Edition 4: Killing the Creation by Christopher Nadeau
Franklin’s final attempt at bringing his daughter back to life occurred on a steamy August night in Montana in a cave with a group of Satanists. He had reservations about people who claimed to follow the Devil, but God, if he existed, obviously took a big dump on Franklin when he took Grace away.
He watched with detached interest as Torquemada, the leader of these weirdos, plunged his short sword into a living goat’s flesh repeatedly while his followers chanted in what sounded like Latin; probably demon’s name or something ridiculous like that.
Torquemada lifted the dagger, now caked with the goat’s blood and chunks of its organs, and walked over to the pentagram he and his followers spent two days drawing on the cave floor.
Franklin’s mind screamed this was wrong, that it was time to let Grace go.
“Not yet,” he muttered. “Maybe if this doesn’t…”
Torquemada allowed a tiny droplet of blood to land in the center of the pentagram. All at once, the candles flickered, not as if from a gust of wind but as if the breeze had come from within them. Torquemada looked over his shoulder and raised an expectant eyebrow. “It’s your vision, dude.”
Franklin sighed and took the flask from the younger man. He held it up to the light and studied its clear contents before asking what it was.
“Truth,” Torquemada said. “Bottoms up!”
Franklin took stock of the dark-haired, goatee-sporting man before him. Three years ago, he would have treated such a person like the useless fringe-dweller he was. Men like that weren’t business-minded in the slightest in most cases, although many of them pretended they were.
“How the world turns,” he muttered, taking the flask and draining as much of the fluid as he was able.
Barely a second passed before Franklin lost his balance, stumbling backward into someone’s strong arms. The person ushered him toward the center of the pentagram.
It began mildly enough. Franklin focused on one of the flickering candles in order to reorient himself. Each candle flickered, one at a time, then all at once. A low, guttural moan filled his ears, one filled with barely suppressed rage.
Something angry about being forced into this circle comprised of candles and chalk lines.
Franklin felt something push him backwards, causing him to stumble. Almost as if something had…nudged him out of its way,
“The blood,” Torquemada yells. “Lookit the blood!”
Franklin gazed downward at the droplet of blood the lead Satanist had left at the pentagram’s center and emitted a tiny gasp. The droplet seemed to pulse, widening with each beat, as if matching the heart of some great unseen beast. Franklin leaned in closer, momentarily hypnotized by its rhythmic thumping. The moaning from earlier grew less hostile and more resigned sounding.
The thumping stopped, the droplet having widened to the size of an average man’s foot. Reflected in its crimson sheen was a distorted version of Franklin’s own face.
Franklin’s mouth vibrated, lips refusing to part and emit the words he so desperately wanted to utter.
“You’ve labored long and hard to find me.”
Franklin screeched, unable to look away from the droplet as it became mockery of his own face. Its lips moved out of synch with the words it spoke. “But you shall not find what you seek here.”
Still struggling with his uncooperative mouth, Franklin swallowed hard and managed to say, “Th-then where?”
“She is lost to you. She died once; you die over and over trying to bring back that which cannot return.” The voice chuckled.
Perhaps it was the demon’s chuckling, but Franklin found a sudden burst of confidence and used it to demand to know why he could not find his answers here. The face contorted with laughter, its makeshift eyes narrowing in conspiratorial fashion.
“You haven’t the proper paperwork.”
Franklin felt his entire upper body go slack. “No, there must be a—“
“Give it up, fool! No one returns!”
“I don’t believe that!” Franklin replied. “God can do anything!”
The hideous face sneered. “But he doesn’t. You’re looking in the wrong direction.” The demon snarled, its droplet facade shifting like some obscene ocean.
Franklin opened his mouth to continue the debate and paused as the droplet widened even more until it was the size of a small dog. It exploded then, the impact throwing Franklin out of the pentagram and into the nearest wall.
He had no idea how long he was out, but awakened to Torquemada’s face mere inches from his own. The lead Satanist helped him to his feet. Franklin looked down and saw that a sticky, purplish fluid had dried and crusted on his shirt.
“What did he say, Franklin?”
Franklin glanced around Torquemada to the pentagram and his waiting followers, all of them wearing the same eager expression.
“’You’re all going to burn in hell.” Franklin left without looking back.
Franklin spent six weeks in seclusion, during which he pondered the meaning of the demon’s words and grew more and more frustrated as that meaning eluded him. It had been his last chance, the one place most would never look, and he’d come up with what he supposed was the only answer. No dice. Tough luck. Go home.
His little girl was dead and never coming back.
The tears came again, as they had for a month and a half, pouring down his face like sweat on a heat-soaked body. He shook violently, face buried in his palms. When the crying abated, he lay back on his bed and again mulled over the possible meaning of the demon telling him he was looking in the wrong direction.
Hadn’t he already tried Christianity? For that matter, hadn’t he tried all the major religions except for Buddhism, which didn’t preach belief in a godhead?
He’d always known he was on his own, so when Glenda left him a goodbye letter, it hadn’t surprised him. After all, it had been Grace’s fight with her mother that caused her to leave the house and hit the road during that windy, rainy night.
Cowardly bitch. He was better off without her.
But the demon was what mattered at the moment. You’re looking in the wrong direction, it had said. Hadn’t he looked in every…wait. He hadn’t, had he?
The demon had also said God didn’t do whatever He wanted to do. Grace couldn’t come back because God wouldn’t allow it.
Franklin dared to smirk for a moment. There was really only one thing left for him to do.
Franklin dropped the broom he’d been using to sweep up the temple floor at the sound of Roshi Serazawa’s stick striking his own palm.
“Your thoughts run wild, like a herd of elephants,” the Zen master said. “Instead of living in the present, you dwell on rage and hatred.”
Franklin’s mouth popped open, though he said nothing. Disagreeing was pointless, as was feigning confusion. He’d never known a more intuitive holy man. He watched Serazawa walk over and pick up the broom. He handed it to Franklin, bowed and left.
Franklin concentrated on Serazawa’s sermon the way he had no other. Sitting in a half-lotus among three dozen others in the meditation hall was strangely soothing and, although the monk’s words should not have been, they were too.
“All of us here, even me, have blamed others for our pain. But any who have peered into the nature of things knows that blaming another is blaming oneself. Life is interconnected, all of us sharing one mind, splintered into many delusions of self with death being the primary delusion…”
Franklin, his eyes closed three quarters of the way, saw Grace with his mind’s eye and stifled a sob. Why did the most evocative images come up during meditation?
“Blame is an attachment to self,” Serazawa continued. “For many God, himself a deluded being, is to blame. But in a universe defined by perception, God is but a symptom. To blame the creator is to blame the creation.”
Franklin didn’t buy it. One of his main issues with religion was its tendency to remove human achievement in favor of God-sanctioned reality. But to say God had no fault in anything because we helped make him who he is…Franklin couldn’t accept that.
Grace looks the same as the day she died. Still nineteen, still angry at her mother for not allowing her to go to Maui with her friends for fear of being cut off. Screaming about how she’s old enough to do what she damn well pleases. Glenda screaming back at her not to use foul language in “this household,” Franklin turning up the TV volume in the hopes of drowning out yet another screaming match. Grace storming out of the house jumping in her Jeep Ranger.
The phone call two hours later. “Your daughter’s been in an automobile accident, Mr. Kincaid. We’re so sorry. We know this is difficult for you, but we need you to come down and identify the body. Mr. Kincaid, are you there?”
And then actually seeing the body, so mangled, so unrecognizable. Oh, Grace, OhGodOhGod, please no!
It was the first time Roshi Serazawa had worn a dubious facial expression since Franklin arrived at the temple all those months ago, and it was intimidating as all hell.
“Be well, Franklin.” The monk bowed.
Franklin forced a smile and returned the bow. “Thanks for everything.”
“Do not let your passions be your undoing.”
That was Franklin’s last time at the temple.
Seven years passed and Franklin’s desire to bring Grace back from the dead had never wavered, although he now tempered it with what he considered to be a more reasonable outlook on the situation. Buddhism was not the only discipline he observed these days. He also read every occult book he could get his hands on and read them cover to cover. One theme eventually emerged from his studies: Perception was humanity’s greatest enemy and its greatest potential ally; the former because hardly anyone knew that all things depended upon it and the latter because even delusions could be used to attain a tangible goal.
And his was finally within reach. He just needed to be patient.
Seven years, Franklin reflected. Long enough for a new generation to be on its way. Long enough for Grace to be out of college and a productive member of society. And long enough for her to be declared legally dead.
How ironic that he’d reached this point thanks to the words of a demon. And if the demon had been wrong, why hadn’t the so-called Eye in the Sky sent word? Because he didn’t care.
But he would soon. Franklin would see to that.
Franklin’s first successful experiment involved leaving the constraints of the physical universe behind and experiencing as many people as he could before going insane. He accomplished this with just the right combination of meditation, magic and LSD. He found himself floating through the air, through solid objects, marveling at his weightlessness and seeming ability to see and hear so much simultaneously.
In China, a man cried as his mother breathed her last. In Russia, a young woman placed a pistol to her temple and was rewarded with the click of an empty gun. Someday, she swore it would be loaded. In Topeka, Kansas, three little boys cornered a dog and hurled bricks at it until the helpless animal collapsed from its wounds and died. Laughing, the boys started running; they were late for Sunday school. And somewhere in Connecticut, Franklin’s ex-wife finished off her second bottle of Jack Daniels and playfully ran a razor blade across her wrists…
So much suffering and pain. The was suffering as much his as theirs and he knew in that instant that Buddha had been right after all. We all share a consciousness.
Franklin felt a smirk tugging at the corners of his spectral mouth as he floated higher and higher above the planet. When he returned to his earthbound body, the feeling of weightlessness continued for quite a while.
Franklin couldn’t say he was surprised to see Roshi Serazawa standing in his doorway when he answered the gentle but incessant knocking, but he could for damn sure say he wished he’d never seen the man again.
“This is a surprise,” Franklin said.
“May I enter?” Serazawa asked.
Franklin stepped back and widened the door. Franklin walked back to the kitchen table and began eating his breakfast while the Zen master stood in the center of the living room and patiently waited his turn. Halfway through, Franklin invited the older man to have a seat.
“Your path is wrong.”
Franklin looked up from his coffee cup and snorted. “I’m sorry?”
Serazawa raised an eyebrow. “The path you now walk will create an imbalance which may be irreversible in this life.”
Franklin chuckled, his hands shaking as he guided the cup to his mouth and took a sip. “That’s a lot of metaphysics to absorb first thing in the morning.
Serazawa clasped his hands together on the table. His stare, while serene in its own way, was also intense and intimidating. “Revenge is its own enemy, living for it the ultimate delusion.”
Franklin drained the last of his coffee and set the mug back on the table with a louder clank than he’d intended. “Listen, Master Serazawa, I don’t meant to be rude, but I’m not a member of your temple anymore.”
Serazawa smiled that annoying, knowing smile. “The Buddha taught us to aid those who suffer, and so I am here.” He leaned forward. “I know where you have been.” He studied Franklin a moment longer before adding, “Have you forgotten I can go to those places as well? Without the assistance of drugs and starvation, I might add.”
Franklin opened his mouth and shut it just as fast.
“While I know those places to be delusionary, you accept them as real.” He stood and bowed. “I shall not bother you again. Just know there are consequences to these actions.”
Franklin stood and followed him into the living room with the intention of bidding him good riddance and possibly telling the pious son of a bitch to fuck off. But a stray thought wrapped itself around his brain and refused to let go:
He’s going to try and stop me! I’ll see him there when I go again and he’ll try to stop me!
Later, Franklin would be amazed at the ease with which he picked up a heavy statuette and brought it down on Serazawa’s head just as the monk reached his front door. The Zen Master fell to his knees without a sound, twisting around to face his attacker, still impassive, still maddeningly serene.
“You will succeed only in killing the creation,” he said.
Franklin brought the statuette down again and again until he was satisfied the monk was dead. As he knelt there, staring into Serazawa’s unseeing eyes, all he could think was “This is how I want to die.”
Having disposed of Serazawa’s body in the grisliest fashion imaginable—a hacksaw and several garbage bags—Franklin showered and dressed the following day and went out to pick up his new handgun. The obese clerk kept referring to “ghetto punks” that wanted everybody’s “stuff” and tried to upsell Franklin a semi-automatic.
“I’m not anticipating any gunfights,” he’s said. “I’ll take the .38 long-nose.”
“Suit yourself, bud,” the clerk said. “It’s your funeral if one them ghetto punks comes after ya.”
Now, finally, Franklin was ready. Three straight days of meditation, the proper dosages of psychedelics, he prepared himself for ultimate ascension. He kept his lids eyes on the loaded .38 revolver in his lap the whole time and…
Something strange happened.
A kaleidoscope stretched out before him, spinning, contracting, widening, pulling him ever onward. He experienced a brief bout of nausea, which meant his actual physical body was crossing over time as well. He smiled and the kaleidoscope became a single beam, alternating colors between red, blue, green, yellow and white.
A booming voice said, “WHO SEEKS THE WAY?”
Franklin swallowed a few times and stammered a pathetic, “I do?”
“THEN COME ON IN!”
Franklin had perhaps a nanosecond to ponder this before the beam seemed to open, spilling white light onto him. He blinked and it was gone, leaving him in what appeared to be a hallway with smooth gray walls.
He walked forward, almost involuntarily. He didn’t know which way to go but it didn’t seem to matter. Within moments he entered an enormous laboratory. On one side sat row after row of beakers and vials, filled with liquids and odd colors that somehow seemed to be alive. On the other side sat shelves and shelves of bound manuals.
Franklin slowly descended the stairs, half-expecting something to jump out and try to feast on his brains, but nothing did. He continued his personal tour of this strange place, knowing a single human lifetime would not be enough to take it all in.
He ran his hands along a few of the tables, surprised when he came away with no dust.
Franklin spun around so fast he nearly wound up back in his original position. What stood before him was more surprising than any sudden vocal intrusion.
It looked like a man, except its skin was grayish and it had no hair on its head or face. Its posture was rather stooped over and it wore a white tunic that vaguely resembled a lab coat. The gray man smiled, revealing a row of perfectly stacked blue teeth.
“I’m so glad you came,” it said.
Franklin recognized the voice as the same one that spoke to him from the beam of light mere moments ago. “Who are you?”
The gray man waved a six-fingered hand. “A long time since I went by a name. Your kind has many for me.”
Franklin glanced around the room. “Is this all yours?”
“Oh, my yes,” the man said with a chuckle. “Created it eons ago. But then I created lots of things, didn’t I?”
Franklin felt his eyes narrow. “Did you?”
The gray man chuckled again. “Come now, friend. If you didn’t suspect who I was, you wouldn’t have made it this far. I made this place difficult to reach on purpose, after all.”
Franklin breathed in and out, tried to maintain his center. A sudden outburst wouldn’t do him any good right now.
“A long time since anyone has come to study with me,” the gray man said, clapping its hands together once.
Franklin maintained his silence, following the gray man’s gaze as it looked over at a boiling vial and smiled.
“You couldn’t have come at a better time,” it said. “New life-form on the way!”
Franklin ran his gaze along the countless vials. “Are all of these—“
“Oh, my yes! I can barely keep up with it all. I might be immortal, but I still age. Isn’t that a fascinating contradiction?” It smiled.
Franklin swooned and caught himself on a nearby table. “So you do create life?”
The gray man did something that looked like a shrugging gesture. “No life has existed for millennia that didn’t come from this laboratory. It’s more orderly that way.” The gray man walked over to a nearby table and held a beaker up to its ear with its eyes closed.
Franklin took a few hesitant steps forward. “What do you mean by more orderly?”
The gray man’s eyes opened and he placed the beaker back on its table. It told Franklin that before what he referred to as “the project,” life development was rare and scarcely able to sustain itself. “Thanks to me, that has all changed.”
Franklin tried to absorb this by reminding himself why he’d come. After a moment, he said, “My daughter?”
The gray man cocked its head. “What about her?”
Franklin looked away from his gaze, to the beakers and vials, the life-forms preparing to be born into the universe. “She died.”
The gray man blinked. “I see. What was her name?”
Franklin told him, surprised by the amount of pain such a simple request caused. The gray man excused itself and ran over to the bound books, running its six-fingers hand along the multitudinous volumes.
Franklin watched him vanish deep inside the library and patted his right pocket, rewarded by the feeling of the .38. So it had worked.
“Here it is!” The gray man’s voice was muted but still cheery. “Oh, a suicide. That is unfortunate.”
“She didn’t kill herself!”
The gray man emerged from the shelves, a larger leather-bound book in his hands. “Our records are quite accurate.” He handed Franklin the book.
It was all there, how Grace had, after experiencing a nervous breakdown, aimed for the nearest concrete median and driven right into it. Franklin’s hands shook so hard the book sounded like a bird taking flight. “You son of a bitch. You’re the one who created the universe. You’re the one who made things this way!” His voice came out in hoarse gasps.
“You are incorrect, friend. The universe was already—“
“I’m not your friend!” Franklin threw the book into the gray man’s chest, forcing it back. “You killed her! You killed her by creating her!”
The gray man blinked. “You’ve come for revenge.”
Franklin pulled the .38 and aimed it between the gray man’s eyes. It felt like such a primitive weapon now, but it would get the job done.
“I implore you not to do this,” the gray man said. “Things will unravel. Things will succumb to entropy.”
Franklin fired, blowing a hole in the gray man’s forehead. No blood exited the wound, but a thin beam of light sprayed into the room. The gray man spun round like a top, eyes rolling at unnatural angles. His body erupted into a hail of dust. Franklin smiled and put the gun to his own head.
The room started to face, the solid objects became fuzzy, out of focus.
He heard Roshi Serazawa saying, “You will succeed only in killing the creation” and laughed. The laugh grew into a sound filled with pain and regret.
What had he really done?
The gray man had just been a tool, a means to an end. If there was a God, he, she or it was just as unreachable as Grace. The universe had always been here, creation a matter of perception and the need to understand. The demon had told him he didn’t have the right paperwork and now he understood the bureaucracy all too well.
He had just killed middle management and sent the entire universe plunging into nothingness, entropy.
The laboratory faded from view, revealing a pervasive whiteness like what he’d initially encountered. He laughed louder still, the tears running down his face. His screams went unheard against the nothingness around him. He was all that was left which, in many ways, had been the case all along.
Still laughing, he pulled the trigger.
Christopher Nadeau is the author of ‘Dreamers at Infinity’s Core’ through COM Publishing, as well as over two dozen published short stories. His novel “Echoes of Infinity’s Core” is slated for a 2012 release. He was interviewed as part of Suspense Radio’s up and coming authors program and collaborated on two “machinima” films with UK animator Celestial Elf, “The Gift” and ‘The Deerhunter’s Tale”. He received positive mention from Ramsey Campbell for his short story “Always Say Treat,” and has received positive reviews from SFRevue and zombiecoffeepress.
An active member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers, Chris resides in Southeastern Michigan with his wife Lorie and two petulant long-hair Chihuahuas.