There was an explosion. There was darkness. Then, there were lights.
Hospital lights. I recognized them instantly, for they feel different than other lights you encounter. They are whiter, sharper, harsher than the ones you find in your living room. Already, my brain was in “search” mode, trying to remember how I had gotten there. I was laying flat on my back on a hospital bed, my retina stabbed by the shards of halogen.
“James” a smooth voice sang. “It worked.”
My eyes jumped to the corner of the room. At first, I did not recognize the person dragging their chair across the room to come sit closer to my head.
“Calisto?” I finally understood. My voice sounded as smooth as his, even though it felt as if I had inhaled three gallons of smoke.
I wanted to jump to my feet to let my weak body fall in his arms, but upon looking down and seeing purple marks on the skin of my left leg trying to hide behind alarming burnt marks, I deemed it wiser to remain still.
“Come,” Calisto said, urgency now breaking through is soft breath. “We have to go.”
I stood, not thinking, barely aware of how I got to a vertical position. Every cell of my body searched, waited for the pain. Nothing. If the beautiful person now standing in front of me had announced both my legs had been amputated, I would have believed them. Fearing a fall, I grabbed the cold metal pole that held my solute bag and used it as a support. Calisto jumped to my rescue by positioning his shoulder under my armpit, his warmth immediately spreading throughout my body. We began walking.
As soon as we took step outside the room, my ear drums and nostrils began functioning again, and all the ambient sounds and smells made themselves known at once. Nurses running, machines beeping, heart beats stopping, family members getting asked to stay away, and that disinfectant smell mixed with the odor of the deceased, all at harmonizing together in a peculiar orchestra.
Amidst all the chaos, no one seemed to notice us. An alarm started ringing in my head, as if a machine wanted to notify me that I had just gotten into cardiac arrest.
“Are we…” I asked.
“Shhh…” Calisto cut me before I could even gather the words to express my thought. “Follow me.”
Forever could have passed, I would not have noticed. I followed him at a walking pace through the whole building, but as soon as we stepped outside in the clear blue sky, the scenery changed, and we ended up in an office. On clean cut between one scene and the next. We were standing in the middle of the room. There was a girl, probably somewhere in her early teenage years. She was holding a book. I did not know the room, I did not know the girl, but I knew the book, what it contained. I thus took a step forward, barely noticing I was no longer holding Calisto or the metal pole. I tried snatching the book away from the hands of the teenager. An excruciating burn traveled through all my organs.
“Don’t interact” Calisto warned.
“Yeah, I had noticed” I panted, trying to detach my arms from my chest, which they had wrapped around in a vain effort of self-defence.
Seconds past, and the scene changed once more. We were now standing in between buildings. People were running, screaming, frozen, bloodied, disfigured by their own movement, like stuck in photographs.
“Where are we? Is this New-York?” I asked.
No response. I looked around, glancing at a newspaper floating in the middle of all the people.
“When are we?” I risked.
“Does it really matter? The point is that we do not have a lot of time left.”
Calisto began walking, and I followed him. We walked up one street before turning left, and suddenly, we were facing the cause of people’s fear.
A void was laid out in front of us, a gigantic whole from which emanated the most horrible creatures I had seen, demons. On this side of the street, people were getting dragged into the whole by the shadows, the underworld climbing out and spreading in the city faster than a tsunami.
On the other side of the whole stood the same girl from earlier. She looked older, but she was holding the same black book I was the author of. I looked back at the whole in the ground, at the unearthly creatures. I subconsciously moved closer to Calisto, seeking shelter form my emotional turmoil.
“This is not what was supposed to happen…”
“I know,” he comforted, “but, apparently, opening heaven means you can also open hell.”
“What happens next?” I asked, waiting for the scene to change for a third time.
“There is no next. You created the handbook to the Apocalypse, someone had to use it at some point.”
“I just wanted to see you…”
He wrapped his hand around mine, and I could feel the wedding ring I gave him on my fingers.
“I am not ready” I uttered. “We were supposed to be forever.”
“It should have been me. Why did you have to die while I lived?”
He squeezed my hand tighter.
“I’ll wait for you.” he said. “We will be forever.”
Already, I was fading away, the same way you do before a surgery.
Then, there was pain. Something must have had exploded, for I was stuck under my desk, my legs crushed, fire starting from the corner of my office and moving towards me. I stretched to grab the phone and called 911. I took the half-written black book and threw it in the fire, the flames turning black for a second as it was consumed by the heat. By the time the paramedics had arrived, the fire had began working towards my legs, slowly burning the skin.
“It worked” I muttered to the paramedic once we were in the ambulance.
“Stay with me, sir.”
“I saw him. I saw him. I’ll see him again...”
Then, there was hope.