Nicholas sat in his room alone, staring at the Conductor. Whose long frame extended to the ceiling, causing him to crook his neck. He grinned as he watched Nicholas sit on his bed, staring at a wall, trying his best to ignore him.
“Why can’t you leave me alone?” Nicholas asked as he continued to stare at the wall.
There was nothing but silence; it was overwhelming.
“Is there something you want?” He asked a second time. Partially due to curiosity, partially to fill the silence.
But once again, he was greeted with nothing, a still room with nothing but the sound of Nicholas’ own breath and heartbeat to give the room energy. His breath shortened as his heart sped up. His chest heaved as he started to panic, but all he could think about was the man standing next to him as he sat alone in his room.
“He’s not real.” He repeated, over and over. His body rocked as he laid emphasis on the word ‘not.’
Hands shaking, he tried his best to calm them, but once he noticed them moving, he could feel the stare of the Conductor grow in Intensity. A sinister grin sliced its face in half with the malice that hid behind it. Nicholas’ stomach tightened as he watched the Conductor lean towards him through his peripherals. Eyes unblinking, and smile as strong as ever. His face looked like a stone carved by a man whose heart knew nothing but pain. Tears started to flow from the corner of Nicholas’ eyes as he sobbed silently. His eyes still fixed on the wall in front of him as he tried his hardest not to notice the monster that leaned in ever closer. The breath from it first heard, then felt as it rolled over his cheek. His temple felt the brush of anticipation where he assumed a nose would be. The grin lowered ever so slightly, and the mouth began to open, the tongue poised for speech. It held its position; sitting in the blurry corners of Nicholas’ vision, it waited. Making micro-movements with its face, it teased the idea of it talking, but no sound left its mouth. Eventually, Nicholas snapped. Screaming at the wall in front of him.
“Something, say something. Anything. Stop toying with me and just kill me!”
Nicholas’ fear turned to rage; his eyes dried from the heat under his skin. His knuckles cracked as they closed ever tighter. Finally, he spun around to face the monster next to him. He stared the Conductor in the eyes. Eyes that seemed to dart around Nicholas’ face, absorbing every detail. Nicholas kept his eyes true to the Conductor’s, furrowed with hate and anxiety.
“You look just like him when you are mad.” It said as it finally blinked for the first time.
“So you can talk, and the first words you choose are some of the few that really piss me off. Good call, some right-hand man you are. I thought you were supposed to work for me.” Nicholas held his ground with a fire in his belly and smoke in his words.
“I do not serve him, and you are not him… Yet” The Conductor added.
“Oh, right, this great big prophecy of me dying. How romantic. Also, if you think you are anything more than a servant to that monster, you are sorely mistaken. He consumes everyone and everything he touches. That includes you.”
Nicholas swung with all his might and felt bones quake in his hand as it collided with the un-moving face of the Conductor. Who continued as if nothing had happened, speaking over Nicholas’ cries of pain.
“You think you understand my lord?” It quizzed, standing once again to its crooked heights. “You are not capable of seeing what he is. But you will; you just need to make a leap of faith.”
The Conductor looked to the window; Nicholas’ eyes followed.
“One leap of faith, and you leave this miserable rock. You were not born for this world; you belong on Hollow. Join us where you are feared and revered. Come to the place where you belong.”
The Conductor stretched one of his long arms and un-did the latch holding the window closed. It pushed it gently to better reveal the twelve-story drop to hard pavement and a quick stop.
“Jump.” It grinned.
Nicholas stared at the window with an unease in his stomach. His desire to leap was far stronger than he was willing to admit. His eyes crested the windowsill, and eventually, his eyes fell to the pavement below. Its sudden appearance in his vision shocked him for a moment.
“But what if you are wrong? Then I have thrown it all away for nothing.” Nicholas squeezed through a tight neck and dry throat.
The Conductor grabbed Nicholas by his shoulders and spun him around. Lowering his eye line to Nicholas’. His eyes had a hate fire in them that burned Nicholas, causing him to try and avoid a stare that evoked penitence.
“Feel the rage in me; it is his rage; it is what yours is yet to become. Don’t tell me the feeling is foreign because we both know that to be a lie. This is what you are to become. A pyre of emotions that consume all of those around you as you burn cities and salt the soil. You will become a beacon of blight and a hero to all who learn of your exploits….” The Conductor was cut off as Nicholas interjected by removing himself from the Conductors grasp.
“A hero? Are you fucking kidding me? Anodyne is nothing more than a mindless fool. Roaming the Eternaverse for no good reason as he maims, uses, and abuses all of those he touches. He is vile, and I will never become him.”
“You are more like him every day, though; how many weeks would we have to go back before the idea of hitting me was so far-fetched it never crossed your mind?”
Nicholas remained silent.
“Ten weeks, nine? Or should I just say the truth of just one? Not that you would admit it, but you are still in denial about who you are to become. A god Nicholas, a god with a desire for growth in a way that none has ever seen before. You think you are hard working now; image imagine how productive you can be if you never need sleep, food, or water. Your body eternal and your mind focused, is that not what you want?”
Nicholas rubbed his bruised knuckles, his fingertips squishing the swollen flesh with each passing. His mind absentmindedly churned with the conductor’s words.
“That is what I want, isn’t it?” He asked with a furrowed brow, doubting his desires.
Pushing his swollen hand, Nicholas cracked his knuckles. Each one gives multiple sickly cracks. Flexing out his hand, he felt the skin pull tight.
The Conductor laid his hands on Nicholas’ shoulders and breathed down his neck.
“This kind of pain is just the beginning; you could experience more. You could experience a whole world of pain. Your own personal world of pain. Once you create, you decide who lives and dies. One where you govern all, and all fear you.”
Nicholas scratched his head, standing as he felt his stomach turn into a knot.
“I don’t want people to fear me.”
“Yes, you do!” The Conductor insisted as soon as the words left Nicholas’ mouth.
Nicholas held words in his mouth but refrained from letting them sit; the Conductor watched with eager eyes as Nicholas held his mouth ready for speech.
“Don’t hide your words, my lord. Let out how you feel.” The Conductor knelt down and hunched slightly to stare Nicholas in the eyes.
“I don’t want to be feared, and I don’t think I want to be violent.” Nicholas shied his face in shame.
The Conductor stood and cursed outwards. Pinching his fingers until they were nearly touching, he cried out.
“This close, Nicholas, you were this close.”
“You called me by name; you never do that.”
“I called you by a name; maybe if you acted more yourself, I could call you by YOUR name.”
“My name is Nicholas.”
“Your name should be Anodyne.”
“But it isn’t, and if I can help it, it will never be.”
The Conductor stood to his full height, the room moving around to accommodate him. The walls darkened, and soon they were surrounded by a cold blackness. Nicholas watched as his breath filled the air in front of him.
“What is this?” Nicholas asked quietly.
“This is you. Coming to you.”
Nicholas looked out into the black to see Anodyne standing in the distance.
“I am close. So close now that I can see you.” Anodyne whispered gently.
The cold of the void intensified as Nicholas felt loneliness creep around him.
“Why are you coming for me? What did I do to deserve this?”
“You were born.”
Anodyne’s image was slowly consumed by the black before itself faded. Nicholas looked around his empty room. No Conductor, no Anodyne, just Nicholas. His hands shaking from fear. He reached for his phone but stopped as he noticed his swollen hand.
“Why does my hand hurt? It was a hallucination.” Nicholas said as he touched his knuckles. Recoiling at the pain.
Looking around the room, he noticed nothing; everything was the same.
“What did I hit?” He asked himself.
The conductor’s voice rang in his ears, and Nicholas spun to watch the Conductor grab his neck. Pushing him back onto the bed, Nicholas felt as if he had fallen through the bed. His momentum gained, and suddenly, he was lurching forward while under his covers. A cold sweat running across his body with rapid knocking at his door.
“Nick, wake up, you’re having a nightmare again.” Nicholas’ flatmate called out.
“Yea, I am up, thanks. Sorry.” Nicholas replied while rubbing his eyes and sitting up.
“It is all good, man, night and all that.” His flatmate replied sleepily, with the sounds of his footsteps fading.
“Another fucking nightmare; I really can’t take much more of this.” Nicholas said in defeat, looking out to the window, which was open.
He climbed from his bed and looked down the many stories to where two people stood at the bottom. One tall, the other much shorter. Too far to see them clearly, Nicholas watched as they looked directly up towards him. Nicholas moved from one side of his window to the other, watching as the heads of the figures on the ground seemed to follow him. Nicholas swallowed heavily as he watched the two figures raise their arms in a sign of a catching embrace. Nicholas felt the draw to leap, his knee propping himself up onto his table. He edged himself closer to his window, eyes transfixed on the figures below. Staring, Nicholas felt the draw to leap; he knelt in his window frame, unwilling to move, stuck above the ground.