He opened the bus schedule on his phone and confirmed his suspicions. Only one bus had come to Somira yesterday, and Keuvei had been the only passenger. He ran to the souvenir shop. The clerk at the shop confirmed that nobody matching the tourist’s description had even come into the shop recently.
* * *
Keuvei hurried back to the motel and gathered his things. After making a few calls, Keuvei obtained Ūnje’s phone number. He called her.
“Who is this?” she asked.
“This is Keuvei Lansforun from yesterday.”
“How did you get my number?”
“It’s a small town. That aside, can you tell me what happened to Hana’s family after her suicide?”
“You call me out of the blue and ask about my friend’s suicide? Foreigners sure have no manners,” she said in a haughty tone.
“I apologize, but this is urgent.”
“I’m only teasing. I don’t really have anyone to talk to.”
Keuvei sighed: teenagers.
“It’s related to the case, isn’t it? I’ll tell you. It’s considered a sin for a child to die before their parents, even accidentally. So you can imagine what a heavy sin suicide is. Many villagers blamed her parents for not properly raising her. Her little brother is being ostracized at school, as he’s associated with bad luck and death now.”
“It’s as I feared then. Something so absurd actually occurred.”
“What are you talking about? Did you figure something out about Suni and Hana?”
“Yes. Please come meet me by the lake tonight at six o’clock. Your assistance will be crucial to putting this ordeal to rest.”
“All right. If it’ll end all this, I’ll help.” She hung up.
* * *
Copyright © 2019 by J. H. Zech