Editors: Marshy & Queen of Hearts
V.O Artist: Seraphim
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I Killed the Immortal
By: Oro Prizyvaushiy
Of course, the city has changed. Signboards became brighter, houses were higher and more modern, and many streets now seemed unfamiliar. Surely, the changes did not really affect the historical center. No one would have dared to remodel the famous palaces and canals of the Northern Capital. However, on the outskirts, the difference was obvious.
At the same time, everything was making an impression of… stagnation and shabbiness. Somewhere above, the tops of the towers were glowing with neon, but down here, I could get rid of that feeling.
However, I wasn’t looking too closely. No, I was interested in the city and in the changes that have happened to it for twenty years, but… that wasn’t my chief priority. First, I had something more important; the only place that I really wanted to see with no delays. The place where I was born and where I grew up.
There were no more Gottfrieds. More precisely, there was only me, the last of my family. Sounds like a pompous line from a legend, but I was not in the mood for pomposity and laughs. At the thought that my home, the place that meant so much to me and my family, now belonged to those who forcibly took it from me—who destroyed my family—the anger flared in me more and more.
If that was true… then I would not understand what to do. But I knew for sure that returning home was my primary goal. Whatever the cost, no matter how long it takes, I would either die or kick those bastards out from there.
In any case, the situation was different.
After passing the bedroom community—if that still was it, because I couldn’t recall here such an abundance of skyscrapers, sparkling with the shops’ and restaurants’ advertisements below and reaching the clouds above—I turned to the road leading to the outskirts. If I ended up in the center, I would have to walk for much longer, perhaps all night, but fortunately for me, cemeteries are not built in the city center.
The first thing that showed the true state of affairs were empty houses. Not sleeping, but empty. Some of them had shattered windows, others were destroyed, but most of them looked quite intact… and yet many minor details indicated that no one had lived there for a long time. Besides, the houses there were lower. You could see five-story buildings and even separate cottages that looked… weird after seeing the wall of skyscrapers in the residential area.
The Gottfried estate used to be located close to the Fog even in the past, but now it was right at its border. After looking closely, I could already see its first signs that I had forgotten for years: white transparent swirls, a light haze spreading over the cracked asphalt.
The closer I was coming to the estate, the thicker that haze was becoming. It hasn’t transitioned to the real Fog yet, but it was just a stone’s throw away.
The Fog literally reigned on the estate’s territory. I could see most buildings only as vague silhouettes; it looked like you could reach them in some steps. However, if you tried, you could walk for days and still not get to them, while that silhouette will still hang in front of you. The only safe place was the oldest main building; in fact, it was right on the Fog’s border.
The demon told me that cities are protected from the Fog. It looks like no one considered this area a part of the city anymore—which was the reason that saved the Gottfried estate from becoming the enemies’ residence.
However, it has suffered anyway. Inscriptions on the walls, glass shards… a lot of marauders have been here. It hurt to see it like this, but I was also relieved that no one was desecrating it with their presence.
I went straight to it. The house lost its former glory and greatness. To get everything back was my new goal; just for myself. I will make this place my home again, despite the Fog’s threat. Whatever it takes.
But now I needed a respite. The place was empty; no one would risk it to get that close to the Fog unless they intended to enter it. How did the demon call them—Wanderers?
Anyhow, they weren’t here.
Now, when I was standing right in front of the house, it at least didn’t look like a foggy silhouette like everything else. The mansion was built many centuries ago, back in the days when the expression “my house is my castle” was a general rule, so its walls were still standing solid as always. More modern details like doors and windows were, of course, less fortunate. I couldn’t see the tile roof from where I was standing, but I was sure that if I went up to the attic, I would find many holes… and maybe something else.
Birds like to spend the night in normal abandoned houses, but who could stay there, one step away from the Fog, I wasn’t even trying to guess.
However, what was not there was the coat of arms over the entrance. It was unlikely to be the work of the marauders—rather of those whose children I put to rest. As you could see, the war was not just against the Gottfrieds, but against their legacy too. In the place of the coat of arms was a chipped stone, and I could recognize only its lower part as a ribbon with a half-erased motto.
‘A tenebris ad lucem.’ From darkness to light. It was not just four words in a long-dead language that only doctors and paleontologists use. It was what I had been taught in my childhood, what I had learned at my mother’s knees. Now, you could read the inscription only if you knew what was written there. Only then your imagination would draw missing letters, turning that gibberish into something that had given a raison d’être to the entire family.
One door leaf was lying on the ground, the other one was hanging on just one hinge, threatening to fall any moment. Rubbish was lying underfoot, seeming to be an enormous mass in the night’s darkness, so I decided that the recovery of the former greatness should start with the simple cleanup.
Scream. Inhuman, shrill and sharp, like a car horn.
I instantly froze and reminded myself of where I was. There were no people here—I could swear about it—but you would never be alone while standing so close to the Fog. The scream I heard a second earlier seemed to be quite distant, but what does distance mean in the Fog?
I stood still for around ten seconds, not daring to move, but everything was quiet again. Relatively quiet. I was trying to ignore the faint rustle somewhere in the walls. I finally stepped inside.
It smelled damp in the house, like everywhere else near the Fog. The rubbish was all over the floor, not just outside, but inside as well. Based on the sound underfoot, it was mostly dry leaves, as well as shattered stones and glass.
The sounds on the walls became more intense, but at the same time more distant. It was as if something was making them heard me and ran away to safety and usual peace. Rats. Something resembling rats, no matter what world it came from. It won’t be easy to get rid of these pests, I thought and turned to the stairs.
The outer walls of the estate were built in time immemorial, so the structure was almost a castle on the outside. However, the inside of it was changed multiple times; the last restructuring like that took place around 150–200 years ago. The main staircase led up from the hall in two ways: to the left and the right.
The Gottfried family was something more than just a group of relatives. That was why the estate was not only a home but also a place for social meetings, my father’s office, and a repository of a wealth of knowledge. Passing by the entrance to an extensive library, I took a look inside.
Pristine emptiness. Not only were the books gone, but even the bookcases where they were standing. They took everything out from here, starting with magical tractates which belonged to our family since the Middle Ages, ending with children’s fairy tales that I read in preschool.
Probably the same applied to everything else. People who destroyed us clearly knew what they wanted. Everything of value was taken away and appropriated for themselves, the rest that had no value… was looted by those who considered it valuable anyway.
If what I heard about the deaths of my father and sister was true, then my enemies had probably announced a ‘big garage sale’ and let ordinary citizens finish the looting of the estate. That should have confirmed them as ‘benefactors’ in the minds of people and would’ve simply been… symbolic. Of course, that was just my guess, but thoughts like this were arising on their own while looking at completely empty rooms.
The scream repeated. Now it sounded more distant but also longer and kind of more worrying. I wonder, what do the beasts from the Fog fear? Maybe us?
At some point, I stumbled over something on the floor, but at the last moment, I grabbed a dent in the wall. The plaster started falling off from there. Something cracked, but I stayed on my feet.
The floor and a part of the wall were twined with some dry plant. I couldn’t tell its colour in darkness, but its shape alone was enough to tell that it was not from our world. Possibly, it used to even move, grab, and choke.
Now it was dead. I carefully stepped over the liana and continued walking.
Parents’ room. Sister’s room. My room. This time the door was in its place. However, when I opened it, I found—as elsewhere—only empty walls and dry leaves that flew in through the gaping holes of the windows.
“I’m home,” I exhaled, closing the door behind me. “I’m back.”
The room was just an empty frame, a naked skeleton of its former self, but it was evoking my old memories even like this. Here used to be the desk… here used to be the cupboard… and here I used to sleep.
I came to the place where my bed used to stand and slowly laid down. It was cold, but I was used to it. At least, it was better than Vissarion’s dungeon, where I used to find myself every time I accidentally repeated the killing method.
My eyes were closing. I’ve been through a lot this night and the place… someone could say that it was not a good place to sleep, but not me. Closing my eyes, I saw my room as it used to be. The curtains on the windows, the nightlight, a small pit in the wall… actually, that pit was still there as a reminder of past times.
I curled up and wrapped up myself in the jacket. I had to sleep now and get down to business in the morning. I had a lot of important things to do…
When a creature of an unknown kind screamed somewhere in the Fog for the third time, I didn’t even shiver and continued falling to sleep. Hell no; both people and the Fog would need a lot more to kick me out of my own home.