By Leland Gill
My name is Cynthia DeLeon but my best friends always called me ‘Mary’ because if I lower my eyelids and lean my head slightly to the right and close my mouth, I look like the Virgin Mary from the Sistine Madonna painting by Raphael . I’m enrolled at Columbia University in the City of New York, majoring in biochemistry. I thought about double-majoring in English because I always loved reading but my science-laden schedule prevented the flight of fancy. I stand about five-foot-six. I broke my arm in the fourth grade after dancing on the table at my best friend’s ninth birthday party. To this day, I never felt a pain like it. My step-mother was there and she screamed louder than a jet engine and rushed me to the emergency room in our ’89 Toyota. There is still a long scar stretching up my forearm from the incident. I think you should also know that I’m deathly allergic to peanuts. One time, a friend threw a glob of Jiff at me in the lunch room because he thought I was lying. I immediately broke out into hives and my throat began to close up and I nearly died on the way to the hospital. Now I keep an epi-pen at the ready in case I come across an eatery that doesn’t take the precaution to separate the nuts from the rest of the food.
I love dogs and find cats eerily selfish for animals that lick their privates for fun.
I had my first kiss when I was ten. The boy was named ‘Josh Summers’ and he moved out of town a few years after.
The first book I ever read was Green Eggs and Ham. I read it occasionally to remind myself of how far I’ve come as an intellectual.
Tattoos are tacky in my opinion.
I want to study hypomyelination in children because my fraternal twin brother died from the condition when we were only three. My birth mother committed suicide shortly after he passed.
I turned twenty-one last summer and take my Jameson with ginger ale.
I say all this because, currently, I’m fighting for my very identity as I spiral towards the singularity that is ‘The Hate-Thing’ in a fool-hearted attempt to save every life in the super-structure of the multiverse. I am alone in this mission from a dimension I never knew existed until some hours ago. I am ill-prepared and scared and my very psyche is being torn apart as I am dissolved in the throes of the theoretical.
I never asked for this, yet here I am. Let me explain.
# # #
Before the mess with the ‘God of All Unreason’ aka ‘The Eater of Peace’ aka ‘The Hate-Thing’, I had been studying my molecular chemistry book in Morningside Park one bland Tuesday. I remember for a fact it was a Tuesday because it was ‘Sandwich Day’ in John Jay cafeteria. On those special days, the lunch staff set up stations with all sorts of breads mixed with every assortment of condiments one could ask for. I, being a sensible citizen raised in a supportive household, always chose whole-wheat bread with Nutella and Fluff. My friends usually got the sandwiches for me because of the peanut butter and whatnot.
Six sandwiches and a few hours of blissful lethargy later, I was studying hard in an attempt to fully understand the annulation of certain synthetic neural stimulators used to treat under-stimulated psych patients. Loops and loops of carbon rings with a dash of nitrogen groups all arranged in hydrophilic positions to allow transfer between the blood-brain barrier. I had an exam coming up that I intended to pass. The sun was setting over the river and the foreign land of New Jersey was bathed in a golden-orange light I was too stressed to appreciate. If I had known I would be thrown into the war of Probability Beings just some hours later, I would have stopped to enjoy the scenery. Hindsight, once again, is proven to be twenty-twenty.
But there at the park on the wooden bench, I could feel a sort of presence behind me, watching my every twitch as I shifted my head to read the text of the book. I wasn’t immediately alarmed; you couldn’t be a woman in the city and not be used to people creeping. However, this was different. At the present, I would compare it to being watched from a screen capturing the view of a camera watching you. A sort of second-person surveillance.
And I kept studying and kept trying to memorize key mechanisms in chemical synthesis and tried to subconsciously bat away the call of the ‘Controllers’ as they desperately tried to page me for assistance in their battle to save reality as we knew it. It would be easy for me to blame society for training me to ignore my instincts. At certain point, the feeling of being spied on became conscious and I left the park to return to my dorm for continued study. ‘Melezathin, the Maintainer’ followed my every step, judging my every move and thought in his quest to find a perfect physical emissary to enter the ‘Consuming Gyre’.
# # #
Falling into a wild hallucination driven by a good friend’s acid tabs, I began to see colors and shapes and figures I never thought were possible…
I should back up; the psychiatric stresses here in the Nether Crypt make storytelling a mental ordeal.
I was in my dorm room studying and listening to my favorite playlist on Spotify when my friend Ivan knocked on my door. Ivan came from a long lineage of industrialist and only used school as a cover for his multi-billion dollar inheritance. But, being in Columbia, I was used to interacting with veritable royalty on a day-to-day basis. Ivan and I took the same Music Humanities class and he would often tease me about my penchant for falling asleep while the Professor babbled on about meters and whatever. I would always retort that my research and scientific coursework kept me away from the frivolity that was the Core Curriculum.
I was from Union City, New Jersey and my tuition was covered by the Gates Scholarship. Fuck the upper one-percent.
So Ivan knocked on my door and offered me acid out of the wild blue. My mind was fried from all the studying and the ads from Spotify were grinding the last shreds of coherent thought into nonexistence and it had been a while since I had taken any kind of narcotic (biochem major, remember). Ivan stood in my doorway and smiled his wily grin and told me to take the trip with him and few friends. The feeling of being stalked still hung with me even though I could hardly put it into words, so I agreed.
I lived on the ninth floor of the building. Ivan lived on the eleventh. In the stairwell between, I was already driven crazy by Ivan’s complaints about his baby course-load and inability to hold down a steady job or relationship. During that time, Melezathin contacted the ‘Controllers’, telling them that he may have found a good candidate for the inter-planar transfer.
Ivan’s room was an expected mess. We sat in a sloppy semi-circle as he passed around the tabs of acid. The other people with us, I did not know. We exchanged the normal pleasantries before dropping the drug one by one. The first half-hour was filled with nervous exchange and anticipation. Then the drug hit and the room came alive and the walls shifted in place and faces became distorted and I was distraught. I pointed to the corner of the room directly opposite of me at the figure dressed in all black with a face featuring multiple eyes and hands as clear as glass reaching out to me and beckoning me closer. My spine fired with powerful biochemical electricity as I looked upon a shape with which I felt strangely familiar. The other people in the room became inanimate lumps: devoid of shape or visage or identity.
This visitor from the back woods of a child’s nightmare came at me and I tried to yell but only emitted a subaudible white noise. The glass hand clasped my shoulder and the bodies around me dissolved into a multi-colored mist and I found myself suddenly surrounded by rows and rows of cloaked figures seated on thrones of luminescent glass; a spiritual amphitheater in another plane of existence.
# # #
“We have been psycho-scanning your dimension’s matrix of consciousness for ten cycles now.” Melezathin told me as he led the way through the swirling tunnels of the ‘Controller’s temporal panopticon. Every single one of my steps were off-balance like the entire floor was supported by a water bed. In my fright, I thought about my father, a man who rebuilt himself after tragedy and taught me first-hand that life was hard but we could be harder. Melezathin and I came to a barrier and walked vertically up towards a translucent sphere floating towards the top of the great spire.
“You were not our first choice for the task, understand.” Melezathin said, “We sent envoys across the timeline of your race in search of a vessel to send into the ‘Nether Crypt’: the pit of the ‘Hate-Thing’. His voice echoed directly into my psyche, rattling my teeth and skull. I’d only been on an airplane twice and out of the country once. My time in Canada was ruined by a sprained ankle and a bad case of food poisoning after trying some street meat at a local fair.
I rarely tell anyone this but it’s my dream to live in a bungalow off the coast of Lahaina… after my illustrious career of ground-breaking research comes to an end.
The gravity sink of the ‘Hate-Thing’ tears away at my form and I fall into widening gap between universes. My memories are taken from me. Years of my life wiped away as I prepare to do battle against a monster from beyond possibility. It looks right at me and shatters all forms of hope for success in my impromptu mission.
Earlier, I approached that sphere, the ‘Heart of the Bulk’ and beheld the intricate design of the artifact. A globule of pulsating photonic discharge warping the environment around it. Melezathin explained very carefully that it was a constructed bomb meant to dispel the voracious being mindlessly tearing apart the lattice of the multiverse. I opened my mouth to ask why the hell I had been taken and what any of this meant and why these so-called ‘Controllers’ thought me the best person for the job. I had an exam I needed to study for. I nearly killed myself the first time I ever sat behind the steering wheel. I firmly believed in Santa Claus until I was ten years old but laughed when my Catholic friend explained the mercy of Christ to me at the very same age.
So I opened my mouth to ask these questions but still only produced white noise. By some miracle, Melezathin understood me. “This photon complex can only be manipulated by a physical tether of a certain frequency. We analyzed billions of you humans and came to the conclusion that you are the one that most closely resonates at the required frequency.” He explained that if I was unable to deliver the complex into the ‘Enemy of Order’, the very structure of everything would crumble.
There was no logical way I could refuse him.
Melezathin chanted words that gave me a splitting headache and the complex collapsed. The gyrating, magnificent sphere shrunk down to the size of a peach pit. My strange guide handed it off, holding out his clear hand to me. I accepted and the quantum energy integrated itself into my physical form.
I felt powerful, connected, enlightened, terrified, excited. A complex wall of emotions washing over me one after another in ceaseless succession.
“You are more prepared than you think.” Melezathin said as the foundation I stood on opened up and I fell at a speed that must have matched light and I came to confront the face of the terror I needed to slay.
# # #
My favorite movie is No Country for Old Men because it features the truest depiction of madness I’d ever seen on film. The Magnificent Seven comes in at a close second.
Right now, I feel psychic tendrils grappling onto me and stretching me like taffy as all of the lights in space go out one by one. I first drank alcohol when I was sixteen and didn’t like it. I smoked my first joint even earlier than that and hated it even more. Both of these facts are no longer the case today.
The ‘Hate-Thing’ feels like every bad decision I ever made. Every hateful comment. Every betrayal. Every lie I told my father despite everything he had ever done for me. I begin to forget his face and smell and laugh and the way he hikes his pants up after walking for a long time. I forget the color of the paint of my childhood home. I lose the nervousness I felt on my first day of kindergarten. Soon after, my name is lost and I feel utterly devoid of any context for my mission.
I am here. Somewhere. Being torn apart by an entity I could never fully comprehend in a plane of being far beyond anything I ever came across in my life.
There is no sound here, only crude sensation.
Nameless, I accept the grip of the monster and allow myself to be obliterated. Atom by atom. Particle by particle. I am utterly destroyed; crucified on a tree of Oblivion.
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# # #
It is approximately six-forty in the morning and I wake up in a completely different dorm room on the other side of the campus. Everyone is there and wide-eyed and surrounded by an air of ecstasy. Ivan claims we made the move at my vehement behest hours earlier. I am covered in the salt of dry sweat and colors around me are beautiful and vivid. Someone is playing a mix of trip-hop on their phone and I feel fantastic.
I came from somewhere impossible. The sun has just finished rising and the sky is smattered with heavenly color enhanced by my high. Ivan and another girl jest about my strange utterances while we all tripped. Mad talk about glass hands and throne rooms and photons and falling and endless repetition about hatred or something.
I stretch out and laugh it off, thanking my gracious host for the recreation. He tries to ask me out to a rooftop rave later in the night. I refuse out of healthy respect for the exam that no longer feels as massive as did before. Then I get up and leave and try not to attract the attention of Public Safety as I gawk at the geometries of the architecture as I make my way back to my room. From the preliminary look of things, order had been preserved after all.
The feeling of being followed is gone now; paranoia replaced with welling joy and satisfaction. Melezathin and his ‘Controllers’ must have been satisfied with the job I did even though it felt like I had done nothing. The sprinkler system is on and for a second the entire world turns misty, obfuscated by the spray. I survived the ‘Hate-Thing’ through some inexplicable series of events and to celebrate, I plan to get a few hours sleep then bring my textbook to my favorite diner for a full pancake breakfast while I restart my studying.
My name is Cynthia DeLeon. My best friends call me ‘Mary’ because I tell them to because it was the name of my mother who succumbed to a grief no parent should ever experience. And I may have saved our universe last night.
Leland is a writer living in New Jersey. He enjoys music, comics, movies and Magic: The Gathering. His recently released book, How to be a Supervillain And Love Life Doing It, can be found and purchased at readpublishing.com.