This reality is based on fantasy...
The emission of light was rather bleak, even from the illuminated windows of collective edifices that towered much higher than the proximity of heaven itself. The sky was dark, blotted with endless clouds of gray, complimenting the dreary ambiance of the city. I found myself wandering aimlessly down a desolate road. No vehicles, no pedestrians, not a soul to witness the emptiness that my soul felt as I wandered those vacant streets. It was dark, always so very dark in this empty city. I don't know how I got there or even why I was there, but unexpectedly it was as if a fantasy beckoned to my attention within slumber, or so was the mere thought of it. Nothing really made sense, and I didn't know why this city seemed so familiar, but it was evident that I was present in this city, unable to discern the experience between actual and fictitious. It all seemed so hazy and ambiguous, like searching for a small glimmer of light in the black depths of an endless tunnel stretching throughout the very underbelly of the planet. The towering buildings seemed to stare at me, invariantly, into my very being, scrutinizing everything that I did - every movement, every breath, every thought. I almost felt utterly petrified, and if not for the indescribable inclination that propelled one leg in front of the other, I would not have been able to move an inch from sheer terror. Never before have I ever felt so horrified and alone, bemused and oppressed; the subjective portend that swooned my level of confidence and will so effortlessly. How could a sentiment be so adverse and unforgivable? Not a soul was present, but strangely, this was how I've always lived my life - as if no one could truly exist outside of myself. Just me and my conscience. But this was just a dream, right?
After my brief moment of deliberation, I continued down the dark street with an easy gait, trepidation fluttering through my legs with every step that I progressed. The moon above cast its ominous glow down upon me, penetrating through the turbid layers of gray clouds that covered the starry sky. I continued walking, trying to disregard the fear that the objects around me imbued, looking in every direction as I sauntered in hopes of finding signs or any sense of direction. I didn't know where to go and I had absolutely no idea why I was there. In fact, it was unimaginably hard to distinguish the event between reality and actuality, a fabulated story and a piece of history. I continued walking with those thoughts resonating through my head, pounding back and forth and against each other, mashing notions colluding to form new inquiries about the experience before me. I soon came up to an intersection, the road parting into three other possible routes. All four traffic signals indicated the color red. I stood in the middle. I looked down all four pathways that stretched yonder, seemingly with no end to where the throes of imagination could falter and leave the dreamer behind to the cold taste of something real. There were no cars stopped at the lights, and just as desolate as the city was with no pedestrians or inhabitants of any sort, my soul felt the abject stoicism from loneliness; my soul desperately reached out for any indication to life. Each of the four possibilities looked just as daunting and fearful as the last; I couldn't determine which path was more suitable and which one would take me to a more desirable destination. I looked up at the sky, but still, nothing had changed. I looked up to the skyline of towering buildings, examining everything, but still, nothing had changed. I examined all that I could very closely and intently, ensuring that I didn't miss the slightest hint of something, anything! Finally, I turned back around and looked down the small strip of road I had just traversed. Something changed.
Someone was standing directly in the center of the road. The figure appeared to be a male with his arms folded behind his back, exemplifying his internalized sense of civility and composure, even in a setting in which none of those standards of nobility were needed. He wore a black top hat embroidered with diminutive skull ornaments and gray hearts around the lower portion of the hat, accompanied with a jet black tuxedo that looked quite expensive. Everything he was garbed in was so finely pressed and maintained that even the infallibility of natural disorder permitted him with exclusion. Quiescent was he in his stance; his posture was immaculate with his gaze fixated to that of the ground, disallowing me to see his face from the rim of his top hat. He made not a sound. The sheer sight of him sent chills down my body. Shouldn't I have been celebratory with sheer exultation at the sight of another person in this dreaded city? Evidently I wasn't the only one there, however, something about his presence didn't sit right with me. I felt as if he knew something that I needed to know, but the notion of that possible truth terrified me. I stumbled back with fright, I feared him. He kept standing there. He didn't say a word. Even as I took a step back, he remained ever so resilient in his impeccable stance, just staring down at the asphalt beneath his shiny black dress shoes. I was even scared to utter a word in his direction, in fear of what he would say, or even more so, what he wouldn't say. I stumbled back even more, stepping back in the opposite direction before turning around completely and taking off in a dastardly run. But as I turned around and locked my vision onto the new path, the enigmatic figure was standing there in front of me yet again. I stopped abruptly and shrieked, panic stricken to all I endeavored. I looked behind myself, and to my surprise, the initial figure I saw was gone. Could he somehow teleport? Was this the same person? When I looked back in his direction and turned my attention to his head, he wasn't staring at the ground anymore. Instead, he was staring at me. From what my vision received, all I could see was a black shadowy face with two white gleaming orbs of light as eyes with an eccentric grin of light smeared across his shadowy visage. I couldn't believe my eyes as I stood there, inert and breathless. His horrifying gaze petrified me entirely. Ironically, though, I felt at ease for a second. I heard something. I heard a melody. A beautiful melody that could only have emanated from a piano. Where was this harmonic sound coming from? It sounded awfully familiar to one of my favorite pieces that my father used to play for me as a child. He kept smiling in my direction with those large orbs of white light that relentlessly punctured my soul.
For an untold amount of time that elapsed, I could recall nothing but blackness. Alas, I opened my eyes. The air was serene and light as I deeply - almost frantically - inhaled it all in, compensating for the time it felt that I wasn't breathing at all. I laid prostrate on the ground before rising from the waist slowly, arching my arm for support and rubbing my head gently in my ascent from the prone position. I surveyed my surroundings. I didn't know whether or not I was still in the dark city, but I could identify the ornate interior as an opera house or theatre. I continued to look around with a bemused expression depicted on my face, wide-eyed with my jaw unconsciously agape. I cocked a brow as I continually surveyed the entire perimeter. Slowly, I rose to my knees and then to my feet, still looking around and not knowing where to start. I was at the balcony level. The eerie gentleman with the luminous white eyes was nowhere to be found, unless concealed from what I could see with the thick red curtains drawn down on the stage below. Based on thorough observation, I was the only one in there, but the fear of inauspicious truth daunted me and impaired my will to utter even the slightest word at the slightest pitch. I didn't want to make a sound; I almost felt completely petrified again. Before I knew it, though, the red curtains began to rise from the stage. As they rose, a harsh white light shown from beneath, creeping its length further up the stage and to the rest of the room. The curtains continued to rise and the light got brighter and brighter as I quiescently stood there, shielding my eyes from the intense rays. I couldn't see, but eventually the mechanisms and pulleys backstage stopped squeaking, causing the heavy red curtains to cease their ascension any further from what I could hear, indicating that some sort of stage performance was soon to begin, or so I credulously mused. The light dissipated and all else was silent, sans my heavy breathing from anxiety and overwhelming anticipation. As soon as the blazing light abated its abrasion against my sensitive eyes, I peeled my eyelids open slowly, only to witness the spectral gentleman once more. He was seated in the middle of the stage with one benevolent stream of light cast down upon him; everything else was black. Before him was a black piano. What did this mean? I took a step forward and continued to stare at him, his top hat yet again concealing his identity. He then suddenly struck the lowest note on the keyboard. The walls seemed to vibrate rigorously as he struck the key and held it down for a brief moment, only to welcome the ominous silence thereafter. I was in for a musical performance, but a recital was the last thing on my itinerary. I needed answers.
"Such impropriety I see from thou I begot."
I quizzically looked at him from the balcony level before I even reached either of the staircases that flanked the flamboyant interior. My focus never left his direction. Who was this man? Begot? My father?
Then it hit me. I ran to the right side of the room and attempted to descend the flight of stairs, but just as my foot reached out to hit the first step, an invisible barrier impeded my procession, sending me backward but failing to knock me off my feet. I tried again with defiance while gritting my teeth in desperation for much-needed answers, but no matter how much I tried, the barrier wouldn't let me descend any further. I sighed in resignation and frustration, only to pivot and dash over to the other flight of stairs, assuming that I would get the same result as the last. As expected, I was the recipient to the same obstructive result, only this one electrocuted me upon touch and launched me back to the red carpet of the balcony level. I shrieked from the impact and consequently writhed on the floor in agonizing pain, gnashing my teeth in attempts to cope with the surging pain, gripping my left shoulder from which I struck the second unseeable barrier in a foolhardy run. Fortunately, the pain eventually wore off. After the pain fully dissipated, I stood back up and scuttled to the edge of the balcony to see the enigmatic gentleman still sitting there in his seat, looking directly at me with that fearsome, menacing smile wrapped around his pitch-black face, his gloved hands placed calmly and complacently over the keys before him. I was baffled as my heartbeat raced through my whole body; obviously he wanted me to stay up here, and as much as I wanted to leap down and get my much-needed answers, I knew it would prove futile - there was a reason why I was being obstructed from advancing any further. Perhaps he didn't want me to get close to him in fear of me disparaging the intended solemnity of his musical performance. Maybe he just wanted me to observe and connect the dots for myself. Just maybe. But why the piano? Why the performance for an audience entailing just I? What was the meaning behind all of this? This was personal, definitely. The dream continued to sift in and out of what I could discern as real. Everything suddenly went black as the seated gentleman struck the highest key.
Something new. Something unforeseen. Something beyond my control. I slowly opened my eyes to observe my surroundings, but before I could visually examine anything, I felt myself idly floating in the sky of a scenic environment - a misty landscape with mountainous peaks protruding through a thin veil of clouds below me. The sun was up high and bright and the air was light and untaxing as I practiced inhaling and exhaling, acclimating to this brand new world. Still, I had no idea what was going, but what else was I to expect? Again, I inquired why I was here. Another random location, or so I thought. From what recollection granted me, I was in the opera house endeavoring to reach that enigmatic figure playing the piano. Could that really have been my father? I needed to find him. I looked down at the landscape through what openings the veil of clouds permitted me, internalizing the environment and feeling some aloof sense of nostalgia. It felt as if I had been here before. I wanted to get a closer look and actually see if my speculation was, in fact, correct. I waved my arms and adjusted myself accordingly, transferring weight all around to different sections of my body, rotating and flipping myself as I effortlessly floated in the air with the intent to stabilize myself. I began simulating a swimming motion in the air, wishing that the gravitational force were just a little more imposing from what I had been used to as a creature of the land. I extended my arms out together and sent them back in a straight angle, scooping as much air as I could into my pseudo-fins. I was making some progress, but at a very slow rate. I gradually made it through the thin layer of clouds, the moisture from the puffy substance making my black clothing feel damp and constrictive. When my vision was finally unobstructed by the clouds, I could see it. I could see the familiarity that struck a poignant chord within me. Just then, I was struck with a stirring notion of this place - remembrance. There was no doubt in my mind that I had once come here on a camping trip with my father when I was just a child. It was one of the rare and special occasions that he would ever spend quality time with his son, the prince known as Noctis Lucis Caelum. I descended even further to take a closer look after dwelling on the mental image and introspectively reinstating just how much this place meant to me.
When I finally made it down to ground level, I found myself in the middle of a fertile valley with beautiful shrubbery and foliage to encompass my presence. Landing in this distinctive area of the misty landscape was definitely no coincidence; in fact, it was the exact location of where my father and I set up camp all those years ago. Looking over to the biggest niche of the rocky valley, I could remember setting up camp there with my father, right across from a set of oddly arranged boulders that were still unmoved even to this day, even in this dreamlike reality. How strange, but how reminiscent it felt for me at the same time. This location was very beautiful, definitely a place someone could never forget or mistaken for another mediocre excursion. I stood there for a moment, taking it all in. The dirt, the rocks, the greenery and the rejuvenating sensation from the sun's oppressive light. Regardless of the enigma that was occurring before me at every corner and every episodic leap, it still felt somewhat revitalizing. For just a moment, nothing else mattered, not even the thought of the spectral gentleman stalking me and my every move in these symbolic locations. After embracing the warmth of the sun and the serenity of the verdure around me, pink pedals haphazardly started gliding right past my body, all of them fluttering from one direction, one in particular swirling through the air and landing straight on my chest in the gentle gale. I resumed a quizzical countenance - the dreamlike reality got weirder and weirder, even disturbing at some points. I began walking down that path to the source of the fluttering pink pedals. As I walked closer to the source, I began to hear the same melody I heard before awakening in the opera house. It had to be that same enigmatic figure playing the piano again, presumably my father. Suddenly, I heard a deep, guttural voice from an unknown source.
"I have eyes that see the light of expiring souls."
Instantly, the pink pedals crumpled into themselves in midair, turning ashen black and plummeting straight to the ground, leaving unexpected thumping noises from each impact as if they had transformed into little scraps of steel; it sounded like a barrage of bullets hitting a brick wall until the final pedal that was left on my chest fell in front of me. The vitality from the beautiful pedals was stripped away in an instant. I stood there, motionless, just waiting for what was soon to follow. I was heavily perturbed by the voice, but then I realized that it had a strange familiarity to that of my father's voice, the king. The melody from the piano abated and all of the foliage surrounding me soon turned to dust, subsequently falling to the earth. The sun soon after dissipated and ushered in the darkness of night, covering the heavenly sea in a blanket of stars. Still, I stood motionless. My fists were clenched in fear. My heart was racing and my eyes were unblinking. Everything abruptly stopped, even time itself, and if not for my agog interest to see the light of another day beyond the paranoia this dreamlike reality gave me, my whole body probably would've stopped as well. Then, he appeared. The man with the pitch-black face and glowing smile.
The man stood there for what seemed to be an elongated duration of time, inert and unencumbered to all involuntary impulse or will to advance. He didn't say a word as the doom and fear settled within my gut. Not a word. I wanted to panic just so that I could better assimilate with my consternation, just to help anchor myself in feeling secure from what felt like unwanted exposure, but some intrinsic force compelled me to be compliant at this impending moment. Maybe it was because I could somehow sense the unmistakable presence of my father in this enigmatic being. Perhaps it was because he was trying to convey a message coated in a clandestine shell without explicitly stating the message. A message that I eagerly desired. A reason for why I came this far. I took a step forward instead of taking a step back. I chose my own destiny in silent retaliation to the expected outcome, venturing to a world where my unwavering will took me without remorse or reluctancy. But from just one step forward, I couldn't seem to take another. I tried and tried to propel myself forward, but the following leg just wouldn't budge, beyond all determination and heartfelt will. I looked down at my lower half. My foot felt jammed, adhesively bonded to the earthen floor. Was it reluctance? Was it fear again? I wasn't sure, but it came to no surprise anymore since nothing was ever definitively described in this dreamlike reality; one event haphazardly led to the next with the possibility for emblematic significance in each passing scene. My will to fight against my immobility soon subsided. After corroborating the futility of movement, I looked back up to the spectral gentleman that still stood there. Arms folded behind his back, still and motionless.
I heard screams. Horrifying screams that sent riveting chills down my spine. Screams that sounded so bilious that I felt myself unwillingly cast off into the throes of despair and unrelenting dismay. Screams that could only be ejected from those who were truly suffering, giving a jarring undertone for the ecumenical consensus of what torture was defined to be. I began to shed tears, compulsively. How could someone not bemoan such agonizing screams of pain and terror? I didn't even know that we as humans had the capacity to scream so emphatically as a whole, needless to say that I had never experienced anything so horrifying hitherto; it almost sounded transcendental. I clenched my head with both hands and gritted my teeth, internally begging for the screams to prorogue their insistence into my private domain, that of which being my own mind, my very own sanctuary closed off from the rest of the world. I dropped to my knees and hit the cold barren earth, sinking my head down to the same level whilst still clenching it as the mental infringement ensued. The spectral gentleman approached me with that same insidious smile of light. He kneeled down, but I wanted nothing more but for the pain to stop; the message did not matter to me anymore. I didn't want his accompaniment, but despite my own desire, he still came. Our wills collided with one another, refusing to merge into one singular entity. He extended his arm out to me, forcing me to look up into his shrouded face with two fingers below my chin. I couldn't quite comprehend what was going on due to my fixation on the transcendental shrieks of terror, but it felt as if this whole world was coming to an end, along with my involvement in it. I no longer resisted, I just let it all happen. The screams wouldn't stop, even now; I was dazed and partly unconscious. He leaned down and got closer to my face. Closer. Closer. Everything was merely a blur. Finally, he was about to give me what I wanted. The blackness started to creep its way into my vision as he murmured words to me, words that I could only faintly hear before losing myself to the blackness. Would it be the end of the dream, or another scene in the tragedy?
I suddenly awoke from the dream, sitting in the chair I could remember before the vivid experience of a dreamlike reality overcame me. How could I be certain that this was reality, though?