The Abyss, Time: Unknown
Through this strange space, I continued moving forward. I did not know why I did it, but I knew that I just had to keep moving forward. If I stopped, I knew that I would lose something important— but what?
If only I could remember what it was that I had forgotten.
“How did I get here?” I said out loud, blinking as I heard an echo of my own voice before my mouth even had the chance to open, as well as after.
I stopped walking, staring down at my hands and moving them from right to left.
My eyes widened in astonishment at the sight.
Just like with my voice, I witnessed a translucent image of my arm moving to the desired position before and after I had made the motion.
“Woah. That is seriously weird.” I said, blinking a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
“Hallucination…” I said, trailing off as the idea grew on me. “Maybe that’s what’s going on? I must’ve had some kind of Potions mishap, and I’m probably either on the floor drooling in my practice room, or I’m in the Hospital Wing?”
I shook my head before I’d even finished talking.
No. It couldn’t have been that.
If that truly were the case, I would at least still feel the presences in my mind; as it were, however, I still felt no trace of anything except my own mind.
Besides. I thought, watching my surroundings, as well as the backdrop of purple auroras. This all feels so strangely familiar, too. Like I’ve been here before.
I stopped my train of thought when I spotted a small speck in the distance. Finally, I see something other than this endless backdrop of black and purple.
Invigorated by my discovery, I increased my pace and jogged on, wondering just what I would find when I got closer.
I wasn’t sure how long it took to get there; it could have been ten minutes, it could have been a thousand.
My sense of both space and time’s flow felt skewed, like a girder of metal bent and twisted out of shape into something wholly unrecognizable.
I wasn’t even sure if I could trust whatever it was that I was perceiving.
Stones appearing out of nothing to create a path for me? A speck in the distance which was growing at a rate which I could not quantify?
The longer— for whatever meaning that word still held in this odd realm— I stayed here, the stranger and more off everything around me felt.
I began to make out a few details of the structure that I was approaching. Of all things, it was a tall lighthouse made of the whitest of stone.
Perched on a lozenge-shaped, floating rock, it was a beacon of light, fighting with valiant and righteous might against the endless sea of black surrounding it from all sides.
Or, it would have been.
Its light had been snuffed out; from the looks of the still present, but fading glow, this had only happened recently.
The stone path shifted into a staircase, leading up to the small, floating island. I nodded and ascended the steps, wondering what I would find when I got there.
I reached the top and looked up. It’s even taller, up close. This place is a whole lot wider than I expected— more of a light-tower than a lighthouse.
My eyes swept down the building, reaching the point in which the purple miasma seemed to be corrupting the tower. It was at the very base of the white stairs leading up to the entrance of the edifice, but the corruption was moving forward, overwhelming all the vibrant colors of the island.
I spied the final bits of the grassy field surrounding the lighthouse go from green, yellow, red, blue and orange to the same shade of purple as the auroras in the distance.
Is it some kind of infectious disease, reducing everything in this world into nothing? I thought, turning to look behind me for the first time since I started walking.
My eyes widened. In the distance, I saw that the path I had taken was already in the process of being consumed by the purple miasma.
“I don’t think I have much time…” I realized, frowning when I heard my voice echoing both before and after I spoke.
That was starting to get annoying.
“You do not.” Said a voice from behind me.
I swiveled in place so fast that it made me dizzy. “Who..!!”
Before me stood a cloaked figure. Its entire body was shrouded in the dark cloak it wore, revealing only the lower half of its face— a hairless, nondescript male visage.
“You finally made it.” The figure continued, tilting his head at me in a way that made me think that he had been waiting for me for quite some time. “Took you long enough to collect yourself and get here, Zero.”
I blinked, sensing something familiar about the way the stranger spoke to me. “You’re…”
“Come now.” The mysterious stranger seemed disappointed. “I’ve been with you for a good long while now, and you don’t recognize me?”
“You…” I said before it clicked. “You’re that voice in my head!”
“Right in one.” The man said with a nod, though he did not smile.
What was going on? Was the sly voice really here? I focused back on him.
Whatever was happening to me, it likely had to do with him, somehow.
“I’ve had a bone to pick with you for a while now, you know. This couldn’t be more perfect.” I said, stepping forward with aggressive purpose. “I’m assuming you’re the one who brought me here— wherever this is?”
“You assume wrong.” The stranger said, his lips quirking in amusement when I had projected my aggression onto him. “You brought yourself here, to this place; as we all do when our time comes.”
I opened my mouth before closing it and thinking about what he’d just said.
A moment later, I spoke. “Explain.”
The man regarded me for a moment before shaking his head. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I imagined that he was exasperated.
“So, you don’t even remember what happened, do you?” He said, gesturing at me. “Maybe I gave you a little too much credit, Zero.”
My anger flared alongside my irritation. “You could just, you know, tell me what’s going on. Must you waste time insulting me?”
“I could tell you— reveal everything right now.” The stranger replied with his usual silky smooth voice. “But I do enjoy seeing you struggle. Brings back some interesting memories.”
“Fine, you damn useless voice.” I said, scoffing and looking back towards the path being consumed by the miasma. “I’ll figure it all out myself; as usual.”
Remember, Zero. I thought to myself. You were… sitting your End of Year exams. Something happened. Something interrupted it all. But… What?
I could feel them. The memories were at the tip of my consciousness— the very edge of my grasp— but I could not reach them.
Just what had happened? Why couldn’t I remember anything useful?
I grabbed the right side of my head for a few moments, massaging my scalp in some vain way to jog my memory.
It didn’t work.
“All right, fine.” The stranger said, taking pity on me. “I suppose I’ll give you a free pass, this time. Especially considering what’s at stake.”
I turned to the man I had been arguing with just now, giving him a wary look. “…What’s the catch? You never offer help without exacting some price. What is it this time?”
“Free pass.” He said again, shaking his head. “No catch.”
I stared at him for a few moments before nodding. “Whatever this is must be pretty bad if you’re going to be so strangely cooperative, Sly.”
“Is that what your name for me is?” The stranger said with a smirk. “True, you’ve been mentally describing my voice in that way for months, but do you truly think that it is my actual name?”
“Well, what is your name, then?” I asked, frowning as I absorbed his words. “It’s not like I ever had confirmation that you were a real person until now.”
The stranger laughed, finding something amusing in my words. “Funny that you only just now are beginning to consider me a real person. For all you really know, however, this place really is just a hallucination induced by some Potions mishap during your final exams. This could all be happening in your head. Even the words I am currently spouting at you could just be yet another hallucination conjured up by your mind for the express purpose to cope with whatever trauma your body and mind have sustained.”
I scrunched my eyes shut, not wanting to even consider this eventuality. “You’re just trying to mess with me. If anything, this proves that this place is real, because I can’t even access your own thoughts to confirm this, while you can access my own.”
“Yet another supposition which is as baseless as your existence, Zero.” The stranger said, smirking. “But sure; please, believe whatever sets your primitive mind at ease. You may call me Alzalam for now.”
“Alzalam.” I repeated, ignoring the stranger’s insult, as well as the way he said ‘Zero’. “You really want to call yourself ‘The Oppression’? That’s dumb.”
“It’s as good a name as any— a lot less edgier than Zero, isn’t it?” Alzalam said, pulling a hand out of his pocket and raising it to poke my forehead.
The words at the tip of my tongue died as I felt the dam break on whatever was blocking my memories. I stumbled backwards, falling onto my backside. My eyes flitted as the memories rushed through my mind.
“…We need a plan.”
“Here’s what we’re going to do…”
“I see them.”
“Let me up— I can… Help.”
“You’ve done enough.”
“Get your asses moving, now!”
“I can’t give up now.”
“Wake up, Zero.”
“You mind giving me a hand?”
“It would be my pleasure, Zero.”
“Adam Clarke. So glad you could join us, finally. What took you so long?”
“You need to… get out. Clarke.”
“You stay right there, Snape.”
“And so it ends. What a waste.”
“The end… Is only the beginning!”
“I…” I said, my eyes wide with realization. “That’s right! I fought him— Quirrell.”
I remembered now. Despite my progress with Odgovor, I had not been a match for Quirrell. He had beaten me, even though he had lost an arm in the process. The last thing I remembered was… yes; he had been about to end my life.
It had been Helena who had distracted him at the very last instant. If she hadn’t bought me some time when she dropped that small bit of stone on his head, and if Snape hadn’t attacked at the same time I had, I would have likely died, then and there.
My chain pierced the man’s skull, and then…
“Of course.” I said, swallowing. “Voldemort’s spirit. It rushed me as soon as I killed Quirrell… To possess me. Damn.”
“Bingo.” Alzalam said, snapping his finger as he spoke. “You understand what’s happening, then?”
“Yes…” I said, getting back up to my feet. I took a few slow, unsure steps. “We’re in my mind, right now?”
“Yes.” Alzalam confirmed, before tilting his head to the side with a smile that made him seem more obnoxious than mysterious. “And also no.”
“What does that mean?” I said, clenching my fists when the figure before me did not answer. “Don’t speak in riddles!”
“You don’t recognize anything here, do you?” Alzalam answered with a question of his own.
I looked around as he spoke before shrugging. “I’ve never been here before.”
“Oh, but you have.” Alzalam said, and I watched an image of his finger raise before the man raised his arm. “Just think about it.”
“This isn’t the void, if that’s what you’re getting at.” I said, letting my eyes take everything in. “Nothing like that place.”
“True enough.” Alzalam said. “Besides, you would have to be dead to reach the void. Don’t worry; you’re still breathing.”
I nodded at that, feeling a bit relieved. “So I’m in some kind of coma, and my mind is in this world… but not in my body?”
“That is the case, yes.” Alzalam said, nodding. “You are indeed here, but it is a most precarious presence at best.”
I frowned. “I’m guessing I can’t stay for too long.”
Alzalam nodded. “You aren’t supposed to. Your spirit hovers in the place between life and death: it is the place which every soul must go, but few ever return.”
I stopped at that revelation. “I see. So, I have been here before, the first time I died.”
No wonder I couldn’t shake the sense of familiarity. Had I trodden the same path before? Had I not been able to repair the lighthouse, the last time I was here?
I supposed that it didn’t matter, for now.
“And these other spirits, where are they?” I said, sweeping a hand to the side. “I can’t possibly be the only one in the universe who’s near death.”
“They are here.” Alzalam said, smiling again. “But they are also—”
“Not.” I finished with him, sending the cloaked man a wry look. “Of course. How much time do I have?”
“Unclear.” Alzalam said, gesturing towards the lighthouse. “Normally, you would have been ferried along to the other side; However, there are those few who receive another chance at life.”
Another chance? I thought. “So I’m having what’s called a near-death experience— my life flashing before my eyes and all that? Out of body, but can I return?”
“Just so; and, yes.” Alzalam said. “Though… each person’s experience differs. In your case, you are surrounded by a horrible blackness threatening to consume you, and this lighthouse is a beacon of hope, piercing the endless night around you and providing you with a safe haven. But it can not protect you forever.”
I nodded, absorbing the information before I turned my eyes to the corruption, which was slowly making its way towards the building. “So, when the island’s completely overrun by this miasma…”
“I would surmise that your spirit will pass the point of no return.” Alzalam said. “Or, as you would say: ‘Game Over’.”
“And what happens to Voldemort? Isn’t he trying to possess me?”
“Indeed, and worse: provided with a living body which currently houses no soul, you can imagine what consequences may arise.” Alzalam said.
I stared at the man for a long moment before speaking again. “Well… shit.”
“What do I do?” I said, wringing my hands. “How do I stop this?”
Alzalam did not answer.
I swallowed. “I beat Quirrell, so I’m being rushed to the Hospital Wing, most likely? It’ll take Voldemort some time to get some control over me, and my body’s too damaged to really do anything, right? I mean, I could barely hang on to consciousness at the end.”
Yeah, that’s it. I thought. While I figure out how to fix this lighthouse, they’ll be healing my body in the real world. There’s time before Voldemort can start a bloodbath.
“You are not.” Alzalam cut through my budding relief before it had a chance to set in. “Your body is currently engaged in a duel to the death with your Head of House, as well as Potter and Snape— however little the latter two can be considered as opponents, in their current states.”
“Engaged in a duel… what?” I barked out. “He’s already taken over?”
“Right again.” Alzalam said in confirmation. “Both a part of me and Alef Ard are currently holding him back, but Voldemort is astonishingly strong-willed— to be able to hold a being as multi-layered as that genius loci is no small feat.”
“What’s the other part of you doing?” I asked without thinking.
Alzalam gestured at himself, as if to say: ‘what do you think?’
“Holding off the miasma. That’s concerning.” I said, turning my gaze back towards the lighthouse before taking a deep breath. “Just focus, Adam. You can still fix this.”
Alzalam had said that this place was both linked to my mind, as well as my soul, that it was the place in which spirits traveled to the void; a jumping point, of sorts.
“You could always let the… miasma take its course.” Alzalam said, and my gaze flew to meet his hidden eyes. “Return to the void, as you were meant to.”
“Meant to?” I frowned at the man before shaking my head. “You really are a persistent one, aren’t you?”
“It was worth a shot.” Alzalam said, shrugging. “You were not originally from this world, and you do not owe these locals anything. Why struggle for their sake?”
I nodded. Alzalam and I had these conversations so many times that I expected him to say as much. “You’re not wrong. I get it; I don’t owe them anything. That’s not why I’m doing this, though?”
“Then why?” Alzalam said, his tone insistent. “You seek the power of their magic? It is but a trifle compared to the void. You remember what it was like there.”
I looked down; I did remember. It was as if I had been one with everything— a consciousness so vast and powerful that I began to lose hold of myself. I remembered the void taking my soul and tearing it apart until I no longer recognized who I was.
How I ever managed to stitch myself back together, I still didn’t know.
“Pursuing magic is part of it.” I said, nodding. “But there are different kinds of power out there; economical power, magical power, political power, and so on. I’m seeking the most important power of all.”
“And that is?”
I smiled. “The power of self-determination. I’m not doing this because I owe someone, or because I’m being forced to. I’m doing this because I want to. I have formed bonds with these people, and I want to at least see them come to fruition, until my time has come.”
“And how can you be so sure that the time isn’t now?” Alzalam said.
I looked down for a moment, before looking back up at the tower. “I can’t be sure, but I… I don’t feel it is time, yet. There’s still so much that I haven’t yet accomplished. So I’m going to fix this tower.”
“And if your body dies anyway?” Alzalam said, sweeping his arm to the left. “What if, even if you end up surviving, Professor Snape decides to report you to Dumbledore or the Ministry? Wouldn’t this all be a total waste of time?”
I laughed. He really was grasping for straws now, wasn’t he?
“If my body dies, then I can at least pass on, knowing that I did everything I could. I’m honestly not sure what Snape will do— the guy is really hard to read, but I don’t think he will. If he does report me, though, I’ll deal with it— however it may come. Keeping that sort of secret was burdening my heart and soul, anyway. A clear conscience is worth a thousand times its weight in gold.”
“I see.” Alzalam said and, for a moment, I thought that he was about to square off against me.
Instead, he gestured towards the lighthouse double doors ahead. The two large, black doors swung open, filling the air with the sound of wood and metal scraping against stone. “Then go forth.”
I turned to look at him in surprise. “You won’t try to convince me to stay? Or stop me?”
“No.” He said, smiling. “It seems that you have finally figured out what it is you want.”
“Besides.” Alzalam raised his hand to the top of his head and lifted his hood. I watched as his nondescript face morphed into one I had been very familiar with, at one point in my life. “I couldn’t stop you even if I wanted to. Heh.”
My eyes widened, and I took a step back in surprise. “You… Your face. My old face. How…”
Alzalam grinned. “Surprised to see me?”
I opened my mouth and closed it several times, unsure of how to react.
Alzalam shook his head, amused. He pointed towards the lighthouse, once more. “Go on. Time is not your ally in this world— or any, for that matter.”
“You…” I said, before shaking my head and moving towards the entrance. I stared down the dark depths of the lighthouse. “You’re not coming with me?”
“I cannot. I’m best placed here.” Alzalam said, following me and stopping before the doors. His smile had been replaced with a serious look. “But know this: you’re stronger than you think you are. You can do this. Remember that for me, won’t you? Whatever you see in there; just trust your instincts.”
I stared at him, swallowed and nodded. “I’ll do my best. Thank you… Alzalam.”
“I’ll hold the corruption back for as long as I can.” Alzalam said, turning away. “Go.”
Without waiting for the man to say anything, I moved forward, stepping past the threshold and hearing the sound of the doors closing behind me.
Outside of the lighthouse, Alzalam sent the doors one last look.
“You’re stronger than you think you are… Adam Clarke.” He repeated, staring at the lighthouse with an almost sorrowful look. “You’ll be stronger than I ever was— than I ever could have hoped to be. You’ll be the one to face our nightmares.”