Follow the story of the mysterious Seeker "S" and "S"'s Father.

It took me a long time to figure out what my Father was. Looking back now it seems so obvious, but then again, I never would have dreamt of it. My father would leave me and my mother for business trips. He would go all around the country, but making sure to hit every city. He had a big list of towns which he'd cross names off of. I always assumed he was a traveling salesman. Until the one time I went with him.

Chapter 1: Finding Father

It took me a long time to figure out what my father was. Looking back now it seems so obvious, but then again, I never would have dreamt of it. My father would leave me and my mother for business trips. He would go all around the country, but making sure to hit every city. He had a big list of towns which he'd cross names off of. I always assumed he was a traveling salesman. Until the one time I went with him.

Of course, he didn't bring me in with him, but he left me at a motel. He'd leave in the middle of the night, and then return in the morning. We stayed in that town for about a week. I must have been no more than thirteen. One night he came back looking terrible, he collapsed on the bed and fell asleep, leaving the bag he brought in with him on the floor. I should never have looked. But I did. I was so curious, I wanted to be connected to my father, to know him better. I crept out of bed. It was as if the thing in the bag called me. I walked up and opened it. I've never known what I saw in there. All I know is if I think about it long enough my head starts to hurt. But the next thing I knew I was on the floor with my dad above me. He was pale, and scared. I had never seen my father scared. He gave me a tissue and told me to wipe my mouth. The tissue turned red, I didn't even know I was bleeding. We went straight home that night, and I was never allowed to come with him again.

A few years later, I came home to hear my father talking on the phone with someone. My father said things like, "You can't, He'll find you..." and "They already know. They've always known." But not at one point did he mention a name. It wasn't until I heard "Why would you think that would work? The accident with the Object wasn't my fault, it was..." that I realized what he was talking about. A week later, I started doing research. The further I searched the more interested I got. My father found out. He didn't say anything about it though. He just stopped talking to me. That summer, he left and never returned.

I always assumed he died, and I moved on with my life. I tried to stop thinking about the Holders, and the Objects, but I guess it was in my blood. One day, I walked into a mental institution in a city I was visiting, just to check, or at least that's what I told myself. I walked up to the man behind the desk and asked if there was someone by the name of "The Holder of Innocence". The man behind the counter looked like he was about to cry, but only in one eye. I ran out of that place, and I never went back. Not even back to the same city. I swore off the research and tried to get on with my life. Until I got the call. It was him, he told me he was dying, and that this was the last time I could see him. How could I deny him the chance?

He was alone in the hospital room. I sat down beside him. He didn't look ill at all. He looked quite well. I felt nervous, wondering why he called me. He apologized to me, for bringing me along, he told me that because I now knew, I could never stop looking for them. I asked him the only question I could think of, the one question that had been bugging me ever since I learned.

I asked him why he started looking. He smiled. He opened the drawer beside him and pulled out a scroll. He handed it to me, telling me it's the only one he managed to keep from Them. I considered asking who They were, but I didn't. The scroll was covered in weird symbols, looking like a text. I couldn't read it, and hadn't recognized it. It must be the language of the Holders, I told myself. I asked him why he gave it to me, he told me he was going away. "Dying?" I asked. He shook his head, and told me that death would be better. But that he could not let Them have him. So he needed to protect himself the only way he knew how. That's when I saw it. Behind the flower pot on the nightstand beside him. The bag. I looked at my father. He told me that he and it would protect each other, it was the only way. It was the only time I had ever seen my father cry.

Three days later, I read in the news about a massive power outage in the hospital my father stayed in. I got a call later that day from the hospital, they told me my father was missing. But I knew. Just as well as They knew. I knew what he had become.

Today, I'm going to the park nearby. I'm going to try to find the Serpent and pick up the hammer. If I live, I will find another and take it. Until I have enough. Then I will go back and find my father. Or at least what was my father. He is a Holder now. He has a new name. The Holder of the End.


-S

Chapter 2: Smile

Before that day, I had never met a Seeker face to face. We've always been a suspicious society. We are hunted even more than the Holders. None of us ever meets in person. Most talk takes place in the corners of the Internet. No names would ever be mentioned. Just They, Him, I, etc. No dates, no locations, nothing. Although this made it hard to find information, word would still get around. Certain Objects would always come up like the syringe, as people claiming they found it, or know who owns it. Particularly the more elusive Objects got the most attention. Someone once asked about the Holder of the End, but no one claimed to know anything. Seems like he's still safe for now.

I had begun looking for something, not a Holder, but a Seeker. I didn't think he was special, but he seemed to be the easiest to find, and to be honest, something just told me that I should find him. I'm quite surprised no one had been looking for him in the first place. I was also sure that They hadn't gotten to him. As far as I could find out, he didn't have an Object. Some sources claimed that he once had several, but no one was sure about it. His name was Clarence Betham. He was a botanist in his late fifties, last seen several years ago. What I dug up indicated that he was imprisoned for murder and then got the death penalty. However, a man named Roger Betham was institutionalized the same year, though the hospital staff repeatedly denied claims of his connection to Clarence. I then found out that Roger was moved every year, so he would not "grow tired of the scenery". The staff assumed he was very wealthy to afford all the changes. However, the more he moved the worse shape he got into. The doctors saw that it was the moves that were doing this to him, but he still continue to make them, refusing to stay in any place more than a few months. When I found out that a very ill man was being moved into a small hospital in the next town over, for only a month, I found him.

I walked into the hospital with the hammer in hand, just in case I needed some proof. I asked to see Mr. Betham. His room was akin to the padded rooms you see on TV, however, there were no pads, no windows either. Just concrete lit by a dim hanging bulb. He was lying in bed when I walked in alone, the staff didn't seem to be worried about either of our safety, too bad they were wrong. He didn't sit up when I walked in, or seem shocked when I said I had been looking for him. I pulled out the hammer to show him but he simply said it would not be needed. He explained he already knew I was a Seeker. I asked him how. He smiled and said that he "could just tell". I told him I needed information, he replied that I didn't need it yet, I simply wanted it, but that he might not have what I wanted. I told him I wasn't looking for anything in particular so anything would do. He told me that he had been hiding for five years, and no end in sight. I asked if he was hiding from Them. He told me that if he was, They would have found him, just like I did. He told me that They were only human. He smiled and told me that he wasn't hiding from humans. I asked if he meant "Him". He laughed. "Him, They, Them. I don't know why we call them those things, all of them have names, even though we won't say them." He then explained that what was looking for him had no name. I asked him what that was. He told me that "There are worse things than Holders in this world." But he wouldn't elaborate. I asked him if he ever had any Objects and, with a big smile, he told me might have had, but didn't remember anymore. I stood up at that point, knowing I wasn't getting any more information from him. I went to leave, but he got up before I could get to the door. He told me he had known my father.

I turned back, he was smiling. He told me that they had talked a few times before, before everything fell apart. I asked him to explain himself. He laughed, and told me that my father wasn't the average Seeker. He was not trying to "bring them together" or exploit their powers. In fact, he had only ever found four Objects, and that he even gave away two of them. He shook his head, "No, he saw what everyone else was missing. It's not about the Holders, or the Objects, it's about the truth." Suddenly, I felt as if I couldn't move, none of my muscles would respond. "He saw the threat. But they saw him too and for a second, I think they saw you as well." The room had begun to change, the ceiling stretched out into the darkness. He looked up. "They hunted him like they are hunting me." Dark oily liquid ran down the walls as the single light in the room began to flicker. "You see it's just like I said," he came closer, less than a meter from my face, his edged teeth in that broken smile. "There are worse things than Holders." I could move again the second before he lunged for my throat. Before that day, I had never killed a man.


-S

Chapter 3: More Lies

No one is ever really prepared until they see it for themselves. No matter how many times you read the directions, you still don't understand what it's like. New Seekers always assume that it's a one-shot kill system. But it's not. It's not as easy as "going to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to". Often, you have to try different parts of a city or different cities. Others will look for one Object forever not knowing that it's in the hands of a Seeker. As ridiculous as it sounds, it's easier getting an Object from a Holder than it is from a Seeker. Seekers live in secrecy, and have gone through too much trouble to acquire the Object, so they won't sell it. Some will hold onto the Objects until they die, or sometimes longer.

The biggest problem is that people read the directions, and think it's that simple. It's not. What you see is ten times more horrific than can be described. Knowing that if you forget one thing you'll die doesn't help either. Rumors have even started around Seekers that some of the rules have changed, and that the directions are wrong. Someone added "I hope not, they are the only thing we can trust right now." The odds are slim for a Seeker. But it doesn't stop us. You see, what most "normals" don't understand, is that you can never just have one. You need more. All the time. It's an addiction. That's what I think the Holders are. Just Seekers that have given into the addiction. But no one knows. The Holders are as much of a mystery to us as They are, but I've got some leads now.

Betham's comment that They were human has got me looking at the facts again. I've begun to notice strange coincidences that keep popping up. Several well-known ex-Seekers have been institutionalized, only to die shortly after. Although the who, where, or why are constantly different, just like the hospital that commits them, every now and then, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, or a police officer is connected. If you go far enough in their histories, you can find out that they have been connected to a company known as A.G. Industries. However, I can't find out what they do, who funds them, or even where they are based. Not even the Seeker community seems to recognize the name, although I did get a message from a member telling me that "I was treading in a minefield". The only thing I have found is their name and slogan: A.G Industries, "Keeping Us Better".

One thing eludes me still, I can't find out what's "worse than Holders". But, hopefully, I'll learn something about it tonight.

I have, however, found some insight on something else Betham mentioned. He had said my Father had four Objects, two of which he gave away. My Father had mentioned that they had taken away an Object from him. Although I've begun to doubt that he meant the They we are talking about. If we add in the Object he used, and the one he gave to me, one is missing. I had to go far into my Father's history, and even had to bring my mother into this, but I found out that my dad would play poker with a friend once a month, and before he'd leave, he'd always take a specific deck of cards he would keep locked up. The top card was always the Ace of Spades. My Father continued to play poker with the man up until he disappeared. That man was Derrick Todd. And he is just the man I'm seeing tonight.


-S

Chapter 4: Solitaire

I rang the doorbell around eight that night. It was snowing. The front door opened and a man stepped out. I asked for Derrick Todd. He told me that I was speaking to him, so I told him that he knew my father. He invited me in. We sat down in the living room, and he asked if I was my father's son. I said I was. He said nothing. We sat in silence for a while. He asked what he could do for me, so I told him why I was there. He didn't seem shocked at anything I said, not even my visit to Roger Betham. He told me he had heard about Betham's death. He told me that whether I would believe him or not, I had saved Betham. "From who?" I asked. He told me that it was "a what, and not a who". He seemed a bit disturbed about this, so I changed the subject.

I asked him what he and my father would do. "Well, we never played poker if that's what you're asking," he said with a laugh. I asked him why he needed to see the Ace of Spades so often. Research, he told me. He and my Father would test the Object. They would do everything they could to try to get more information. All they ever learned was that it couldn't be destroyed, and no matter how they cut or burned the card, the second they would take their eyes off of it, it would reform. He told me they once wondered what would happen if one of them swallowed it, but out of fear they never went through with it. He asked me if I wanted a drink, but I asked about A.G. Industries. He simply laughed and said that "I was full of questions -" but added under his breath "- just like your father."

He let out a sigh and sat back on the couch. "This world was much simpler when we only had Holders and Seekers. It seems the more we learn the more we have to fear. You know that's where you're heading, right? The answers you seek are probably more terrifying than anyone can imagine. But that's what you get with this business." He told me he knew very little about the company, except that it's been around longer than one would think. I asked him what "Keeping Us Better" meant. He simply said, "Creepy, isn't it?" but told me he knew nothing. He apologized for not having very much information. But he told me he knew where I could go.

He told me it was far, but worth the travel. A man named Thomas Reel, who lived far south. Far enough that I would have to take a plane. But Derrick told me that it would be worth the ride, and if anyone could answer my questions, he could. He then laughed and told me I would probably have even more questions by the end. I thanked him and got up. He stopped me, and went into the other room. He brought back a locked box. "I'm pretty sure he would have wanted you to have it." I asked him why he would give it to me. He explained that he never opened the box so it wasn't technically his, and since he had no other Objects he wasn't a Seeker. "But your father gave me it, and it was his. Your father was some Seeker." I took out the Ace of Spades, and put the deck back on the table. I told him he could keep the deck as a reminder of my father. He asked me how he could forget.

As I stepped out of the house, I took one last look back at him. He sat on the couch, looking at the now spread-out deck on the coffee table, his head in his hands, his face filled with fear.


-S

Chapter 5: Oil

I arrived late at night. I considered waiting 'til the next day to visit Thomas Reel, but I went to his house anyways. It was by itself on a dirt road, around ten kilometers from the city. I rang the doorbell. The door slowly opened just enough so he could see me. He asked me what I wanted. I told him I was sent by Derrick Todd. He told me that now was not a good time. I told him there would be no other time. He agreed with me and let me in. The first thing I noticed in his living room was the loaded assault rifle sitting on the table. He picked it up and put the strap around his shoulder. He told me that I was either the luckiest person alive, or the unluckiest. He told me to make my questions quick. So I did.

I asked him what I saved Betham from, what was worse than Holders. "Shit," he said to me. "You really are the unluckiest." He kept looking out the windows, checking other rooms. I followed him around, asking who he was expecting. He told me that you couldn't expect these things, that they would either come or not, in that way they are worse than Holders. I asked him what they were. He must have seen something in my eye because he cursed under his breath and sat down. "I'll give you the quick version," he told me. "Have you ever heard of the B-." He was cut off by a loud screeching noise. Like fingernails on a chalkboard but worse, and much louder. It was loud enough that I had to cover my ears, enough that my eyes began to water. He didn't seem to be as afraid as me, but he took the safety off his gun. The lights flickered once or twice. I don't know how I heard it with all the screeching but I heard a drop. It landed on the center of the table. Thomas didn't notice it, but I got a closer look. It was some kind of black liquid. Thick and sticky. Almost immediately another drop dripped onto the same place, and another and another. At this point, Thomas noticed and pulled me away, just as I began to look up.

Large cracks of this black liquid had formed in the ceiling, as a puddle of the liquid seeped out. More and more of it dripped out, until the table itself was completely covered. Then an arm reached out of the liquid on the table. If I could have screamed, I probably would have. It gripped the edge of the table and began to pull itself out. First the arm, then the torso, the head, and then another arm. The weight of the creature then toppled the table over, but that didn't stop it. It began to crawl out of the table until it was fully out. It then stood up. It was completely covered with the black liquid, but had the structure of a human. Where its face should have been, there were no features, but it moved as if it was looking at its surroundings. Its gaze rested on Thomas, who appeared to be in shock. Without any warning, the creature jumped at him, but Thomas shot before the thing got to him. It took several shots to its chest which stopped it, and after ten or more shots it was on the ground. Thomas emptied the rest of the magazine into it, but it kept moving. He then lowered his gun, walked up to its head, and kicked it in the neck. The monster twitched, but remained motionless. There was only silence now.

It didn't last long. Thomas told me to get down to the basement, and a few seconds later he followed me down. "At least with Holders, we go to them," he said, mostly to himself, locking the upstairs door. We took a few minutes to regain our breath. He then asked me if I still wanted to know. I laughed, just to break the tension. I told him to go on. He asked me if I had ever heard of the "Bank Theory". I told him I had. The Bank Theory was one that had been posted on the Seekers discussion webpage. It likened our lives to a bank. That the Objects were the items in the deposit boxes, the Holders were the guards, and us Seekers were the robbers. This, however, pointed out the question, who did the Objects then belong to? This started a lot of controversy. Thomas told me that's how he saw it. That those things were the original owners and that they wanted their Objects back. He told me that he had heard that they would only target Seekers with Objects. He chuckled and said that "for all we know, they could be aliens from Mars" but then went quiet. I asked how he knew it was coming for him tonight. He told me he didn't know when, but he knew they were coming. I asked him how he knew. He told me that someone had warned him through an email he received. But I stopped paying attention to him.

I should have warned him, I should have said something, done something. But I couldn't. All I could do was watch the small dribble of ink-colored liquid go down the wall he was leaning on. There was no noise this time, or if there was, I didn't hear it. He stopped talking and looked at me. He was about to say something when it happened. He gasped for a second, and then went still. And then a hand, covered in the black oil, burst through his chest. He looked at me and whimpered. I felt my body again and I ran up the stairs and into the living room. Then from the other side, another one walked in as well. From the other side of the room, it looked at me. I could only look back. It was then I noticed it, in the glass container on top of the coffee table, there were a pair of cuff links. The thing on the other side of the room walked toward it, and so did I. We began to circle the table between us, making no sudden movements. But I didn't try to grab the Object. I simply backed off to the exit of the house. It watched me the whole time.

I left for home the next day. I had no more leads. I didn't know where to go, or even if those things would follow me. I thought it might be better to get rid of my Objects. But I couldn't do that. I began to wish that I had paid more attention to Thomas Reed. If I listened to who tipped me off about the creatures, maybe I would know where to go. Or if only I had warned him. But I hadn't. Once I got home, I found a package in the mail. I checked the name and it read Derrick Todd. It was the deck of cards I had left with him. I turned over the top card. It was the King of Clubs. On it, written in black marker, was the letter "D". The next card had an "N". I flipped over the deck and spread out the cards: t, h, e, y, a, c, t, u, a, l, l, y, a, r, e, t, r, y, i, n, g, t, o, k, e, e, p, u, s, b, e, t, t, e, r, b, u, t, i, t, s, t, o, o, l, a, t, e, E, n, d.

When I sorted it all out, it read: "they actually are trying to keep us better but it's too late End".

At first, I was confused why Derrick would have sent me a message like that instead of telling me. Or why he would write it on the cards my Father left him. And why only the E was capitalized. But then I realized that it wasn't a message from him. It had been from my Father.

After all, he signed it.


-S

Chapter 6: Finding the End

I must have stayed in my room for two weeks, or was it only one? Looking back, it could be what it's like to lose your mind, and who knows, maybe I did. All the food was ordered in, and all I did was research. Every possible lead on every possible corner, I kept looking. I needed to know what those creatures were, and if they were going to come after me. I didn't sleep well, if at all. Not even a gun to calm myself with, the only protection being a signed baseball bat I got as a present on my twelfth birthday. That I got from my Father. The windows were always shut, the door always locked, phone disconnected, and I didn't check the mail. I thought that maybe if no one knew I was there, they couldn't find me. It was childish, but it was also all I had.

My research got little results. No one seemed to know what I was talking about, or I was referred to someone who asked something similar, only to find out they had been missing for some time. Which had begun to happen a lot. People who had been discussing, arguing, boasting... just suddenly stopped. This, of course, would happen occasionally; it was something you got used to. The idea of death. But it was speeding up. In that one week, nineteen people "disappeared". Assuming that at least half were unrelated, that was still about nine people dead. Paranoia had begun to sneak in. The sad part was I was so engrossed with one threat, I forgot about another.

I started looking for a way to my Father. I didn't know why, except I had the feeling that if I ever wanted answers, I'd have to go to him. The Holder of the End is most often talked about and dissected. There is no way to win. A common joke was that it was actually the Holder of The End, not the End. The instructions themselves predict death. Then how did my Father do it? And why face death to get an Object that no one has information about? The idiocy of this bothered me constantly. My Father figured out how to get the most coveted Object of them all, and then became its Holder. Why? The message written on the deck of cards then faded back into my head. Another question. At that time, I could swear my life was nothing but endless questions and no answers. Then there was the knock at my door.

I must have thought I was dreaming, because I actually got up to answer it. But I froze before I got there. The creatures wouldn't knock... would they? In my mental state, I had to consider the question. There was another knock. I waited for a sign. The lights would flicker, black liquid would run down the walls, and all that would be left of me would be bloodstains. There was another knock. It knew I was home. I looked for the bat. Even then, I was aware of the absurdity of my actions and thoughts, but I had learned to live and survive in a world like that, so I prepared for the worst. The last knock came as I peeked through the peephole. All there was outside, was a man in a suit with a briefcase. I dropped the bat as I laughed. Only for a second. I unlocked the door. I would never have answered it, but I let it go. I was so relieved, that no matter what he could be selling I would have bought it. I only realized what I had done after I opened the door. Only after I saw what was written on the man's briefcase.

"Keeping Us Better"

And then the man smiled.


-S

Chapter 7: Only Human

"Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you."

It was as if I was some kind of animal, and the man was trying to capture me. I considered all my options. I couldn't run, couldn't hide, maybe I could overpower him. But he read my mind. He told me if he wanted me dead, I'd be dead already. He told me he just wanted to chat, but not here. He told me to follow him to his car, and started for the elevator. I was dumbstruck. I asked him if he thought I was stupid. He told me he knew what Objects I had, who I've been talking to, and what happened to Thomas Reel. He also mentioned that he knew my Father. I grabbed some clothes and followed him. What else could I have done?

I sat with him in the back of his limousine, he told the driver just to drive around in a circle. I asked him who he was. "My name is Louis Rockwell, and I'm the CEO of A.G. Industries." I must have reacted because he told me that he always gets the same reaction when he mentions what he works for. "The slogan should have been 'Keeping Seekers Paranoid,'" he joked. But I didn't laugh. He told me to relax, they weren't planning to do anything to me. Instead, they wanted my help. I told him I wanted questions answered first. "Fair enough."

I asked him what was worse than Holders. He told me that a lot of things were. I asked about the creatures I saw. He told me that those things were one of their main concerns at the moment. That they were trying to figure out what those creatures were, and how to stop them. "So far, we can only predict where they will strike, not when. Just the Object. But I'm sure Mr. Reel told you about that." I said nothing. I asked him what "Keeping Us Better" meant. He said that it meant exactly what it sounded like. I cursed under my breath, wondering why I could never get straight answers. He told me I'd know the truth in time, whether I wanted to or not. I asked him how he knew my Father. He told me that they had worked together for some time, before his disappearance. I asked him if this was what they wanted my help with. He nodded, completely serious now. He told me that he and my Father had found a way to "break the rules", and now they had to clean up the mess my Father made. "You mean you both made," I said. He asked me how well I knew my Father.

The car stopped. We hadn't been making a circle. We were outside a mental health hospital, the only one in town. "We can continue talking inside," he said. I asked him what the hell he meant. He laughed and told me that one of their research labs is built underneath the hospital. "If you want to find us, you just tell the person at reception that you are looking for the Seeker of Holders." I didn't move. "Just a little bit of irony... Are you coming?" I stepped out of the car and said no. He only told me that I'd be back, took a quick look at the sky, and added, "Soon." The limousine had driven off, as Rockwell walked to the front door of the building.

"Just remember who the real monsters are. Those creatures that kill off your fellow Seekers, you need to worry about them, not us. We're only human."


When I got home, the Seeker forums were down. Something that had never happened before. While looking for other information, I found some news that I shouldn't have missed. Throughout the world, there had been power outages. Some scientists explained it as some kind of electromagnetic field passing the earth. I was more interested about the locations. One was going on in the city at that very time. Near where Derrick Todd lives. I got up to grab my stuff and head over when something caught my eye. I looked at the list again. One was where and when I found Thomas Reel. Another happened when I found Clarence Betham. But the first occurred months ago. In a hospital near my old house. The day my Father...

When I got to Derrick Todd's house, there was a streak of black liquid leading up to the broken door.

I walked in.


-S

Chapter 8: Hearts

I try to think back to the "old days". When things weren't so complicated. But I can't, because things were always this complicated, I just didn't know it yet.

Simple power outages that the average person wouldn't even blink at. But to me, it was just another clue. That was what my life had become, clue after clue to a question that I didn't even understand. Ignorance is bliss. But I kept running after the clues. I wasn't sure to what, but as I walked into Derrick Todd's house, I hoped I was going to get answers. For some reason, the air inside was very moist. The smell of something strong filled the house. I recognized it, it was the same as the other times. But also my mind was connecting it to something else now. Something long-forgotten. But I didn't dwell on it. I entered the living room. The memory of the first time I was in the house kept running through my mind. All those days ago, and since then I still didn't know what my Father was doing. Or what those things were. I searched around the room. I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a weapon. I had no idea what I would do if one of those creatures attacked me. But for some reason, that didn't matter. I felt I had to help Derrick, had to do something this time, just to stop what had happened before. The trail of black oil led upstairs, and I followed it up. I took my time because the stairs were creaky. Didn't want to alert anyone, or anything. Only then did I start paying attention to the voice. It was Derrick's. I walked closer to it, trying to be as quiet as possible. I could only hear bits of it.

"No no, listen. Listen to me. I know you can... I need to tell them... lied to you, he fucking lied to you... I don't know how that... right... goodbye." I was right by the door, trying not even to breathe, as if that would prevent me from hearing everything. I heard someone get up off the bed slowly. I stepped back, and braced myself. The door opened. Just Derrick. He looked very tired. He didn't do much more than blink when he saw me. He asked me what I was doing there. I asked him who he was talking to. He told me no one. I checked, there was nothing in the room but a puddle. He told me I needed to leave, that I shouldn't be this involved. He started to turn away but I stopped him. I was sick of it, I wante3d to know the truth. I pushed him up against the wall. I told him if he didn't tell me what he knew I would make him tell me. He only laughed and pushed me off of him. In that moment, I think I might have actually killed him if I could. He walked downstairs to the kitchen. I stayed up there for only a second before I followed him. I felt like the child that no adult would believe. I told him I was serious. He simply began to get himself a drink. I was sick of all of these patronizing people, so I tried another approach. I told him that a "Louis Rockwell" visited me. He dropped the cup.

When he looked at me, I barely recognized him. "You are so much like him, you know? Bastard never took no as an answer, and look what it got him. And all he ever cared about was keeping you away from all this. Keeping you safe. Yeah, sure, he found out a lot of the stuff we now know, but weren't we happier not knowing? Who the hell are you to think you can just open up everything we've tried to stop!? Who the fuck do you think you are!? But you've always wanted to know, haven't you, even before you saw it. He blamed himself for all of that, but you were already hooked. A born Seeker. You make me sick." I had nothing to say. He went for another cup, changed his mind, and grabbed a bottle of beer. He slumped down onto the chair. "Run." I didn't understand. "Get out and run. I'd tell you to leave town, but that wouldn't do anything. You just need to keep running." I asked him what was going on. He didn't reply at first, just drank his drink. He told me I only had a few hours. "Until what?" He looked at me only for a second and went back to his drink. "Our end." I asked him how he could predict that. He told me that it wasn't predicted. It was planned. That "Your Father, Rockwell, and me. We planned this. No, we didn't plan for this. But we did, in a way. We wanted everything. All of it all to ourselves. We never told each other this, but we all knew it. We were prepared to do anything to get what we wanted." He looked like he was going to vomit. He told me only darkness remained. He looked up at me and I saw that he was crying. He told me the sun wasn't coming up anymore. He took another drink.

I ran until I couldn't. Until it hurt to breathe. When I finally stopped, it was still dark, but there was nobody outside. Not even the occasional homeless person was on the streets. I started running again. I ran home. But there was nothing there for me. Someone had been there already, and the room was empty. Completely empty. As if I was never there in the first place. As if I never existed. That scared me the most. I didn't stay for long, I just kept running. It was starting to get brighter outside, but I didn't feel any warmer. Someone had found my home and emptied it. I didn't even bother to try to find out who did it. I just wanted to run and I didn't know why. As if I could outrun everything that had been following me. But I couldn't. I ended up in a park. I screamed. I cried. I wanted answers. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted my Father. I passed out.

When I woke up, there wasn't a sun anymore.


-S

Chapter 9: Midnight

For the first time in my life, I felt truly alone.

I slowly got off the bench and took a look at my surroundings. I felt like I was in a bad dream. The sky was red as blood, and the sun was black. The landscape was unchanged, but it was bathed in a red glow. It all felt surreal. It reminded me what it was like finding the Holder of Serpents, which I found odd, because I didn't remember much of that experience. It was as if my mind had blocked it out for me. I sat there for at least ten minutes trying to figure out what was going on. Maybe I was in the Holder's world, I thought to myself. But I didn't understand how I got there. Derrick Todd had told me this was coming, that he had planned this with my Father and Rockwell. I couldn't understand how in the world they could have planned this. Some kind of alternate dimension, of sorts. In all my research I had done in my life, I had never heard of anything like this. But it all felt so familiar. I got up. I looked around to see if I could see anyone, but there was no one there. The streets stood devoid of any people. I checked my watch and saw that it had stopped at twelve exactly. Suddenly, my head pounded with pain, such pain that I fell down to the ground. It felt like I was dying, but I wasn't dying. I was only remembering something that should have been forgotten.

Flashes appeared in front of me. Some lasted enough that I could see them, others flew by too fast. It was like I was watching a movie I couldn't control. I couldn't pause or rewind, or change anything that was happening. I began to hear people talking. "He's out of town, dear, he can't make it." My mother. "No, I can't bring him!" It was my Father. "He's already had contact!" And then a different voice. One I barely recognized. "You have no idea how much you're helping us, child. I hope you can hold your breath." Then everything stopped moving. I was younger. In a motel. I was back to when I was with my Father, back when I saw it, and it saw me. I couldn't control my body, I could only watch the events unfold again. I got out of bed slowly. Did everything I could not to wake my Father. Walked up to the bag on the floor. A light was coming out of it, and it pulsed. Almost like a heartbeat. As if it was calling to me. I tried to stop myself but I couldn't. I walked up to it, and opened the bag. Everything went white and my ears began to ring. I woke up on the floor, just as I remembered, and my Father woke up as I coughed out some blood. But now the memory continued. He went for the bag first. Closed it and held it close to himself. He looked at me with fear and anger. Not at himself, anger at me. I didn't understand why. The cracks appeared. All along the walls. "You idiot!" my Father yelled. "Look what you have done!" I wanted to ask him what I had done but I couldn't speak. I just looked around me at the walls as a black oil began to leak out of them, as the liquid began to form shapes. My Father grabbed me and pulled me out of the room. We ran to the car outside. He put me in the back. The bag was in the passenger's seat. He drove without saying anything, faster than he ever drove before. I took some tissues from a box nearby to wipe my mouth clean. Then I looked out the window. The moon I had watched so long that night was gone. Nothing but darkness remained.

I woke up vomiting. When I was done, I rolled over and lay down on the concrete. I came to realize that I had been there before. In that red abyss. Through the looking glass. I just couldn't remember when or how. What did my Father do? What did Todd and Rockwell do? What did I do? I couldn't piece anything together. I decided to go back to Todd's house, thinking maybe that he was also in this world. I walked onto a street away from the park. All of it empty of humans. Or so I thought. I heard footsteps coming my way so I hid behind some bushes. There were men with guns. They wore full biohazard suits with body armor. They had the letters A.G. on their shoulders. "Keeping Us Better". Apparently, Rockwell could follow me even in this place, I thought to myself. They all had assault rifles, and all looked as if they were ready for a war. I could barely hear them without giving up where I was. "...find them... all of them... anything that moved..." I chose to stay hidden from them. I wasn't sure if they were there by accident, to rescue, or even for a search-and-destroy. I just knew that I didn't want to be anywhere near them. They all went into a building nearby so I left the other way, toward Todd's house. Todd clearly had to know about what was going on, and he would have to tell me something. I would have to hope I could find him though. So I sped up. But I fell over running down the street as what felt like an earthquake ripped through the town. Cracks began to form everywhere as I continued to run. I began to hear gunshots from the buildings nearby, shouts of orders from the soldiers. As, once again, I remembered something long forgotten. The voice again: "I hope you can hold your breath. Because without your help, your daddy will be very sad." A bullet hit a wall near me, and I snapped back to "reality". I told myself I wouldn't let myself die. Not until I had gotten some answers.

So I kept running, as tar seeped through the cracks.


-S

Chapter 10: Tar

But, of course, when I arrived at Todd's house, it was empty.

The entire house was as silent as a grave, not even the low hum of electronics was present. Derrick's beer was left on the kitchen table, half-finished, and the phone was left off the hook. On the table were a bunch of sheets of some sort of date. I flipped through them but too much of it was damaged to fully understand what it was about. The few things I did understand were that something was activated today and that they had been planning this for a long time, more than ten years at least. The only other thing that kept appearing on the sheets was a stamp that said "Property of A.G. Industries". I realized that if I wanted to get my answers, I would have to go find Rockwell. I took what I needed from the house and left. The outside was less hospitable. The creatures were all over the streets, although they seemed a bit different. They seemed more solid, and less liquid, to the point that the black substance on them looked more like tar. However, they didn't seem to see me, and walked to their destinations with deathly purpose. It was as if being in that world made them stronger, causing me to wonder if that was where they were from. The rest of the city was quiet, not even the tremors or gunshots I heard before could be heard. Though as I went on, the number of tar creatures increased until I had to weave my way through them. At one point, I even accidentally touched one, but it didn't even flinch, just kept walking on. After a while, even the creatures seemed to disappear, as once again I was the only one on the street. I kept walking. On my way to the middle of the city, I found some of Rockwell's soldiers. They were huddled in the middle of a street, some of them ripped apart, others inexplicably free of scars. I couldn't tell how many they were fighting as there were no remains of the other creatures, some of the soldiers hadn't even fired their guns. Either way, they were all dead. In the middle of them though, was a woman in a lab coat. I had to push a soldier off of her to see her. Her death was a suicide, as she held the gun that made the bullet hole in her head. Her lab coat had her name on it, Dr. Sarah Meissner. Something told me I had seen this woman before. Immediately my head began to hurt, as my mind once again struggled to remember what was forgotten. As I began to lose consciousness, I stumbled into a nearby alley, only to pass out in the corner.

"Everything is going to be fine, just do as we told you, and everything will work perfectly." That was the voice of Sarah Meissner. Soothing, calm, and kind. She must have been used to talking to children. I was in a lab somewhere, wearing some kind of protective suit. Nearby were Derrick Todd, Rockwell, and a few other people I didn't recognize. All except Rockwell, the people in the room were working furiously, analyzing readings, imputing data into large machines. "Now listen to me," Sarah's voice made me turn back to her. You might see things that look like people, but they are not. You've seen one before though, when you were with your Father -" Someone across from the room told Sarah that they were running out of time, that the structure would not last much longer. Sarah nodded. She gave me a small device, and told me to go as far as I can, and place the object down, and press the button on top of it. I nodded, and looked back at the rest of the scientists, none of them looked back at me. Some even looked away. Sarah had tears in her eyes that she quickly brushed away. I realized that no one wanted this. Except for Rockwell. His eyes didn't leave me once. And as Sarah led me to the black hole in the wall, he smiled.

I woke up vomiting. I wondered if I had just vomited blood, but it was too dark to see. That's when I realized that it was dark. No longer was the world bathed in red, instead, when I looked up the sky was a dark blue. I checked my watch. 12:01. Midnight was over. There was still no one on the streets, but the bodies of the soldiers were gone. I began to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing, but I refused to believe that. I made my way down the street. Every now and then I would see proof that what I saw had happened, the occasional black smear on the wall, broken window, and even once I saw large claw marks. After a few minutes of walking, I heard sirens. The police were stationed outside a nearby building, handcuffing a man, telling him they would find him help but he needed to come with them. The man was stark white, sweat pouring down his face. Screaming, "They took it. They took it!" Then he caught my eye. Then I realized what he was talking about. He was a Seeker, and now his Object was gone. I wondered when A.G. would pick him up. Then I remembered where I was going, and started jogging toward the hospital that Rockwell's building was built in. The rest of the way there I saw nothing out of the ordinary, not even a drop of oil on the street. Rockwell had done well to keep the creatures far away from his building. I walked in through the main doors and walked toward the reception. Oddly enough it was a quiet night at the hospital, but when I approached the receptionist and asked for "The Seeker of Holders" she simply said that we "sure were busy tonight" and unblocked a nearby elevator for me.

Inside the elevator, there were only two buttons, one for the hospital, and another named "Lab". That one needed a key, but luckily a key was left inside the keyhole. I turned it and pressed the button. The elevator shot down. Nothing told me how far down we were going, but I could guess that it was a long way down. A few minutes later the door opened. The place looked like a corporate office at first. I wondered how A.G. Industries worked out of this place, but then I understood why it was so small. On the wall, it was written that this was the Eastern A.G. Industries Lab. Knowing this, I concluded there were many, many more of those places, all over the world. But the place was empty. No one at the reception desk, the hallways led to empty rooms, even the recreational rooms were empty. However, the place was a maze, and I wandered around for a while before finding an informational booth of sorts. I checked a map and followed it to the "Main Lab", where I walked down another corridor, filled with machines and doors with hazardous material symbols all over them. According to the map, each of those rooms branched out to other sections of the lab. I couldn't tell how large the building could become. At the end of the corridor was another elevator. I took it further down, until I finally was back at the lab. It had changed a bit from my memory, but it was still the same room, and just like before, in the middle of the opposite wall was a large black hole leading to nothingness.

A figure walked out of the shadows. It was Derrick Todd. Before I could say anything, he pulled out a revolver and pointed it at me.


-S

Chapter 11: Vingt-et-un

"It's over."

I stood there, in the basement of the Eastern A.G. Industries building, hands above my head in an instinctive fashion. Derrick Todd stood behind one of the tables near all of the equipment, the table empty except for a large bound book. The machines ran silently, but the sound of a low rumble from the hole in the wall persisted through the silence. Derrick stood there, with a lab coat over his clothing, revolver pointed straight at me. "It's over," he repeated, motioning toward the hole. "Everything your Father and I had planned, it's done." I asked him to put the gun down then, and then we could talk in peace. He simply shook his head and told me it was too late for that, that I knew too much. "I'm sorry but you can't leave here alive." I asked him if this was what it had come to, murder. "You have no idea what I went through to get here. The lives it cost, the work it took, you have no idea the sacrifice required to get where we are." He shook his head. "No, you don't know. So don't tell me what I should do now." "Was it worth it?" I asked. I thought he might pull the trigger then and there. But he didn't. "You want to know what we did?" He motioned toward a nearby chair. I sat down in it, but he did not lower the gun.

"Your Father and I had been working together for a long time. We researched the Seekers, Objects, Holders, but after a while, our attention was caught by a new menace; the black creatures. We stopped everything else in order to find more information about them. We found out that they were attracted to the Objects, and would come to take them, killing anything that stood in their way. They were rare, and almost always successful in their pursuits. We learned that you could kill them, it was difficult but possible. Everything else was still a mystery; where they came from, why they did it, and where they would strike next. It was hard work, but we didn't give up, even though it seemed as if we couldn't do anything else. We were ready to give up when we got a letter. It told us that the writer was interested in our work, and wanted to help out. The letter told us to look more closely at an Object. Object 142; the feather of balance. We spent weeks trying to find out what the letter meant. We found its current owner, its previous owner, and all the time it was gone. Nothing made sense, until your Father figured it out. Both of the people who had held the feather got it from a Holder. That didn't make sense unless the first Seeker became its Holder, but she didn't. She lost the Object one night, after crashing her car. Nothing but oil was found at the scene, and we all thought it was from the car. It wasn't."

He lowered the gun but continued to talk. "Don't you see? The creatures would take the Objects, and when they went back to where they came from, the Object would return to its original Holder. It was a sort of recycling system, obviously not the creatures' primary purpose, and we didn't even know if the creatures themselves were conscious of it, but it worked anyway. That's when Rockwell picked us up. He was the writer of the letter, and told us he had been looking at this phenomenon for a while. He told us about his company, and how he had a plan to get some of the more dangerous Objects out of the hands of Seekers. He told us he wanted to force a mass-scale attack from the creatures. If something like that were to happen, it would bring balance to the system. So he brought us down here, and we started working with that." He pointed at the black hole in the wall. "Strangely beautiful, isn't it?" I asked him what it was, he told me to look closer at the edges. When I did, I noticed that the hole was lined with a long iron chain. "It's an Object?" I asked. Derrick laughed. "Not just any Object, I was told Rockwell had to search for years to find all of the links. No, that's not any Object. That is one of the Legion's Objects." I was shocked. I had always thought that the Legion's Objects were long gone, destroyed, lost. He explained that that's why they had joined up with Rockwell. They believed that if the man could find a Legion's Object, they could do anything. "But I never knew how much we had to do to get it to work."

"But we got it to work, and we went in, and began to research their world. This, was the only Object that we could ever get from the portal." He picked up the book on the desk. "We don't even know its number or its Holder to say the least." He tossed it at me. "Read it." I opened the book, and it was filled with odd characters, which ended about twenty pages in. I told him I couldn't read it. "Neither could we, nothing we could do would translate it. But your Father did it. And with that book, we made everything that happened tonight possible." I closed the book and turned back to him. "Then why did you need me?" That made his smile fade away. "You weren't supposed to be needed like that, but we needed to reconfigure the portal, and if we couldn't do it, we risked starting all over again. The creatures inside would try to kill anything that got too close, except for you. Whatever happened to you that night with your Father caused you to be immune to the creatures. They don't try to hurt you. So Rockwell got you to do us a favor."

"So that's it? Your plan worked?" I asked him. That's when he tensed up again. "At the cost of many people's lives, yes, yes it did. Although I have no idea how well it worked until all of our data checks out." I asked him if that meant that they were done with the portal. He tightened his grip on the gun and looked down. He didn't say anything for a while. But then he looked at the portal. "He was never with us. I learned that far too late, much after your Father figured it out. He used us and our research. He never cared for the reset, he wanted something in there. And he killed everyone here in order to get it." He turned back to me. "Rockwell isn't like you and I. I hope more than anything he didn't find what he was looking for. Sometimes I doubt that he's even -" The rumbling from the portal grew louder and louder as Derrick instinctively turned the revolver toward it. All of a sudden, something walked out. Something with a black suit and piercing grin.

Rockwell.


-S

Chapter 12: Almost Human

A growl emerged from the portal, as if to announce Rockwell's presence.

"Evening," Rockwell made his way down toward one of the tables, and started to rummage through a pile of documents. Derrick kept his gun pointed at him. "Where is Tene? Or Meissner?" he asked. "Dead. Both of them. Sarah died in a conflict with the creatures when we attacked them." "Attacked them? Why did they attack them? Their orders were recon only!" Rockwell paused to turn back to Derrick. "Is that what you thought? No, Derrick, they were ordered to harvest any and all Objects. Just like all of the other squads around the world." Rockwell returned to his paperwork, lifting one that appeared to be a map. Derrick took a step toward him. "What?! That wasn't the plan! The plan was to reset everything back to the way it was, not to take control of the Objects!" No reaction from Rockwell, but the man then lifted his head. Rockwell had apparently found what he needed, and put the paper into his jacket pocket before turning back to Derrick. "You're an idiot. More Seekers would simply find the Objects all over again. You know that as well as I do. That's the world we live in. No, I had to make sure they were safe, and what's more safe than in our hands?" "Our hands? You mean yours!" Derrick pointed the gun straight at Rockwell. "You monster, how can you do this? You lied to us in order to further your own sick plans! You killed innocent people just to get what you want. Why do you do it? How can you do it?" "I do it, Mr. Todd, because I can." Derrick fired twice. Two bullets. Right into Rockwell.

"You seriously didn't think that would work, did you?" Rockwell didn't even flinch. The shock in Derrick's eyes revealed that he did think he could kill him. I didn't know what to think, was he a Holder? Or perhaps something worse? Rockwell laughed. "Derrick, I have been here a lot longer than you could ever imagine. A few bullets aren't going to change that." Rockwell closed in on Derrick with deadly intentions, but he stopped when he heard me. "What are you" I spoke for the first time since Rockwell entered the room. He grinned at my question. "My dear child, I am immortal. No superpowers, or super strength. I just can't die. You could say I'm almost human." "You're a monster," Derrick spat out, gun no longer pointing at anything but the ground. "What you've done to everyone makes you a monster." Rockwell didn't even look at him. "Oh, don't act so innocent. This was all your idea. You wanted change, you wanted safety. So you planned this. I just funded it. You are the one who found the other contacts, you are the one who took the risks, made the sacrifice. You are the one who betrayed the good doctor." Derrick's eyes closed at the last one. I didn't understand at first, then Rockwell turned back to me. "He's the reason your Father went into hiding. Did you know that? He's the reason your Father became what he is today." Derrick turned to me. "No, you don't understand, I had to do it. In order to keep the plan, I had to do it. But it doesn't matter anymore, he's wrecked it all." Rockwell simply smiled, and walked back into the middle of the room. He turned toward the portal and said out loud, "Finish it. You know it's time." I wasn't sure who he was talking to, I don't think Derrick did either. "You'll burn for this," Derrick looked at Rockwell right in the eyes, gun aimlessly pointed at the man in the suit. Rockwell smiled, and his grin pierced through both of us, so much that Derrick almost dropped his gun. "I'm just Keeping Us Better." Then he walked back into the portal.

We stood in silence for a while. Both of us thinking the same thing. One of us was going to die. It was inevitable. I had to do what I could in order to make sure that person wasn't me. I thought of everything I had learned. There had to be a way to figure out a plan. I began to go through everywhere I had been, everyone I had met, the answer had to be there somewhere, I reasoned. I thought of Thomas Reel, who died because of the very creatures Derrick summoned. Clarence Betham, who died by my hand after spending his life running from both the creatures and A.G. Sarah Meissner, the only one who would face me, only to take her own life. I thought of Derrick, and everything he had told me before I learned the truth. All the lies. Rockwell, who had played everyone like pawns in order to get what he wanted. My mother, who spent her life without knowing the true life of my Father. I thought of my Father, and everything he had said before... Then I knew. I knew what I had to do. But first, I needed the gun.

"Well, I'm sorry to say it's over," but he stopped talking after seeing me get up. I held the book he had given me. "What now?" I told him if he was going to kill me, that I would take the book with me. He laughed and told me that he had no use for the book anymore. It was my turn to laugh. I told him that if the book told him how to do all of what happened that night, the book could also help him undo it. So if he wanted to do that, he had to do what I told him. "Or what?" I opened the book, past the first page where the A.G. symbol had been obnoxiously written, to the first page of text. I held the page alone with one hand. "Go ahead, it won't do anything." I assumed he was bluffing, but I wasn't. I ripped the first page off and looked Derrick in the eyes. There was no response. He told me to look back at the book. The first page was back. I held in my hands a copy of the original. "It can't be destroyed, we've done that a million times. But the copies can be burned. They don't have the power of the book." I cursed under my breath. He told me that he wouldn't give me the chance to do anything else. That it was time for me to die. I looked around the room quickly, for anything I could use. Then I found it. In one quick motion, I threw the book into the portal. That got a reaction. He walked up to the portal where the book hung in mid-air, just at the breach of the portal. "Now that was stupid. You're going to have to -" His words were cut off by a loud snapping noise. Then several others as the book sunk into the portal. Derrick swore loudly as he reached into the portal. Then the chain began to tighten, as the portal started to close. He dropped his gun to try to hold it open. That was what I wanted. I ran and grabbed the gun, and pointing it at him I told him to move away from the portal. He didn't listen and tried to keep it open with his hands. I shoved him aside. I told him he was going to die soon, but not yet. He didn't even listen, only watched the portal close as the chain was the last thing to be pulled into it. The wall remained unmarked. I told him it was time.

I used nearby ripped lab coats to bind and gag Derrick. He didn't resist. He didn't say a word. I put him in the elevator and rode it to the top. After that, we got into the second elevator. I put the gun in my pocket as we re-entered the hospital. The receptionist looked at him and then at me, and ran over, about to tell me something. I told her I was there to visit "The Holder of the End," and a look of childlike fear rushed across her face.


-S

Chapter 13: Feeding Father

Sometimes, the most important questions are the ones you already know the answer to.

We walked steadily down the newly made hallway, our newfound guide, me, then Derrick silently behind us. However, there was no chanting as I had read a million times before. The hallway, and the trip, was entirely silent. As we walked, the hallways began to change, grow darker, and more threatening. Rust began to take over the walls and ceiling, as the floor became nothing more than a grate, the only thing separating us from the endless darkness below. Eventually, our guide stopped at a large metal door. Not one word as she left us, walking back the way she came. I wondered briefly what would become of her; would she die, or would she forget the whole ordeal? Or was she even ever there? Doubt quickly clouded my mind as we walked further down into the abyss. The Holder of the End was practically suicide, it was even in its tale. However, I wasn't there to collect the Object, so I thought that might help me. Also, I wasn't prepared to die. The next room we walked into was almost a gigantic silo, with a spiral staircase all around the edge of the wall. In the very center of the room was nothing but a long fall into nothingness. We continued to climb in silence. Not even a whimper from Derrick. I wondered if he had accepted his fate or had just lost what remained of his sanity when the portal collapsed.

The stairs ended. We ended in a room with grated floors, and a slightly smaller hole in the middle of the room. Oddly enough when I turned back to the stairs that got us there, they were gone. I expected as much in that world, but I still was in no position to reliably predict what was going to happen next. We approached the hole. I soon realized why we were there. That is where I saved my own life by ending another. I wonder if Derrick knew. But he didn't even look at me as I said goodbye. And as I pushed him over the edge, I didn't hear a scream. Nothing but silence as he fell into the abyss. I don't know if he truly deserved a death like that, but all that I know is that I cannot justify my actions. What needed to be done had to be done. That's what he would have said. I can't pretend I believe that. There might have been another way, but I was reckless. I was prepared to sacrifice everything to find the truth, and I almost did. Almost instantly when I looked away from the abyss, there was a new set of stairs. This one leading high up into the tower. I climbed them as quickly as I could. After a while, windows began to appear. Outside, if you could call it that, was dark red. I could see no ground, just endless red. Almost like a wave of blood. I kept walking upward. Finally, I arrived at a vista. I'm not sure how, but it just melted out of the tower. I stopped trying to rationalize things. I could see a black sun lighting the red sky. I realized where I was again. I was on the other side of the portal. And I was no longer alone.

He wasn't really my Father. But he was at the same time. He looked exactly as he did before, but his eyes had a certain wisdom behind them. And a certain fear. He sat on a stone throne, no Object in sight. I wondered if he hid it away for my sake. It was time for answers. "Where are we?" My Father no longer had the same voice, he now had several voices. He told me we were on the other side of the portal, a polar world to ours. He told me that I saw differently than he did. Where I saw twisted landscapes and creatures, he saw beauty and peace. He told me that the place was simply an extension of the real world there. Similar to ours, if not equal. This is where he lives now. Safely. If one could say that.

"What are the creatures?" I asked, hoping for a more appeasing answer. He told me that they were the opposite Seekers. I didn't really understand then. He told me that they were a form of balance, because even the Holders live by certain universal laws. Things don't want to change. Those things are the creatures, they want to rebalance things by retrieving the Objects. They are like sharks, with the right whiff of blood, they will search for miles. He told me all of this with an odd smile. I told him that Rockwell now had most of the Objects that the creatures got. He told me that as long as he didn't have all of them, it didn't matter how many he would amass. I asked how he figured all of it out from the diary. He told me he didn't. I didn't understand. He told me that the diary told him what was going to happen, and that he just followed it along. He told me that they figured out how to do everything with time, no matter what Derrick would have liked to believe. "The book told you the future?" I asked. "Not exactly." "Then what?" I asked. He told me to take out the page from the book. I had forgotten I had kept the piece. When I pulled it out of my pocket, I could read it. The odd characters were replaced by regular letters. I read the first paragraph:

It took me a long time to figure out what my Father was. Looking back now it seems so obvious, but then again, I never would have dreamt it. My father would leave me and my mother for business trips. He would go all around the country, but making sure to hit every city. He had a big list of towns which he'd cross names off of. I always assumed he was a traveling salesman. Until the one time I went with him.

It was only then I had begun to understand. I asked the last question on my mind. "What are worse than Holders?" My "Father" laughed. I began to realize that I had been wrong. What was before me was no longer my father. It just wore his skin. My real father died when he used the Object. Something I had been trying not to think of. The whole time I wanted him to be alive because I wanted him to save me. I wanted him to figure everything out. I wanted a Deus Ex Machina, not my father. I felt myself crying, as I finally accepted my father's death. I cried for myself and everyone else. Derrick was right in one way, things weren't supposed to be like this. In a perfect world, no one would die for nothing. But I had come far during this journey. I grew up and I learned to take care of myself. I fought for what I believed in, and against what I found unjust. I learned things my father could never have taught me. I had been ready to die for that moment, and then I realized I had to keep living. For all of our sakes.

"Seekers," was the Holder's response. "A Holder protects an Object, keeps it safe. But you people? You just lust after them and their power. You want everything and you are willing to do anything in order to get it." He climbed off the throne and stood up across from me. The End's face twisted into a smile. "You kill, you betray, you stoop so low. For what? Magical trinkets. But, of course, the Objects know this, and they enjoy it. You are the evil in this world. Nothing caused this mess but Seekers. You corrupt the very world you live in, but that wasn't enough so you all come here. Too many have died for you. You will all pay for what you've done someday. Rockwell will make sure of it."

That changed everything. Silence once again took a hold of the world. "What?" There wasn't a smile on The End anymore. Just a dead stare.

Everything began to go dark then. I had begun to pass out. I struggled for one more question.

"What happens when they come together?"

The End no longer spoke. But the voices came from everywhere.

"You already know the answer to that."

And you know what? I did.


-S

Our Epilogue

The pages are empty after that. You flip through it all quickly one more time, digesting what you just read. A part of you finds the whole thing ridiculous, another part finds it intriguing.

"Have you looked into any of this?" you ask without taking your eyes off the book.

The man across from you smiles. You realize you are not the first one who he has invited into his private home, showed off his book collection, pausing to show this specific diary. He chuckles to himself, telling you that he has, but everything came up fruitless.

"Odd then, isn't it?" you say while looking at the cover.

"Yes, it is. But some things are just never meant to be answered."

You're inclined to agree. You flip back to the first page, where a bright red logo of an A and a G have been stamped.

"Well, enough about that, let me show you my leopard skin. There is quite the tale behind that one!" And that's how the rest of the night continues. However, you can't get the book quite out of your head. When you think back on it, it is kind of strange.

But you know, that even just for a moment, your fingers touched the very edge of magic and horror. The likes this world has never seen.


The story continues in Keeping Us Better