Hey guys! This is the sixth installment of our Life 2.0 story series. For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page here. Hope you all enjoy!
The sound of Julian grinding his teeth deafened anything that Marcus was trying to tell him. Vivek had run away like a scared bunny. He was still the only person who really knew what was going on, and he had abandoned them. Involuntarily, Julian tried to take a step toward the exit where the phantom had fled. A gentle bounce against his ribs brought to attention the alloy arm that had crossed his path. Julian stared at the owner’s hardened face. The statue’s golden features almost seemed to hold a sneer.
“Let me through,”Julian demanded.
Unexpected heat rose to his face as the statue continued to obstruct his way. Before he could push his way through, another golden figure stepped in line. Smoothly, the rest of the likenesses linked arms to create a semi-circle around the brothers. Recognition was like a slap to Julian’s face.
“What in the?” Marcus was squinting at the statues curiously.
Did he see what Julian saw? The bust that blocked Julian’s way had the face of Kristen Mavis, the stunning sophomore that Julian was dating. The one next to her bore the resemblance of Julian’s influential philosophy professor. In fact, most of the statues had features of people or things that Julian immediately recognized.
“This is twisted!” Julian moved to stand three inches from Kristen’s face. This wasn’t her, but it seemed so life like, “What are you?”
There was no response from the impassive being, only a mind numbing silence followed. Marcus stepped up beside him and grabbed his arm.
“Isn’t that Baal?”
His brother’s off hand comment seemed irrelevant to Julian. In fact, it made no sense. Julian creased his eyebrows at his brother who, moments earlier, had been a source of deep worry.
“What are you talking about Marcus? What’s Baal got to do with this?” the retort had come out sharper than Julian had wanted it to, “That’s clearly a statue of Kristen Davis! Why a statue of my girlfriend is trapping us in this complete hell hole is beyond me.”
Sending a searing glance at the figures, Julian ran his hands through his thick hair. Now it was Marcus’s turn to shake his head lightly.
“Baal is a pagan god, usually depicted as a bull-man. He was mentioned in the Bible multiple times as an idol that the Israelites would often become distracted by. God would frequently punish the people of Israel by allowing them to become conquered by a foreign nation.”
Julian threw his hands up in the air.
“Well, I knew that! I’m a philosophy major if you don’t recall,” A concerned look crossed his face, “And how does Kristen Davis look like a bull-man? That could be slightly offensive, you know.”
A nervous jitter suddenly passed through Julian, and he started involuntarily searching the ground for places where there might be a secret trapdoor. Did the outward image of these gold hunks really matter all that much when they could be trapped here forever? Marcus narrowed his eyes till they were only slits.
“Julian, I’m positive that that is Baal,” he held up his brown hand before Julian could intrude, “And the one next to it is the Egyptian god Osiris,” he pointed to another bust, “That statue looks like Athena.”
Julian scratched his scalp impatiently. He winced as his fingernail grazed a scrape in his head he had no recollection of getting. How did Marcus know so much about these deities when he had a major in psychology? For the sake of argument, Julian considered the weird possibility that they saw two different things. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Just minutes ago, Julian had seen a book in Vivek’s arms, instead of a candle, or torch or whatever it actually had been.
“OK, so what do a bunch of gods have to do with this? And why do I see a bunch of…” Julian tried to survey the crowd of golden figures, but couldn’t bring a single word to describe what he saw. There were images of friends and certain professors; a statue that looked like it had dollar bills engraved into it; and even a bust with his favorite football team logo on it’s chest. Most of them were things that were only connected to Julian, “icons, I guess.”
Marcus hesitated as he spared a hopeful glance behind them. His gaze did not settle on the stark door, which was still shut tight, but it hovered beyond the wall.
“Not gods, there is only one God.”
Julian rolled his eyes at the cliche reference.
“These are idols; things that are put before God and worshiped,” Marcus continued, grabbing Julian’s arm while he tried to figure out a way out of the this semicircle, “Julian, I need to tell you about what I saw when I was separated from you and Vivek.”
Why did he need to tell anything? He had left them out of stubbornness, and Julian had been willing to go back for him, even if it was only for a moment. Eventually, Julian had reached his limit of this laid back analyzing. He brushed off the nonexistent dirt on his pants. There had been no blemish in the seamless floor, no other route of escape. The gold statues’ grim expressions, full of egotistical pleasure, egged Julian into trying something desperate. As Marcus’s firm tone faded in the background, Julian focused on the height of the statue’s arms. He could make it.
“Up those stairs, there were things that are hard to describe.”
“Huh, sounds like this entire trip.”
Julian prepared himself with a few light hops, his running shoes squeaking on the smooth floor.
“Yeah, but these things were recognizable. It looked like an art gallery at the top of the stairs. There were dozens of pictures that lined the walls.”
Pretending to listen, Julian nodded slowly. Vivek was beyond these… doofuses. This metal lump wasn’t his girlfriend, and the rest weren’t actually his companions. Whatever they were, he needed to get past them.
“The pictures inside those frames moved like movies, but some of the scenes were so familiar I could swear I was there.The point of view was different though,” Marcus’s hand once more reached up to touch Julian’s shoulder, his gaze wasn’t distant anymore. It penetrated deep into Julian, “I was there. Julian, I think they were your memories.”
The absurdness of his claim snapped Julian back into decision. His feet flew as he gained momentum. Soon, the eight feet between him and Kristen were gone. He pushed off with all his strength, hoping it would be enough to get him over the interlocked arms that blocked his way. The doorway was so close, he could just see a dark greenish hallway beyond it. One foot had almost made its way to the floor, when something roughly grabbed the back of his shirt. He felt it slam into his neck and choke him while halting his jump. His tee-shirt ripped slightly before a hand, strong beyond what Julian thought possible, gripped his forearm. Soon, Julian was sitting on the golden floor once more, with Kristen’s placid features tilted slightly at him. They mocked his incapabilities. He had struggled through his parents kicking him out of the house, three years of college, and maintaining being class president. Why was this so difficult!? This place seemed to counter attack every shred of confidence that Julian had.
“I hate you!” Julian screamed ferociously at the statue’s fair, oval face that he had previously adored.
A presence approached his right side. He didn’t want to see anyone right now as he lay on the floor in frustration
“You don’t hate her though. She’s an idol. She’s your idol,” Marcus sympathetic face appeared as Julian opened his eyes, “Those memories I saw, I was in them. But it was you seeing me. It was from your perspective. All your pain and shame,” Marcus’s face became contorted, “The love for your little brother, even after our parents kicked you out of the house,” he sighed and the pieces of this puzzle seemed to shift around, trying to fit together, “Julian, what if this place is… connected to you somehow?”
Julian clenched his teeth.
“This place is not connected to me! I don’t care what you see,” He looked up at Marcus firmly, “No place this wretched would have anything to do with me.”
The sound of metal sliding on metal brought Julian’s attention back to the statues. Something had changed. Their arms had, without any external reason, unlinked. In a deadly unison, they all took one step forward. Now they appeared to be under some unknown command, like an army of killer robots. Their permanent expressions seemed to meld into deep scowls.
“What did you do, Julian?” Marcus panted.
Julian hadn’t done anything! This wasn’t his fault. Kristen’s light features held deep, condemning, as she stared into his soul. Her high cheekbones and shoulder length hair held threat instead of the beauty that Julian had always adored. She was so lifelike, even the small scar above her left eye was included in the replica. Her face was literally morphing as Julian tried to think of a way to defend himself and Marcus from the steadily approaching mob. It looked like a bull was trying emerge from her forehead. How ironic.
“What do we do, Julian?!” Marcus asked in a low voice as the statues continued to advance, herding them into a corner.
Once more, there was nothing Julian could do. There was a good possibility that their position was even because of him. What if these things were actually idols? Did he care about them that much? Had he taken his obsessions too far? Before Julian could do anything to prevent it, the statues had them pinned against the wall. Struggling was pointless, as they were literally made of metal. Kristen’s fist went back, ready to strike. Sparing one last desperate glance at Marcus, Julian found him with his eyes closed tight.
“This isn’t the only way, Arianna! Halt your control of the idols!”
A feminine voice crashed through the golden room, echoing ominously. Kristen stopped abruptly, rock solid. For three seconds, her golden fist was the only that filled Julian’s vision. Slowly, she moved away from Julian. Like a dog caught eating the pie, she slunked back to her pedestal in the corner of the room. Julian stared at Kristen uncertainly as she seemed to solidify once again into a regular statue.
“Well at least she sees reason.”
The new voice had an owner. A woman stood in the middle of the room, the open door behind her. She held a quill pen in her quivering hand, and wore a long purple robe that reminded Julian of fresh blood. Her pearly white hair stood out starkly against her dark clothes. She did not have the same aura of intimacy that Julian had felt with Vivek. Her pale face was lined with intimidating wrinkles. There was a heavy feeling of unknown about her. Was this how Marcus felt here?
“Will you help us?” Marcus said abruptly, a face of hope displayed.
She smiled grimly. Nodding her head, the woman sighed deeply.
“It seems I already have,” she laughed nervously, “No turning back now. I am Sophie, and I live next door.”
Julian felt like slamming his head against the wall. How could he make sense of any of this?
“We need to get to the Hall of Remembrance before Arianna arrives. She knows I’m here,” She stepped lightly through the door, “Follow me if you have faith, Julian.”
How was that fair? Vivek was still down the hall straight ahead of them. He might know more than this woman who claimed to “live next door”. Marcus worked his way to stand beside his brother.
“I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
The fact that his brother was willing to conform to Julian’s way, impacted him deeply. He was obviously being influenced by the woman Sophie, but he trusted his brother’s judgement. Once more, the decision was left up to him.
Or you, the reader! What should Julian do? Go down the hall and find Vivek once more? Trust Sophie and let her lead them? Or something else?
Comment below and join the adventure!