He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. —Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil“, Aphorism 146 (1886)
He said I was screaming but I can’t remember. My head, my heart, my very soul was filled with the screams of millions.
I couldn’t hear myself anymore.
All I could remember was striking him again and again. He resisted, I was a series of burns, my upper body covered in nothing but smoldering rags. But I didn’t feel a thing. My arm rose and fell rhythmically, like a piston in a V-8 engine, hammering him into the ground. Dark energy surrounded me, flying off in every direction, souls dying within me, feeding the beast their lifeforce, enhancing its power a thousand fold.
Fenrir was almost free and unleashed. Paradoxically, my complete exultation in my rage kept him with me. Free to escape, he was drawn to the purest source of rage around.
Me. I had turned from a prison to a killing field.
I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. Vita misled us. He lied to us. He brought us here to die. The hammering continued even after Vita fell limp. I couldn’t feel the Phoenix any more, it was gorged and feasting, too busy to watch over me. Too busy to do what it was created to do.
The hammering continued. I was filled with a dark ecstasy, as if this was what I was born to do.
To kill renegade gods.
Then I felt something change. The air grew thick, heavy, a hand, a clawed one grabbed my left shoulder. Black as night, fingernails of onyx, a grip of steel. I could break it like a twig. The vampire held his grip, his darkness became an anchor to me. Metaphorically, I felt my spirit reach out to it.
Then a second hand, as warm as the other was cold. Filled with Life, Manny grabbed my hand, the hammer surrounded in the darkforce that is Fenrir, as I stood over the unconscious body of Vita. My dark-force filled flesh should burn him, it should eat of his mortal flesh like a bonfire does a witch’s. He should be burning before my eyes.
I cannot bring my hammer back down. My arm is frozen there. His hand using no strength holds me in place and I turn to look at him, mouth open, pure rage flowing forth and he was shining. A smile beamed out from his face. A smile as beneficent, radiating kindness as powerfully as he normally radiated intensity.
Just like that, the darkforce was dispelled. The blue black sigils which surrounded my right arm lost their light and returned to being a spiritual prison to a god-like force of destruction. The possession was over. The souls of this ruined Earth dissipated releasing me. Exhausted I looked down.
Vita, protector of the Earths, Traveller of the Hidden Ways, lay dead in my grip. What had I done?
My name was Samuel Owiti. I was born in Kenya in the year 1787. When the British were bringing their empire to Kenya, they decided they would do it using rail and would hire many of the local tribes to work for them, laying track and building bridges. I was a worker on such a track over the Keyosa river.
My tribe was a small one, barely two hundred members but the men worked for the British since it appeared they were not planning to leave Kenya any time soon. The British railway was enriching provinces and we thought it might be good for our small tribe to take advantage of this irresistible force.
Our people believed in magic then. The magic of family lines, of spirits of hospitality, of the power of the Orisha, of the spirits of nature. It was the spirits of nature we feared and appeased the most for they were the closest to us and often willing to manifest when nature was out of balance.
There was a spiritual war taking place when the British brought their train through our province. And when it was done, many lives were lost. More importantly, it brought our province under the scrutiny of older eyes. Older than the spirits wandering the plains, older than the mountain gods of Kilimanjaro. So old, they were born someplace outside of our world.
I met one of those spirits. On the night of the final completion of the tracks. After the bodies of our families were given their rights, I heard a train coming across the tracks. No one else seemed to hear it. No one else saw the fog that accompanied it. I found myself drawn toward the sound and I could see it as it crossed high above the river, making a thunderous noise, steam flaring from its nostrils, and a hellish light burned from its single eye. A light I can still remember all these years later.
It stopped before me. I had been struck motionless, in awe or fear, I knew not which. I waited as its steaming breath surrounded me and the world as I knew it fell away. Only the moon remained constant as day and night changed. The countryside around me grew more advanced, a small group of buildings in the distance grew larger, more prominent, and our village became a city.
“This is your future. We have seen it.”
I fell to my knees as the voice was like nothing I had ever known. Rapturous, making me ready to assume God had come to me, but in its next sentence I thought maybe instead Satan was before me instead.
“But only if you are prepared to die here. This future does not include you. It exists because of you.”
“What are you? Why should I believe anything you say? This is too much to be believed. Am I already dead?” All I had was questions, nothing coherent, nothing made sense.
“What if I told you, all your choices, all your decisions can cause the world you live in to change for the better or the worse, would you believe that is possible?”
I felt like this question was something I could comprehend, so I tried to focus on just that one tiny thing. “Yes, I believe a man makes the future he works toward.”
“What if I told you, there are multiple futures, some go forth and become great and vast things, others wither on the vine, based on the decisions of humanity as a whole. What if I told you there are some decisions at certain points which affect the lives of billions, sometimes positively, other times negatively. What if I told you, tonight, you will make such a decision, Samuel Owiti? I will go one step further and tell you, if you say no, and walk away, this decision will change your world from what you saw, to this.”
The city fell away, flames engulfed the buildings, towering clouds rose into the skies with a burning light within, destroying all they touched. People vaporized, nothing but their shadows remaining. All of mighty Africa reduced to a radioactive wasteland. “Enough, you monster, if your goal is to bring me to your cause, you need not have done this.”
“Done what, Samuel? Do you think I did this? I am not the cause of this event. You, humanity, are the monster. I am merely its Witness. That is what I do. I witness. I watch, I only intervene under certain circumstances. Very rigidly defined circumstances. But with you, I could do more. Much more. But perhaps you need more to convince you. Let us go forward from your last day on Earth to seven years in the future. You will return to your home to find it overrun with foreign troops. Smell the gunpowder, see the burning; find your families, all of them gunned down by the very same British who claimed they would bring prosperity to you. They brought it, but kept the prosperity for themselves. Do you see where you would be now? Dead. Valiant, but dead, just the same.”
I wanted to disbelieve him. But I could feel the veracity of his words. I could see my brother-in-law standing hip deep in the British dead, before he was gunned down, his machete dripping blood even into death. I know this is how he would die. He hated the British. All of my family fought and died. I even saw what I think was me but I flickered like a light trying to resist going out.
“If I go with you, will you stop this?”
“What do you mean, no? You said if I went with you I would be able to change things?”
“For others, yes. Their futures will change because of your choices. But this spot. This place in time, this is a point that cannot, will not be changed. The only point in question is you. You are superimposed on multiple quantum realities. Because we are discussing your future, it is, for the moment in flux. You have only a short time to decide.”
“If I go with you, I will not die?”
“Not this day. Nor will you in seven years. You will live another two hundred and twenty six years before the threat of Death will be before you. You will have to make the choice again then. This assumes no threat as great as yourself, no being on the scale of what we are, no forces from realms outside of us whose power rivals our own, will you have to worry about. On any day you change something pivotal, you can expect to draw the ire of those who placed us in this service. You are not the first Conductor. Nor will you be the last.”
A door opened in the distance and through the fog, I could see a man come to the edge of the rear of the engine. He staggered down the ladder and walked to me. His coat was stained with blood. Fresh. He was a short man who wore his white hair long and braided in the back. In the moonlight he had a fine white mustache hanging over the edges of a wide and expressive mouth. He smiled at me while staggering in my direction to fall into my arms. “My time here is over. I have done what I could for as many as I was able in as many forms as I was allowed. The Darkness is coming and I fear I will not last long enough to overcome them. I give the power to save us to you. If you will take it up. I know you have and you did, and you will regret this too. This is as it should be. No such use of power should come without regret.”
“How long have you been doing this?”
“I have guided Hēi Lóng, the Black Dragon, for nearly a thousand years. Will you take this burden from me? I was suited to this task but now I realize I am truly a man out of my time. I can no longer make the decisions that need to be made.”
A thousand year old man. A train that was a dragon, whose fierce eyes now stared at me. A future of war, not just here but across time and space. A man who was out of time. I answered, “Yes. Tell me your name.”
I could barely hear him and had to lean my ear close to his lips. Then he coughed and drew in his last breath. With it he said, “Take my coat, and my watch. Create a new future.”
And then Zhang Hongjing, minister of a China before I was born, died of the wounds of treachery administered to him nearly a thousand years ago.
The coat was heavy and it changed into something more modern as soon as it was on. I felt my humanity fall away. Hunger, cold, fear, all replaced by something ancient, fearsome, godlike.
I took the watch from his hand and as I strapped it to my coat, I could feel the serpent wrap itself around my heart. Tendrils of magic filled me, and took my breath away as it squeezed itself into my chest, fitting itself, nestled around my organs.
“For a time, we will be as one. For a while.”
It would be twenty years before the Black Dragon, a creature older than Man, would speak to me again.
I am home. Just as he promised. I would die in the exact same space, my superposition ratified, my position confirmed.
After two centuries roaming all of time and space, I recognize the mountain in the distance, Kilimanjaro.
The gods of Kilimanjaro call me home after two centuries away. The two lions greet my spirit and lead me away from my death.
Movement was my life; my identity as Motus Vita is done. Their embrace means I am finally free. Once a demigod, I am content to be Samuel Owiti once more. As a child I was cast away, and raised by a man not my father, and a woman not my mother. My work as Motus Vita was to help others find a home when none appeared to exist for them. That work for two centuries was good. Now I, too, have come home.
I rise above the ruins of what was once a great city, my home, leaving behind three warriors, whom I, in my fear and desperation, lead to their deaths unless they can become something other than they are. In the minutes left to them, they must master the serpent that encircles the worlds.
They must master Ouroboros.
Motus Vita © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved