Novella – “Harrowing Reverie”

Written by Xerolt9

Introduction

I wrote this story last year on my own blog, which I haven’t used for a long time (and don’t plan on using frequently anyways). Originally, I had asked 2 other people to help me out with the story, but they refused, so I had to do it all by myself. I’m not particularly proud of the story, as it has a weak moral and several mistakes. Furthermore, it can get really boring due to the lenghty descriptions. The long descriptions were mainly given because I had very weak ideas for the story, and my goal was to reach 10,000 words (in order to ensure that it was a ‘novella’ and not a ‘novellete’).

I had received some very good views on my blog due to this story, and also had to face positive/negative criticism. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the story. And please, leave a few comments below 🙂

Chapter 1 – Awakening

“Where… am I?

Is this a dream?

All I can remember… is the darkness

As it consumes me.” 

The boy opened his eyes – an accomplishment that took much strength. For how long he had been embraced by deep slumber, he did not know. His body was completely dominated by affliction, it’s cause unknown. As he tried to stand up, he observed his surroundings.

It was dark and bleak. The ground was covered with grass and a few dead trees could be observed in the horizon. However, something was not right… The grass was grey and the trees were leaf-less. The soil was black, visible only because of the insufficient white light emitted from the sky above. Furthermore, it was silent. There was no wind either.

Surprisingly, though, it was cold.

“Where am I?” said the boy out loud, as he managed to get up, despite the terrible aching. This was definitely not a place he had been to before. Somehow, though, this place seemed familiar in an almost eerie manner.

No life could be seen here. It was a desolate place with trees in the north and horribly rugged land in the south. The rest was cloaked by heavy fog.

The boy was dazed. He could not remember anything regarding who he was, or how he got here. He sat down again, waiting for his memories to come back to him. Sadly, nothing of the sort happened, allowing the boy to remain discombobulated. It started to get colder and the boy shivered. Seeing no other option, the boy got up and started to walk towards the dark forest, which seemed welcoming as they gave the boy hope of shelter.

The pain had subsided as the boy continued to walk towards the dead trees. The light from the sky began to get dimmer. If the boy did not find shelter soon, it would be too dark for him to see and find his way through.

Unanticipatedly, the boy heard a sound originating from behind him. It seemed as if someone was following his footsteps, without attempting to hide their presence. The boy slowly turned around and gasped as he faced the figure.

It was his own image. A complete imitation, except that there were two large holes where his eyes should have been. The figure grinned from ear to ear as the boy took a step back in fright.

“Wh-who are you?” asked the boy, shivering out of fright.

“I am your guide,” replied the figure “I am a part of you. And this is your world.”

Unable to comprehend anything, the boy shook his head. “I don’t understand,” he said.

The figure sat down, indicating to the boy to do the same. The figure introduced himself as “Tristis”. As the boy asked him to explain everything, he began to speak in an echoing voice.

“This is your world. A world that resides in your heart. It reflects on your personality; lonely, sad, dark and silent,” he said. The boy continued to listen, slowly digesting this information. “You are neither alive nor dead,” continued Tristis “Rather, you are somewhere in between. Your current state allows you to visit and explore your world subconsciously. Here, you will find various memories leading to the present. Everything you see here has either happened to you in your life, or was pondered upon by you, allowing it to sync with this world and gain form. As you progress through this world, you will regain pieces of yourself. You will begin to remember all that you have forgotten. And depending on your actions, you will either end up in the world of the living, or the world of the dead.”

The boy continued to shiver. He was just twelve. How was he supposed to approach this?

Tristis stood up, having finished his explanation. “When you will require more information, I will appear,” he said “Now go into the forest… your earliest memories await.”

With that, he began to fade.

The boy tried to assimilate what he had just heard. He lay in the grey grass, until the cold began to worsen, forcing the boy to resume his search for shelter. Surely, he could see smoke rousing from the woods. This smoke seemed to rise from a chimney.

The boy hurried in order to prevent himself from turning into ice. The cold was terrible, and snow was inevitable. Rubbing his arms along the way, the boy ran towards the origin of the smoke. As he made his way through, he noticed several things littering the ground. However, he was in too much of a hurry to observe them.

The light from the sky began to fade and darkness began to consume all there was to consume. The boy kept running. He had to get to the house with the chimney. He had to stay in the light. Obviously, he would be too frightened to stay outside in a desolate place.

Moreover, who knew what creatures lay waiting? After all, Tristis had talked about how some things that the boy had thought of, would materialize in this world. So, how could a twelve-year old not have thought about snakes and other fiends? Beyond doubt, a dim yellow light could be seen ahead.

Maybe it was from the house? Could he be nearing it? Yes. There it was, just within his reach. The boy finally reached the origin point of the smoke. It was a cottage, a very old one. Candlelight was being emitted from the windows, giving the cottage a very warm feel.

It was still completely silent, and the boy presumed that the cottage was empty. He stood there for a moment, just observing the cottage. It brought about a certain feeling of nostalgia and the boy tried to remember it’s significance.

The cottage was grey and black, as everything else in this world, but the boy recalled it’s walls being brown. The door had a small brass knocker and the windows were square, half of them covered by curtains.

Suddenly, the boy remembered. This was the cottage he had been raised in as a child. This cottage belonged to his grandmother. She had been dead for 8 years.

Chapter 2 – Reminiscence

The cottage seemed to seduce him, and even if he willed himself to leave the place, he could not. He began to walk towards it.

It possessed a mysterious aura, luring the boy towards it. It was still cold, yet the cottage was surrounded by warmth.

The boy stopped and stood at the door, staring. His head started to ache and throb, as memories returned to him. He clutched his head, waiting for the pain to subside. As it did, he remembered; images of this cottage flashed in his mind along with the portrait of an aged lady seated on a wooden chair, knitting. This was his grandmother, he was sure of it.

The boy pushed the door open, feebly. The whole cottage seemed to groan as the boy entered.

The place was well-lit, due to the presence of flames in the fireplace, which was the origin of the smoke being emitted from the chimney. The place was silent, just like the rest of the world. This place, however, had colour. This was a subtle change from the black and white atmosphere outside.

All of a sudden, thunder bellowed outside, causing the boy to stagger in astonishment. It began to rain as heavy drops began to attack the windows. The fire in the fireplace was extinguished, causing the cottage to darken; the only light source being the pale blue moonlight entering from the windows.

The boy looked around the cottage, hoping to find a candle, or any other object that would bring light. Unfortunately, there was nothing.

Suddenly, the boy heard the creaking of a rocking chair in the corner. As he set his eyes on it, he could see it moving back and forth. He tried to call out, but no sound would come out.

The movement stopped and an old lady stood up. As the boy focused on her, he noticed her wide smile… and apertures where her eyes should have been.

“Tristis?” the boy called out “Is that you?”

And the lady smiled and nodded. “How did you change your appearance?” asked the boy, recovering from consternation.

“I am but a part of you,” replied Tristis, as he moved toward the boy “I am able to take the form of anything in your memory. But alas! I was stripped of my eyes so that I shall not be able to see this world, as it is not part of your memory. However, I can feel it and have been given knowledge of it.”

The boy seated himself on a chair. His head was bursting with questions and he did not know where to commence.

“Let me ease your mind by providing an explanation for everything,” began Tristis “You are neither living, nor dead, as I had previously stated. Your actions will choose your state once you have completed your journey. Your memories are lost, and in order to regain them, you must progress through this world. Fragments of your memories will return to you inevitably and automatically. However, the major segments will be given to you by me.

“I will appear whenever there is the need for you to discover a major part of your memory. You shall receive your memories in an ascending order: from earliest to the latest.” Tristis continued “While you are being synchronized with your memories, you will relive all the emotions that you went through, at that particular time.”

“Now, are you ready?” asked Tristis, holding out his hand.

The boy stood up and clutched Tristis’ hand, absorbing the warmth that began to fade as the air turned cold once again.

He stood in a corridor with many doors. Each door had a particular number engraved onto it. The boy looked around, trying to figure out where he was. Abruptly, he saw a woman standing outside one of the doors. She beckoned to him and he made his way to her. 

Come,” she said “Your grandmother is waiting.”

The boy went inside, reluctantly. He spotted a few people wearing white coats, and he instantly recognized the place as a hospital. 

He went inside the room. To his utter dismay, he saw an old woman lying in bed, with numerous tubes entering into her body at various points. Drugs sat on her bedside table beside some assorted machinery, displaying various readings. She was in pain, and every second was of immense discomfort to her. 

More images flashed into the boy’s mind of this woman living happily in a cottage, looking after him. She was like his mother, and seeing her in such agony was excruciatingly painful for the boy as well. He stood at her side with hot tears flowing down his cheeks. 

She was sleeping. But the boy knew something was not right as the readings on the machinery changed. Her breathing slowed down and her eyes shot open. She began to scream with what little breath she had left. Her screams echoed through the boy’s ears, deafening them to the extent that he could not hear the doctors as they asked him to move aside. But what difference would it make? The doctors could not save her now. 

The boy’s sobs turned into fully-fledged crying as the synchronization process completed.

Tristis stood in front of him, but did nothing to comfort the boy.

“That was a very strong memory,” said Tristis “The emotions you felt were powerful. She was like a mother to you, and you loved her so. It crippled you as you saw her in her final moments when she went through extreme affliction before surrendering to death.”

The boy continued to sob. “It’s my fault,” he mumbled “I stood there and didn’t do anything.”

“Do not hold yourself responsible. She was dying. There was nothing you could do to help her.”

“I am unable to access the rest of your memory as you have not progressed further. As you continue to progress, you will continue to gain more memories,” Tristis went on “Although I have not seen your other memories, I can say with complete assurance that they are not happy ones. This world reflects on your personality. The dark and cold atmosphere is not random. In fact, most of your life is filled with immense sadness and sorrow, allowing this world to take on a bleak appearance.”

The sobbing stopped.

“However, you have no other option than to press on,” Tristis began to fade, along with the sound of his words.

As Tristis faded away, the boy took a deep breath. Comprehending all this was too strenuous for him. He stood in the same spot for a while, just brooding on recent events.

Taking another deep breath, the boy stepped outside of the cottage. The rain had stopped, but it was still dark and damp. This, however, did not discourage the boy from moving on. He could see a bright blue light far off into the deeper part of the woods. That was his destination.

Something seemed different, though. The woods were not silent anymore. The branches and bushes rustled and the wind began to blow, slowly. The boy was not alone.

Chapter 3 – Tremble

Someone or something was stalking the boy. He could tell from the sudden change of atmosphere from composed to agitated. The wind was not blowing ever since he woke up… but now, it whispered to him.

The boy looked ahead to the faint blue light emerging from somewhere deep inside the woods. Would he be able to get there? Or would he be stopped?

He began to walk slowly, trying his utmost best to not produce a sound. However, this task proved to be seemingly difficult as the ground was polluted with litter and useless effects, hence effectuating a crude noise with every step he took. The boy stopped to take a closer look at the ground. He noticed how several items lay beneath him, hidden behind the grey grass. Shattered glass, deformed plastic, rusted metal and a large variety of other feckless objects dominated the lower part of the woods. They somehow brought back certain fragments of memories that were buried deeper inside the boy’s mind.

Something had rustled behind him. The boy turned around briskly as he saw a man emerging from the black bushes. The pale moonlight fell on his face, revealing it to be scarred and deformed, along with the absence of his eyes. At first, the boy thought it was Tristis. But this assumption was abandoned when the man dashed towards him with a jagged knife in his hands.

Unable to think, too frightened to move. The boy just stood there, watching the dark man run towards him. He closed his eyes opened his mouth to yell, but it was too late as the knife penetrated his skin and went through his heart.

The boy expected pain. But it did not come. He opened his eyes, trying hard not to concentrate on the blood. But there was none. There was no wound either. Instead, in front of him stood Tristis, in the form of the boy, as he had first appeared. The boy was flustered, but before he could ask, Tristis began to speak.

“That was the man you once feared. And apparently, you still seem to be afraid.”

“Who was he?” asked the boy

“A man who kidnapped children and showed no mercy towards them,” replied Tristis “You were one of his victims.”

Memories rushed into the boy’s head. He saw himself walking down an old alleyway at night, trying to steer clear of all the adults that smiled at him wickedly.

“He had cut you with that knife, sadistic as he was, ” said Tristis “Although you managed to escape, memories of your abduction left a deeply traumatizing effect on your feeble mind.”

“What’s he doing here then?” questioned the boy, trembling as he began to gather shattered pieces of  visions.

“Everything you ever deeply pondered upon will take form in this world. In order to progress, you must overcome your fright.”

Tristis held out his hand and asked for the boy to synchronize with him once more.

It was a chilly night. A young boy of about eight looked around desperately for his mother, from whom he had been isolated. He had let go of his mother’s hand, and so he had no inkling of where she had gone.

Following his askew instinct, he entered a dark alley. A few men stood there, grinning at him atrociously. There was no sign of his mother. He turned around and began to depart from this frightening alley when he felt someone grab him from the back. 

He screamed, kicked and thrashed, but to no avail. He looked upon the face of his captor. It was a man with blemishes on his deformed face and bloodshot eyes. He did not smile like the others. Rather, he had a shady expression – one which the boy had never seen before. 

Pedestrians passed by but no one helped. They were either too afraid, or just did not care. 

The abductor took the boy into a corner and pulled out a knife. He slashed at the boy’s arm, causing him immense agony as he watched with amusement. He was a drunk sadist, and the worst kind too. 

The boy screamed in pain as bright red blood dripped from his arm. The man showed a lot of gratification at the sight of blood, causing his grip to loosen. The boy took advantage of this moment and managed to free himself. 

He ran like he had never ran before, all the while ignoring the affliction in his arm. He just ran until the alley was out of sight.

The boy staggered as the synchronization completed.

“You must understand that there are many sinful people in the world,” expressed Tristis “They seek pleasure while watching others suffer. But evil should not be feared. It should be dealt with”

Tristis began to change. His face became disfigured and he grew taller. He continued to go through metamorphosis until he turned into the evil sadist.

The boy shook with angst as the man took out a knife and bounded towards the boy once more.

The boy ran, as he had once did before. He continued to run past the dead trees and lifeless bushes until he touched upon the realization that nothing was being achieved by scampering away. He stopped and looked around.

The shattered pieces of glass caught his eye and he looked for the sharpest piece he could find while the man caught up to him.  He spotted a jagged piece of rusted metal among the other items on the ground. With no alternative, the boy picked it up.

The man finally caught up to the boy and dashed towards him with incredible speed. The boy closed his eyes as he still trembled with absolute fear, and lunged forward, pointing the metal piece at the man.

He felt the impact; it had obviously hit him. The boy imagined blood pouring from the man’s wound. However, he neither felt the blood, nor did he hear it dripping on the ground. The wind had stopped and the forest grew silent once more.

As the boy opened his eyes, he contemplated dust. The man was gone and Tristis stood beside him, smiling. “You have successfully conquered your fear,” he said “You are now ready to move on.”

The boy let out an exhausted sigh as he dropped the metal piece and sat on the ground, fatigued.

“Your world still remains uncharted,” said Tristis in an attempt to make the boy move on “You still need to discover your fate.”

The boy stood up. The azure light that he had been following had now grown faint.

“What’s the point in moving on?” the boy asked “I already know that my life is filled with sorrow. Why should I relive the pain and hurt?”

“Would you rather stay in the darkness, oblivious to everything? Besides, no one’s life is filled withcomplete grief. There are obviously a few moments of delight and happiness. And those feelings of joy are worth reliving.”

Somewhere, a wolf cried out to the waning moon as it dissolved into the dark clouds, causing the forest to be consumed by the dark. The final source of light was the blue shimmer somewhere in the distance.

And then he heard it. The sweet laughter of a woman.

Chapter 4 – Affection

The sound echoed in the boy’s ears. After long hours of entire silence in the woods, the sound of laughter was a pleasant change. It provided emotional warmth to the boy as he gained courage and continued his journey through the woods towards the blue light which was slowly growing fainter evermore.

Since the moon had been concealed by the clouds, it became difficult to see the environment vividly. The boy tried to hurry towards the light before it faded completely, leaving the darkness to dominate everything. However, he kept tripping over the articles that lay on the field, hence slowing down and losing time.

Suddenly, he felt someone hold his hand. Although the boy could not make out the silhouette due to the lack of light, he assumed it was Tristis. Who else was there in this forest?

The boy felt the hand take him through a safe passage with as little hindrance as possible. They kept walking for about an hour when the boy finally asked the question that had been lingering in his mind for a while.

“If this world represents me and my personality,” he asked “Then what do all those things on the ground represent?”

Tristis continued to walk as he answered, his voice somehow different

“Everyone dreams, but not all dreams are accomplished. What you see beneath this dull meadow are your shattered dreams and unfulfilled desires. They were abandoned, or you just did not possess the resources to achieve them.”

“The more I learn about my life, the more I wish I didn’t. Melancholy seems to have been my best friend, never departing.”

“That’s not true,” said Tristis, his voice showing traces of femininity ”Everyone has moments of joy, and moments of hardship; some more than others. However, the sun always shines after the rain.”

Speaking of the sun, the boy noticed the forest begin to illuminate as they continued walking, finally nearing the blue light. At first, it was negligible, but slowly, the environment metamorphosed into something spectacular.

The grass turned green as the grey diminished. The ground cleared and the deformed trees straightened, replenished by bright green leaves. Sunlight streamed through the tall, thick branches. The clouds, as seen from the gaps between the leaves and branches, were affable. The boy’s muscles hurt as he smiled, probably for the first time after commencing his exploration.

There was something else too… the boy felt different. A surge of happiness and confidence went through him as he began to recollect his memories in flashes.

A teenage boy staring out the window of a large house; a gorgeous young girl smiling at him; a beautiful meadow blooming with roses.

The boy walked around the lush green prairie, absorbing all the energy it possessed. He inhaled a large amount of fresh air, allowing it to slowly fill him up before he exhaled. It appeared as though he had just gotten out of confinement and was given freedom to explore the outside world.

He strolled over to the center of the meadow where a small pond was situated. It was inhabited by two fish (one of them was black, the other was white), swimming in a circle with complete harmony. The boy observed them as fragments of memories attacked him further. When they had finally stopped, the boy lay down in the sweet-smelling grass.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

The boy looked behind him and saw an angelic women. She was gazing at the sky above, but as she lowered her face, the boy saw depressions in place of her eyes. It was Tristis. He had taken over yet another form of someone the boy had known in his life.

“How can you see the beauty when you have no eyes?” asked the boy accidentally as he had not thought before speaking.

“One does not require eyes to contemplate elegance, grace and beauty,” replied Tristis, not at all offended by the boy’s question “It is the heart.”

Naturally, the boy did not completely perceive what Tristis had meant. But a tiny part of him, deep inside, knew what Tristis was talking about.

“Perhaps this next memory will help you.”

Tristis held out his (or her?) hand. The boy stood up and clasped it, instantly feeling a wave of energy as the vision initialized.

A teenage boy stood in a large room, facing the open window. The room was lavishly decorated with brightly colored curtains, brilliantly patterned wallpapers and a large, expensive rug. The furniture was crafted from the finest wood. This boy appeared to be immensely wealthy.

However, the boy continued to focus on the view outside the window. There under the bright sun sat a teenage girl on a bench, reading a novel. The boy continued to gaze at her as she lifted her eyes off the pages and looked directly at the boy as the shied away. 

The memory skipped forward a few years. The man stood in a church, wearing a black suit. He waited for what seemed like ages to him. Finally, the doors opened and a gorgeous woman, dressed in white, stepped up to the pedestal as the man’s heart skipped a beat.

The scene skipped again for another few years. This time, a large house could be seen, laughter erupting from it. The area was peaceful and calm. Nothing bad could happen here. Or at least that’s how it seemed. 

The boy let go of Tristis’ hand. He felt a poweful surge of emotions well up inside him. Happiness, love, affection, confidence, compassion and courage.

“As you must have already understood,” said Tristis “Those were the happiest moments of your life. You had fallen in love with a woman and eventually got married to her, hence leading a peaceful life filled with joy and love.”

The boy had figured as much from the memories he had attained. But a question haunted him as he remembered Tristis telling him that most of his life was filled with sorrow. Obviously, the rest of his life was not the same. There was something wrong.

“What happened to her?” asked the boy, shaking.

Tristis took a few steps ahead as the forest began to restore it’s former colors. The sunlight was replaced by the melancholic lunar glow. The boy knew that this had been the only joyful moment of his life. The rest was still the victim of misery and depression.

Chapter 5 – Loss

The pond that was once so crystal-clear, turned dark and foggy. The two fish that were swimming there harmoniously, now moved frenziedly. One of them began to shake furiously, as the boy watched. Suddenly, it stopped and sank to the bottom of the pond.

“That pond symbolizes your emotions,” said Tristis “The fish that is still alive, represents you. And the one that died…”

“Represents my wife,” finished the boy.

Tristis nodded as he now changed his form yet again. This time, he changed into a small kid – about four years old.

“So, she died?” asked the boy

“Not really,” said Tristis, his voice innumerably immature “She just… walked away from your life.”

The boy wanted to know the full story. He knew that, as always, the form Tristis had taken had something to do with his remaining memories. This kid… he seemed very familiar. And he brought back a feeling of dread and fear.

“I know that I do not have any more joyful memories ahead,” said the boy “Is there a way for me to just quit? To just leave this world only with the memories I have?”

“You cannot escape reality,” said the kid Tristis “All this has happened and you mustn’t scamper away from it. Besides, you cannot leave this world until your journey ends.”

“But why not?” asked the boy, panicking.

“The answer to that exists at the End”

“The ‘End’?”

“You’ll see.”

Tristis grabbed the boy’s hand. “For now, just rediscover your past. It will not end in vain.”

It was sunset. A large house could be seen in the distance. There, in the yard, sat a man and a child who appeared to be his son. The yard flourished with sweet-smelling grass and fresh flowers. 

They seemed to be laughing together and having a good time. Suddenly, a woman called from inside the house. 

The man got up and responded to the call, while the young child caught interest in a butterfly as he chased it around the yard, frantically trying to catch it. He paid no heed to his mother’s calls. 

As his father left, the child was left alone in the yard. He continued to chase the beautiful flying insect as it flew towards the street. Since there was no one to stop him, he ran to the street.

The man finally came out of the house, looking for his son. He abruptly spotted him… along with a large truck speeding towards the street. The father ran towards his child and screamed for him to move. 

But the child was too busy marveling at the insect that was finally within his grasp. He knew not about the over sized vehicle that was nearing him. 

It happened too quick for the brain to comprehend. The sound of screeching tires was heard as the truck hit the child. 

Blood splattered all over the street. The father was too late. He dropped to his knees, his mouth wide open with fear. Too frightened to speak, too shocked to move. Only a terrifying scream escaped his throat as a blood-stained butterfly flew over him.

The boy fell to his knees, imitating the man in his memories. This was too much for him to take. Although the accident had happened fast, the scene played slowly in the boy’s mind as the truck hit the child, literally destroying the body due to it’s high velocity.

“I know it’s hard,” said Tristis “But that is what happened.”

“Why…” said the boy, trying to find the right words “It was … my fault.”

“I won’t say that it wasn’t. That child was yours, and you failed to fully take care of him.”

“Is that… why she left?”

“Certainly. The death of the only child can be excruciatingly painful. She blamed you for his death, and decided to leave.”

The boy was speechless. This particular memory was traumatizing, and it’s effects would last for a long period of time. But the boy had grown emotionally stronger as he progressed through this world, hence he quickly recovered and stood up. The visions still flashed in his mind.

However, the boy was now determined to end this heartbreaking nightmare. He wanted to reach the end and be free.

“If I’m not mistaken,” said the boy “That man was me?”

“That much has been pretty obvious by now” replied Tristis

“How old am I, exactly? At this current time in the real world?”

“As I had stated long before, I do not know about you. I continue to explore your memories and your personality as you continue to progress. My knowledge is restricted to the basic facts of this world, and the End.”

“Could I at least know why I exist in my twelve-year old form?”

“Twelve is a very important age. For males, it is the age of maturity. It is only natural that you should exist here in this particular age. It is the only age where you are not flooded by involuntary emotions, like in adulthood, or during your teenage years. At this age, your emotions are under your complete control.”

The boy ruffled his hair, trying to shake away the visions. “Well, lets not waste time,” he said “I’ve got memories to regain. And I’m not afraid of sorrow anymore.”

Tristis smiled as he began to walk into the dark forest once more. “Your home awaits.”

Chapter 6 – Desolation

The boy gazed at the mediocre-sized house. It was the same one from his previous memories, yet it seemed absolutely different. The paints had worn off, giving it an old, haunted and grayish look. Several bees buzzed about in the bantam yard, despite the lack of flowers to pollinate. The grass had turned yellow and died, while the only oak tree in the yard had shed its leaves.

The boy was transfixed towards the house to the extent that he did not notice Tristis change his form once again.

The alterations made to the house since the boy’s last memories were stunning.

“This house… how many years had passed since that day, to have turned my house like this?” questioned the boy as he finally lowered his gaze.

“Not years,” said Tristis “Just four months”

The boy stood, shocked. Could this be? Could his house have entirely been diversified into this terrible state, in just the four months following the death of his child?

“You lived here, after your son’s death,” spoke Tristis “But alone. And disturbed.”

Tristis’s voice had wholly changed in an unrecognizable manner, quite differently than before. It was filled with sensitivity, and stripped of energy. His appearance also coincided with his weak tone. The boy looked at Tristis and noticed how, this time, Tristis had changed into someone quite varied from the rest of the transformations.

He wore a long, black cloak and covered his head with a hood. He hunched, and his muscles were slackened beyond extent.

The boy tried to take a closer look at the face, but the darkness made it impossible. So far, the boy had not gained any fragments of his memories after examining Tristis. This seemed odd, as the boy would always regain bits and pieces of his memory after he looked at Tristis after his metamorphosis. However, the boy noted that, before, Tristis would change into the form of someone who was related to the boy. But this time, the boy could not recognize this enigmatic figure.

“Confused?” asked Tristis as if he had read the boy’s mind “Allow me to clear that.”

The boy listened intently.

“This time, we will not be exploring your memories. Rather, we will take a journey through your thoughts… The thoughts of your past self.”

“Aren’t they one and the same?”

“They are not. Memories are your experiences. Thoughts are your consciousness.”

With that said, Tristis began to walk inside the lonely, punished house. The boy followed him, without second thoughts, unlike before. His fears conquered, he fixed his eyes on the main door of the house and the darkness within.

Like any other old house, the paint was peeling off the wall and the floorboards creaked with every step the boy took. Upon entering the door, the boy found himself in a corridor that led straight to the door. There were other doors on either side, but they appeared to be locked. The door ahead slowly opened and light emitted from the gap.

Gradually, the air was filled with mysterious sounds and whispers as the boy continued to walk towards the door. They became louder, yet unclear.

The boy finally approached the door and pushed it open, revealing a large room with a circular desk in the center with a candle on top. There sat a man with untrimmed facial hair and shabby clothes. His hands covered his face, as if he was crying.

By moving closer, the boy noticed that the man sitting at the desk, was no more than an inactive and still illusion.

Tristis, who had been standing at the opposite end of the room, now moved closer to the desk, allowing himself to be struck by the candlelight, causing the face under the hood to be revealed.

Except that there was no face. Just emptiness.

“Who…?” began the boy

“Not ‘who’, but ‘what’” said Tristis “I represent Loneliness. Isolation. Solitude. Desolation.”

For a moment, it was silent. Then the whispers began once more.

“Close your eyes and listen,” said Tristis

The boy followed the instructions. With eyes closed, and ears open, he stood still and allowed himself to concentrate. Slowly, the whispers began to sound clearer…

My fault…

All alone with this sorrow. It was all my fault. I will never recover from this silent sadness that lingers in my heart till eternity. The walls of sorrow have trapped me, and I’ll never be able to escape.

What will I do now? How will I make up for everything I’ve lost? Who will support me? I’ve got no one.

“Enough!” screeched the boy “Are these really my thoughts? Was I really this delicate?”

“It’s true,” replied Tristis “You were. You do not realize this because you have grown emotionally stronger during the past few memories you regained.”

“But why? Did the death of a child really cripple my emotions?”

“The death only caused sadness. And sadness attracts more sadness, unless the person gains help and support, which you apparently did not have. Your wife left you, and you didn’t have any friends from the start.”

“What about all the wealth I had? Did it not help?”

“Wealth? Do you really think all the wealth in the world can erase sadness? If that was the case, then the world would be heavenly with no worries and no sorrows. No, money is but a worldly illusion only capable of imitating happiness. The true happiness is found within. What people do not understand is the fact that the world is full of suffering… but it is also full of the power of overcoming it.”

“Then why did I not overcome it?”

“Because you created a wall around yourself, in order to keep the sadness out. But you failed to comprehend  that the same wall would also keep the happiness out. The loss of someone is excruciatingly painful, and difficult to get over. But ‘loss’ is a misconception. Nothing is ever lost. It always remains in the memories that are to be cherished forever.”

Chapter 7 – Speculation

The night had never been darker. Tristis and the boy stood outside the house, absorbing the silence as they had done many times before.

“Come,” said Tristis “We must venture on”

“To what extent?” said the boy “I died back there! There’s nothing left for me! Even if I fulfill this journey, what is the point?”

“You did not die. Not physically. Not yet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Go forth, and discover your memories”

“I’m tired of this. Ever since I arrived in this godforsaken place, all I’ve done is walk. I’ve been walking through this desolate forest, only to discover pain. Tell me Tristis, why am I here?”

“To follow the road. To view your life from a third-person perspective.”

“But why?”

“Do you not know the answer yet?”

The boy thought for a moment. He stared at Tristis, although his appearance was vague in the dark. The boy had began to suspect something… bizarre in Tristis. How did he know that this world was actually the physical form of the boy’s thoughts? How did he possess such knowledge?

“Tell me, Tristis,” began the boy “What role do you play in my memories?”

“It’s your world. You tell me.”

“You don’t belong here… do you?”

“That is correct.”

“You brought me here, didn’t you?”

Tristis nodded.

“You’re a spectator. You want to see what happened in my life. The reason why you do not possess eyes, is that you can see through mine. You see what I see, and you feel what I feel. This explains why you cannot know more than I know. As I begin to see the visions, you help me to remember the moments completely. As my memories are synchronized, you can view them as well.”

“I see that you have understood. Indeed, I am here to understand and study your life. I need to see what you’ve been through. All the emotions you’ve felt and apprehended inside – I need to see them.”

“Once again I ask you: Why?”

“Continue onward. The answer awaits.”

The boy showed uncertainty. Maybe he did not want to see what awaited him. For the first time ever since he began his journey, he started to have doubts about the world. Was he really here, or was this just a dream? Or maybe a delusion? It seemed so real, but how could he distinguish between whats authentic and fake?

For what seemed like hours, the boy stood rooted on his position, diving deeper into his thoughts. Unable to come to a definite conclusion, he yet again decided to continue. Although he appeared as a twelve year old, the boy’s mindset was much more mature. Apparently, it was only his appearance that was unaltered in this world; the rest of his traits began to gradually evolve with each synchronization.

The journey continues through the flat, grassy land amongst the dark-shaded trees. Tristis walked silently behind the boy, no longer leading the way. The boy stayed silent, not wanting to talk to Tristis.

He wondered what would await him in the ‘End’. Would he find something? Would it be an object which allowed him to relive the past and overcome his previous problems? Was that the sole purpose of this terrible journey?

Following this train of thought, the boy decided to closely examine the environment for some sort of hint. He recollected all the words that Tristis had said to him. First of all, this was a world created by the boy’s mind, and it represented the state of his mind as well. The scattered debris, scrap metal and piles of worthless materials represented all his shattered hopes and dreams. Similarly, the dark atmosphere personified his emotions – sadness, grievance and sorrow. The sky was covered with clouds, and hardly any moonlight shone through, which probably showed the lack of hope.

The only thing that did not belong here, was Tristis. He was not part of his subconscious, so why had he infiltrated the boy’s mind? Did he want to manipulate the memories? Or just learn? But what would he achieve from learning and experiencing the emotions?

For how long he had been thinking, the boy did not know. He realized that the amount of trees around him had lessened. Now, there was a road in front of him, carelessly constructed with stone – the type that you would see in rural areas. The boy looked at Tristis who nodded and gestured for him to continue walking.

Somehow, the boy felt that this road was an indication. A sign that he was finally being led somewhere, instead of having to wander aimlessly.

They followed it and the visions began. The boy saw an old town with small houses… A winding road with carts moving on it… Children playing by a lake… And overlooking the lake was a large building. A hospital.

It was painted white and had square-shaped windows. They were open with visible curtains moving due to the force of the wind. The boy did not know what he had been expecting, but when he viewed the peaceful town, he assumed there would be something more appropriate. But a hospital only reminded him of sickness and further pain.

“I know what you’re thinking,” said Tristis, who had remained silent for quite a long while “But hospitals do not necessarily signify sorry and agony.”

“Then what do they signify?”

“Life and happiness.”

He was referring to children. The boy understood that Tristis was right. The birth of a child is one of the happiest events in the life of a person. The arrival of a new life in this world, no matter how wretched it may be, is a symbol of joy.

Coming back to reality, the boy noticed that the dark forest turned lighter, as it had done back at the pond. A little light shone through the clouds… Bright yellow light – The light of the sun.

The moon disappeared and was replaced by it’s opposite. The trees began to change their color and the leaves turned green.

And although he could not see them, the sound of children was definitely there.

The boy looked up at the azure sky. The whole place had changed drastically. This immediate metamorphosis was slightly surprising, but not unexpected. The boy had a growing feeling that the ‘End’ was near. And he was looking forward to a happy ending.

Chapter 8 – Approaching

The gleaming light of the sun piqued the boy’s eyes as he adapted to the change. The plethora of light was wonderful – a change that the boy had wanted to see for a long time. Languidly, the complete surroundings around him changed as the bark of the trees turned from brown to green, and they began to stand stall, rather than leaning sideways as they had done before. The debris and waste vanished from the ground, replaced with fresh soil and sweet-smelling grass.

The boy felt as if he had stepped into a completely new world. The environment had evolved into something absolutely stunning, and considerably even better than the pond that the boy had encountered before.

A winding road formed ahead of him, lined with white-colored bricks. Streetlamps were constructed on either side of it. On one far north-east side of the road, the boy could see the hospital, overlooking the glistening lake. It was from the lakeside that the boy could heed the children and the sound of laughter. On the north-west side, the boy noticed several settlements, including cottages, huts and shacks. It was a modest, small village, but something told the boy that he did not need to go there yet.

The boy was too mesmerized by this place to have noticed the absence of Tristis. It was only after he had quenched his thirst for observation that he noticed Tristis was already at the entrance of the hospital.

The boy began to walk, now with a completely different motive. Before, he had been walking aimlessly just trying to recover his memories and learning about himself. Now, he walked in order to conclude this excursion.

As he walked down the road, he took a deep breath, consuming as much fresh air as he could. Tristis had told him at the commencement of this journey that it was filled mostly with sorrow. This meant that this pleasant environment was temporary. Therefore, the boy wanted to take as much advantage of it as possible. He looked over at the lake which continued to glimmer, reflecting the sunlight. Slowly, children materialized by the side. They laughed and played, causing the boy to smile.

Due to his mind absently drifting away towards various thoughts, the boy failed to notice that he had arrived at the hospital and stood beside Tristis.

“They practically have no role in this world,” said Tristis

“Hmm?”

“They’re just here to symbolize happiness.”

“Children? Symbolizing happiness? Aren’t flowers and chocolates used for that?”

“Ah, in the modern world, they are. But what does the modern world know of happiness? Everyone is so engrossed in their own activities… they begin to care less about all that happens around them. Tell me, although you might not have completely regained your past, have you ever stopped and looked around? Have you ever paused for a moment to appreciate all the wonders around you?”

The boy could not think of any human that would want to do that.

“The world is blind. It fails to acknowledge the marvelous wonders that surround it. Take your own example: you had been walking through that dark, appalling forest for so long that you yearned for light and beauty. Now that you’ve received it, you are taking your time to absorb the elegance. However, if you had been walking this same path from the start, you never would have stopped even for a moment.”

It was true… The boy had never thought of it that way. Life moves too fast, and if you don’t stop and look for a while, you will miss it. And maybe you’ll never get another chance.

“The truth is, you never know what you have until you lose it. And sometimes, you know what you have, but you don’t know it’s significance. As for children… well, they are an astounding creation. Anyone who cannot love children has clearly been stripped of happiness and joy. You see, in today’s world, children are treated as a nuisance, and in some cases, they really are. But that depends on how they’re treated. It’s called ‘Equivalent Exchange’.”

“What’s that?” asked the boy intently

“It means, whatever you give, you’ll get in return. For example, if you decide to give something negative, you’ll receive something negative in return, and vice versa. It’s an unwritten law of the universe that follows us wherever we go. Similarly, if children are treated fairly, they’ll be kind. But if they are ill-treated, then they become a nuisance.”

“Law of the universe, huh?” said the boy, thoughtfully.

“Indeed. Keeping that aside, have you ever noticed how the insignificant laugh of a child can change so much? It brings happiness instantly and might even cure diseases. Although people are unsuccessful in realizing this little fact, it is quite true. Thus, they are used to indicate happiness.”

The boy absorbed this information. It felt awkward to be taught the rules of life by a person who did not belong here. Yet, the boy showed gratitude for having received this knowledge. Whether this would help him in the future, the boy knew not. But it definitely allowed him to look at life differently once more.

He now examined the hospital in front of him. It’s gates were large and black in colour, with metal rods placed in a symmetrical fashion. The building was finely constructed with it’s walls painted white. Open, square-shaped windows dominated the upper portion of the building. There were omnifarious trees outside, bearing fruit. The whole area was serene and amicable.

Tristis began to walk inside, past the gate. The boy followed, his eyes still moving in different directions, trying to capture every detail.

Ahead of them was a door. Tristis pushed it open and gestured for the boy to go inside. Once inside, the door closed behind them.

It was dark again. Slowly, lights turned on, but only in one direction: front. The rest remained pitch-black. The boy squinted his eyes to see what lay ahead. And there it was… an elevator, slowly opening it’s doors.

Chapter 9 – Elevation

The warm light of the elevator was welcoming. It beckoned the boy to come under it and discover an embracing sanctuary from the darkness and it’s shadowy hands. The boy ran to it, desperate to be secure. After setting his eyes on the alluring horizon outside, he was reluctant to let the darkness consume him again. Once under the light, he heaved an overwhelming sigh as the doors began to close. Tristis stood behind the boy.

“We’ll be visiting two floors of this building,” he said “The first one would explore your birth, while the second-”

“Would explore my death,” interrupted the boy “Yeah, I had a feeling this would happen”

“Not exactly… It’s a bit more complex than what you are anticipating.”

The boy remained silent as the elevator began it’s ascension. The single yellow light flickered and then beamed brighter than before. The boy was anxious to know what would happen now. Now that he was nearing the end of the journey, he could not calm his nerves. His train of thought stretched on and he realized something.

“Wait a second,” he said “You had told me that the memories would be experienced in an ascending order. Shouldn’t my birth have been explored in the beginning?”

“Ah, yes, but this is not a part of your memory. No person remembers his or her birth, obviously. Here we will just explore the emotions emitted by all those that were here on that day.”

“What’s the purpose of that?”

“To experience happiness of course! The joy of accepting a new life is irreplaceable.”

“But did I not experience that joy because of the birth of my own son?”

“You did, but this is different. You’ll see.”

The elevator abruptly stopped and the light  quivered again. The doors slowly freed and a wide passageway was visible, illuminated with light bulbs.

The boy stepped outside. All the doors on either side of the corridor were shut, except for one. It’s aura ushered the boy to enter it, and that he did. Inside, there was a single bed situated in the center of the room, while a few chairs were lined with the walls. Although the boy could not hear or see anyone, he could feel their presence. There was a flurry of positive emotions and the boy allowed them to dominate over him in order to fully experience them. There was a lot of joy in the air, and the boy could not help but wonder why such emotions did not exist forever.

After several minutes of utter silence, the boy turned around and headed back to the elevator. He was afraid that if he stayed here, he would drown in the waves of positive emotions.

He went back to the elevator and allowed himself to be enclosed by it. Tristis just stood there, saying nothing.

The light flickered once more and the elevator ascended further. It finally slowed down and came to a slow halt. This time the doors opened with a screech as the rusted metal doors rubbed against each other. A corridor became visible once more, but only barely. The lack of light was tremendous, or rather, the darkness was everywhere once more.

All the doors were accessible but only one was meant for the boy. The others only held more agony, which the boy obviously did not want to witness. Tristis walked forward this time and led the way.

They moved on, and the boy tried his best to keep his eyes away from everything else. He focused his vision directly in front of him and shut all his other senses.

Tristis stopped in front of the last door on the left side. He looked at the boy, indicating for him to go inside. The boy hesitated. He looked around for alternatives, but he knew there were none. Hehad to go inside. It was the only way to progress.

The boy thought he would see himself lying on the bed with medications around him, just ready to die. However, what he saw there was far worse than what he had thought of in his mind.

There lay an old man with aged, wrinkled skin. His eyes were closed and his hands lay on his chest. Numerous tubes punctured his body at various parts, injecting fluids and liquids in order to keep him alive. Multiple pieces of machinery lay around in the room, emitting their beeping sounds and displaying numbers and graphs.

“Is he… dead?” asked the boy

“Not really. He’s just taking his few last breaths. His will is crippling. Your will.”

All of a sudden, the boy dropped to his knees in denial. Although he had expected death at the end, there was a feeling deep inside telling him that the end would be peaceful. That feeling had just shattered.

“But the reason I brought you here is not to see your death. We will discuss that later. Rather, you were brought here to see how there is no one else in the room. You are all alone. Where are the people who were overjoyed to witness your arrival in the real world?”

The boy thought the same thing. Where was everyone? Must one really have to die alone?

“In reality, they didn’t leave you. You left them. After all your losses and sorrows, your wall of sadness blocked everyone from getting through. They all wanted to help, but you shut them away. And now, no one is here for you.”

Desolation. That was what death was. Everyone had abandoned the boy, or rather, he had abandoned them without fully knowing the consequences.

The boy could not feel anything. The room was deprived of all emotion. It was even worse than the opposite of what he had felt in the previous level of the building.

Suddenly, the colour in the room began to dissolve. Everything turned black and suddenly deformed. The ground became warm and lost it’s shape. Everything began to melt and the boy was starting to lose his balance.

“What’s happening?!” he screamed out

Tristis, who seemed to be floating, smiled and said “The End is here.”

Chapter 10 – End

Confusion shrouded the boy’s mind as the ground swept away from his feet and he was plunged into the haunting abyss below. He screamed as blatantly as he could, but to no avail as all that could be heard was the deafening silence, dominating everything else.

He continued to fall, or was he just suspended in mid air? He could not tell the difference due to the black surroundings. There was no way to distinguish. He tried to move his arms, but they seemed to be stuck, held in place by invisible strings. After what seemed like several hours, the boy made the effort once more. He thrashed and tossed around, finally being able to move his arms. Suddenly, he fell on his back with a loud thud. For a few seconds, he lay there, accepting the fact that he was back on solid ground.

He blinked. Once. Then twice. Where was he now? All he could remember was falling… Is this just a dream?

He tried to recall, frustratingly digging deeper into his mind until the haze lifted and he remembered. He stood up and looked around. There was mist surrounding him. As it lifted, the boy felt strange…

The grass was grey and the trees were leaf-less. The soil was black, visible only because of the insufficient white light emitted from the sky above. Furthermore, it was silent. There was no wind either. All this was very familiar.

“Deja vu?” said a voice behind him.

The boy turned around to view a young boy… It was his own image, with the exception of his eyes. Tristis.

“Where am I?” asked the boy

“I think you already know,” replied Tristis “This is where your journey began… and this is where it will end.”

The boy felt cold. He folded his arms and shivered. He remembered everything, along with acceptance for the fact that he was just seconds away from death in the real world.

“So it’s true then,” said the boy “I’ll just die now? Is this what the whole journey was about? To have my life ‘flash before my eyes’ just before I die? I guess the movies were right then.”

“In a way, yes,” spoke Tristis “However, there was a reason for having your life pass by you once more.”

“And what’s that?” asked the boy

“Allow me to explain,” said Tristis as he began walking slowly, gesturing at the boy to do the same.

As they walked, the fog cleared and stone slates became visible, stuck in the ground. They were graves. And this was a cemetery.

Tristis navigated through the many graves as if he knew where a particular one was situated. And then he stopped at a very particular place. There, the slate was empty and clean. There was absolutely nothing written on it.

“Now, before I show you, I’d like to tell you.” said Tristis

“Tell me what?”

“This is a journey which every one of us must embark on, or at least every human must.”

The boy looked puzzled.

“All humans, before dying, are allowed to go through their life one last time and decide accordingly.” continued Tristis “They must make the decision whether they would like to move on or stay back.”

“Move on? Stay back?” said the boy, dazed

“They must either allow themselves to die, or stay back in the real world for a short period of time until their time finally comes again. Most people would obviously move on as their diseases or afflictions are too much for them to bear, but in some very rare cases they decide to stay back and make amends… Now, it is your time to make this decision. Would you like to die and go to a better place, or would you rather go back to the real world and make right what you have done wrong?”

The boy stood there, absorbing the words and their relation to reality.

“What is the guarantee that I’ll be in a better place? Are you referring to Heaven?” asked the boy

“I have seen your life through your eyes. I saw the good deeds pour light into the sins. Hence, your final destination is a good place. Heaven, Elysium, Utopia, Nirvana, Shangri-la – They’re all the same”

“And why would I want to go back?”

“Would you not like to make amends? Would you not like to re-establish relations with all your friends and family members? Or would you rather die alone in that hospital room, deprived of everything good that this world has to offer?”

The boy frowned, deep in thought.

“Let me now show you something,” said Tristis as he pointed at the empty slate. Slowly, letters etched on to it…

It said “Kofuku Hikitsukeru, 1960-2010″. The rest was blank.

“That is what your grave will say once you have died. But if you decide to go back, it will change.” spoke Tristis

The letters now rearranged themselves. The grave now read “Kofuku Hikitsukeru, A loving father, loyal husband and great friend. 1960-2011″.

“You will be given one year to live and change all that you want to change. You could make people love you again, and care for you and cherish your memories when you are gone. The choice is yours.”

‘Kofuku Hikitsukeru’. That was the boy’s name. It had been so long since anyone had spoken this name. He longed for someone to call out to him and say it. Would it really be worth it? Should he really go back to the world and reject eternal bliss? But then again, his time would come again, and he would ultimately go to Heaven. Would he really bear the pain for another year?

“Ironic, really,” said Tristis “Your name means to ‘attract happiness’, but that is definitely not what you have done for most of your life.”

The boy felt somehow disappointed by his life. But now, he had the chance to live in a place abundant with happiness. But at the same time, he had the chance to make things right.

“I have made my decision.” spoke the boy.

Tristis looked at the boy’s eyes and suddenly, bright, white wings shot out from his back, blinding the boy.

“Then embrace the Angel of Death and whisper what you have chosen,” boomed a deep and mature voice.

The boy forced his eyes open but had to shut them again. He only caught a glimpse of a figure with a pair of large wings, standing there with open arms.

With his eyes shut tightly, the boy began to walk and accepted the angels embrace as he whispered his decision into the angel’s ear.

Then, it was finally over.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Where… am I?

Is this a dream?

All I can remember… is the light… as it consumes me…

The angel… as it embraces me

The beauty… as it fades away”

I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment is gone.

I died.”

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

^Video by Talim1506

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3 comments on “Novella – “Harrowing Reverie”

  1. beautiful I like this story! Been reading it since yesturday and I finally finished it, simply beautiful and in depth! 🙂

    • I’m glad you like it, Starman. I like that you understood the depth that I’ve given to this. Many people thought I was being overly descriptive.

      Please do share this with your friends 🙂

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