This post is yet another entry into the Finish the Story Contest, sponsored by @bananafish. There have so far been 21 installments of this contest, and energy seems to be building. The contest, for those not acquainted, involves providing an end to a story (in 500 words or less) begun by someone else. In this week's edition, @raj808 has written a gripping introduction. Intrepid writers must go forth and provide a fitting ending. In order to meet this challenge, I went to the dark side, but chuckled as I did so. I hope you can see both dark and light in my response.
The first portion below will be a prompt crafted by the inimitable @raj808. The bit that follows, entitled The Third Eye, is my contribution.
Rain bounces off the frying pan streets, dowsing the city’s mid-morning swelter. Bangkok on a Monday screams its frenetic cadence into my sleep-stained head as I leave my apartment for the breakfast of kings. A hastily wolfed helping of Khao Neow Moo Ping and I’m on my way. This meeting is important for my continued livelihood. A prominent business man is convinced he’s beset by demons. 'Fung shui gone wrong', the words of his PA echo in my memory as I hail a tuk tuk and jump in.
“Sa wat dee”. I greet the driver as I scramble into the cramped cabin.
It is advisable to enter your tuk tuk promptly as the never ending stream of scooters can sweep you out and away at a moment’s notice. I’ve seen a tuk tuk's door taken off by one of these suicidal bikers before now.
“Sathon Nuea road please.” Pulling off into traffic, I find myself staring into the frantic smog choked kaleidoscope that is Bangkok. Five lanes of traffic jostle for position as scooters whiz between them, reckless of traffic lights, wobbling with giggling teenage passengers stacked three apiece. The salt-singed smell of frying shrimp and coconut oil mingles with diesel fumes as I sit back into the sticky red foe leather and consider what I know about this particular clients Astral footprint!*
A room bathed in a dull indigo with a bed by the wall pulsing with ethereal light. A book sits half open on the bedside cabinet, pages twitching in the gentle flow of my aura. Light envelops this scene, green through to red as my aura shifts with the pulse of the indigo ether. I drift over the open book, a single word jumps out of the page like a lightning bolt ‘FATHER’. It seems to echo in my mind like a scream. I glance to my left and my adversary is still moving through the treacle I’ve set in front of him. I still can’t tell whether he’s human! The impossibly wide smile, desperate and hollow speaks to me of one possessed. A soul lost in the astral, then found by one of Them.
BANG, I spin as the wardrobe door slams open and closed over and over. The noise echoes through me as an icy wind spills from the flapping doors. The indigo glow subsides to a dull shimmer as the room darkens and I turn back to my advisory.
He is there right before me. Mouth impossibly wide the teeth icicles and his breath covers me in the stagnant smell of the swamp as my bones numb and my knees give way. I choke as my breath sticks in my throat and the scene fades to night*.
“What are the symptoms Mr Xioin?" His pallid face twitches as I stare into sunken eyes, unblinking, pupils wide. "How do these daemons manifest?”
“The night is where they reside. Between dream and waking. Sometimes I wake from a dream only to be enveloped by a strange light. After, I walk in the wakening world, around my apartment and... everything is enlivened." He breathes in short gasps as he talks. "It’s as if everything has a soul, the lamp, my leather chair even the books call out there stories, words that wash through me like fire." His head dips and rests in the palm of his hands. "There is no rest”
“Go on...” I lower my voice as I watch his body shivering in the pain of memory.
“Then there are the dreams that seem to be reflections of my life. I'm working at the company, except it’s like I’m looking over my own shoulder as someone else performs my daily routine. I’m convinced I’m awake until I actually wake and it feels as if I’ve never slept at all." He stares into my eyes, pupils contracting back to a normal size for the first time since I’ve been here. "Can you help me?”*
My heart strains against my chest as I struggle to close my third eye, a dull ache in the center of my forehead. He smiles like a clown, an open wound across his face, mocking me. White mists swirl around us as a landscape forms in the astral firmament, his mind superimposing a tapestry in the space between dimensions. I look around searching for any clue to his nature. Any clue that will help me to defeat him.
My Idea for an Ending:
"You're all set, Mr Xioin. If there's anything we can do for you during your stay, don't hesitate to call."
The practiced phrase was wasted on Xioin, as was the mechanical smile. He stumbled toward the third bank of elevators. Swami had told him to be governed by the rule of 3. His flight from Bangkok had been carefully chosen, Flt 369. His room reserved deliberately, room 306.
His entire life, Swami explained to him, had been ruled by 3. He just didn't realize it. Xioin had been born on the third day of the third month of 1983. He had three sisters. He lived on the third floor of an apartment building.
It was the judgment of Swami that there would be no peace in Xioin's life until he understood and accepted the rule of 3. The profound implication of this acceptance was that Xioin would have to embrace the Third Eye.
When Swami first proposed this notion, Xioin violently resisted.
"The Third Eye taunts me," he screeched. "It allows a hellish apparition to come into my bedroom. This vile presence usurps my will, corrupts my thoughts. How can I submit to the yawning darkness beckoned by the Third Eye?"
Swami, in his unfailing inscrutability, did not waver. "Whatever your nature, you must come to terms with what you are. You were born to submit to the Third Eye. It is resistance which consumes you, not the phantasmagoric apparition the eye enables. You are rare, indeed, to be aligned under the rule of 3. Rarer still, to have guidance from the Third Eye. This is not your choice. It is your destiny."
Swami cast his eyes down, a sign he would entertain no more questions.
Xioin went home, tremulous. Darkness fell. Soon the visitation was upon him. The Third Eye opened and he did not resist. He received the grisly specter passively. He levitated and regarded the mundane appurtenances of his room. The absence of fear astonished him. Swami was right. There was calm in submission. He allowed himself to be subsumed into the essence of the Third Eye. He slept that night, for the first time in many nights. But not until 3 AM.
The next morning he went to Swami's cave. He caught the number 3 bus. The Third Eye was with him, was in him. Xioin knew what it wanted. When they entered the cave, Swami raised his head. He understood, also, what the Eye demanded. He did not flinch when the blow came.
Xioin realized they would have to leave everything behind. They would wander the earth together, understood by none but complete in each other.
As Xioin opened the door to room 306, he noticed the shape of a cudgel bulging through the soft-covered valise. It was one of 3 that he had. These would come in handy.