I still cannot figure out for the life of me how I recognized my mother’s voice, despite never meeting the woman. She looked like she was in her very early thirties.
I did so, taking in the familiar scene of the void of white nothingness. I thought it was a place of nothingness, but when I blinked, scenery emerged, rising from the ground like dough in an oven. It morphed into a breathtaking, golden grassland. Roses of emerged, releasing a constant sparkling effect, as if electricity bounced around the petals infinitely. The sky shifted to that of a sunny day. A few birds roamed the skies.
“Who are you, really?” I said. “I somehow know you’re my mom, but I need to know what’s going on? Why now, of all times?”
The woman smiled. “You have at least an hour before that awful poison is gone. That young lady has taken you to a good location for you to recover. I can show you the past that your father hasn’t revealed for your own good, and the reason why I’m not present in your memories, but Epex, it is something you should consider learning another time. This knowledge could harm your emotional stability. So, choose. Learn the past or the reason I brought you here. There is only time for one.”
I took a deep breath then exhaled. “I don’t think so. I am in no mood to be treated like the child you knew. Tell me both or leave me.”
Mom looked into my eyes for a few seconds, saw what she was looking for, then nodded. “Correct answer and the one I was hoping to hear, my adult son. Sit.” We both did. Mom levitated a few feet in the air, her long purple robes drooping to the ground. “When I reveal the past, your memories of me will return.”
At that moment, the vision struck. I knew everything in an instant. Mom’s bloodline came from an ancient civilization called the Watchers. The Watchers worshipped Conus. The civilization ended as centuries passed, like many others, but the blood remained. Some traditions were kept, such as the pure maidens.
The pure maidens are select women, mainly three, from families of a religion that lived similar to nuns. No marrying, avoid impurities, and report to Conus every month through a prayer.
Mom was quite devoted to the practice and still carried out a normal life in London. Conus began to watch her when she reached late twenties. He made a public announcement to the Helios clan that he would be having a new son who would symbolize unity between human and those of Paradise Realm. He sent Mom a vision, acknowledging her duties, and that she would be gifted to birth his seventh son. A year and some months later, I was born. Conus was personally there for my birth.
“Listen carefully, my most loyal and loved servant. Epex is special. He has power that even exceeds mine, though I know not why. In order to stabilize it, appeasing both his human and divine half, he must live in a different realm each week. He will spend his first week with you and then the next week with me.”
Mom nodded. And they conversed. Conus’s curiosity about modern humans and their devices extended his stays. His wife, the mother of my brothers, didn’t seem to notice. Conus is often stone set on being pure, as well as purifying everything around him. I don’t think he realized his affections for mom went deeper than he thought. Only once did he act against his bond, but only with a kiss on the lips, but just a kiss.
Fast forward years later and I lost control of my powers for the first time. I attempted to stop a bus from hitting an unattended toddler. Afraid for the poor kid and angry at the parent, I tried to freeze time for the bus. It seemed to work at first but space-time distortions that looked like swirls of grey and black light freckled everything. They were the size of cars—so imagine those things everywhere and on everyone. The distortions shimmered and just like that, everything was gone except me. I floated in space, protected by my demigod powers. Conus immediately appeared and with a flick of his wrist, rewound time to the point where the bus approached the toddler. Everything was still frozen, so he put the toddler in a safe area, near the irresponsible parent.
“This is your last warning, my son,” Conus said. “Focus on the peace within and control your emotions. I know it’s a tremendous amount of power. Trust me, mine is like a puddle and yours is the universe. Inhale, exhale, and push it through the veins of your body.
I give you this warning now, because the universe will demand a punishment if you do this again. It is a system, not a conscious being—almost like the computers the humans make, but more sophisticated. It does not enjoy being harmed by deities, especially those that abuse power.”
That was Father’s first warning. Surprisingly more reasonable than I remember, but to be fair, when you’re in Hell, memories replayed in your mind are often worse than what actually happened. You can only tune out the realm’s psychotic torture for so long before believing some of the things it showed.
Fast forward to after Conus undid my nuke for the second time. He was incredibly angry this time, but also hurt by something. The vision switched to something terrible… A discussion and a demand by the universe.
“The universe is suggesting an expulsion of our son,” Conus said to my mother’s spirit. They both floated a few miles above the reborn earth. “With the seal so close to competition.”
“No!” my mother cried. “Please, my lord, there must be another way.”
“There is, but you’ll have to pay a big price,” Conus said. “The universe will only accept this method.”
“If it protects Epex, I’m more than willing to do so,” Mom said, resolve in her eyes.
“Noble woman, you will always be remembered and a place for you awaits in Paradise Realm at the end of your duties,” Conus said. “The price is terrifying, so I will give you the chance to back out—”
“I won’t let our son be erased!” Mom snarled.
A few tears dropped from Conus’s eyes. “Very well. I’m sorry that you’re unable to go back to your life but there will be a time that you can return to our plane. Ila…the seal will be placed into the spirit of our son. You will be trapped inside it and become the guardian of the seven locks. His memories of you will vanish, as an accepted cost. The keys to his locks are your rights. You can shape the world inside however you like, but I’m truly sorry, for it will be a lonely place. A slumber. Despite the solution, Epex must serve two years in a cruel place. The universe will accept his release if he shows any kind of unaided remorse after the sentence. He must be humbled. And Ila…I will always love y—”
The vision abruptly ended, and I just sat there, eyes wide. Her imprisonment in this place of nothingness was my fault.
“Do not dwell on that past,” Mom said. “I’ve made the choice and would make the same choice each time. Now that I answered your question of who am I—”
I hugged her before she could finish that sentence. She smiled tearfully then wiped them from her eyes. “Michael is on the move. Epex, I can only gift you with the power behind your first lock and only for twelve minutes before it becomes unstable. I’m developing a method to train you for each lock, which should grant you access to something new, and maybe one day you’ll be whole.
Use that short burst of power for emergencies only. It will awaken when you unsheath Ruin. Get to the chapel closest to that young lady’s home. Michael will follow and what he finds there should be your opening. His hunters are out and about, split up to cover more ground. They can sense your presence in your current location.”
I sighed, wishing that Amelia would’ve taken us somewhere on the other half of the world. She probably has no contacts in Europe or Japan though. “Awake, Epex, they need you.”
I awoke to an unfamiliar setting but familiar faces. The warmth of Amelia’s healing faded as I sat up. She hugged me.
“They’ll have to try harder than that to kill me,” I said. “Now listen up. I’ve got a plan.”
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- The Enlightener
Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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