Shrouded in black and enveloped in shade. Cutting white noise and chronic scenes of anguish jolted Alvan awake into a reality of full dark, all pitch no stars. A gnawing silent tooth ache of the mind begging for acknowledgment. A validation into being eternal. He anxiously looked around hastily as he reached for his sword only to find his sheathe had been taken from him and his horse, Silver Dart, was nowhere to be found. He managed to keep his panic at bay until he felt a jarring compulsion to nurse a searing pain in his knee and to his dismay his hand went right through his limb and turned a pale blue. Electric shock ran through his disheveled locks as he screamed Cecilia’s name. He called for his horse but none came. An ever present cackling had peered into his consciousness for the past — what felt like an eternity. Time no longer made sense here. Wherever here was, he could not say. All he knew was that he was nowhere familiar and comfort had made no attempt to console.
As rudely as he was awakened his mind was suddenly flooded with memories of a place he once knew. Mighty ships, and sojourning sailboats drifted across his mind as the taste of salt water appeared on his tongue. It all felt so sudden and real. An experience of now yet the sense of dissolution and delineation was strong. There was a separation, but not in the salt of the mighty blue aqua body soaking his tongue. An older man, who he felt could’ve been his father was barking orders to a rambunctiously eager crew during a heavy windstorm. He saw the ship washed up on a shore left as detritus for the tales of widows to vocally sift through. He saw children smiling up at him expectantly and a hopeful sun being eclipsed by a despairing moon. He still tasted salt but it was gradually replaced by blood. He saw still frames of bludgeons, and pictures of bodies. Piles carted to grassy knolls only to be burned in sacrifice of absolution to an unknown deity that was evidently not here with Alvan. He saw epochs and ages pass. Yet he did not see her. He saw times and tales unravel before him as if he was really there and involved. No trace of St. Cecilia.
“When do you intend to depart? What say you?” Alvan, shocked by the violation of his privacy still stood entranced in his nostalgic odyssey into a world’s past. He slowly turned around to be greeted by a gruff and nodding character adorned in purple feathers and a large gold necklace that teasingly hung a diamond covered key. His eyes shone like heavenly sky fires and his voice embroidered a calm knowing. “Well, does the mysterious visitor speak…?”
Stuttering and his oblivious nature intact Alvan only stood assaulted by innumerable questions. “Where am I…? And, who are you?” He managed to extend in muffled nervousness.
“I am Balthazaar. And this is the land of Despair. Do you not feel it?” His questions seemed to be rhetorical as he planted one foot firmly in the floored firmament.
“That’s all I feel. But where is my horse and…” Alvan choked back regret and the transparency this voided place brought. “… Where is she?” He continued. “I woke up to the stench of Death and taste of salt that turned to blood. What does this all mean?”
“It means you have been here before. Despair is a place souls go when they want to remember their pain so they do not do it again in their next life.” The foreboding personality answered matter of fact.
“Well, I don’t belong here.” Alvan resisted, and his voice no longer hiding the irritated edge.
“You can leave any time.” Brooding Balthazar heaved.
“How? Show me the way! Show me now!” The militant vagabond exclaimed in a torrent of pain.
Balthazaar the Stoic, moved his gargantuan frame one oak tree leg at a time. Bumbling toward his guest and finally relinquishing his momentum to stand solid with a face of statuesque seriousness. There was no levity in this land and it was apparent on the key wielding guardian’s visage. “You will need this.” He brandished the key before Alvan’s tormented face revealing a vulnerability he had never known.
A pang of loss, like a fiery arrow found its home in Alvan’s back. “Why do I feel so heavy? Why is there no release here? All I feel is this weighty sadness.” He was thinking out loud now, sacrificing any pretense for honesty and desire to leave at all costs.
“Alvan the Despairing, you are feeling the collection. The amalgam. The hording of deep blue. The addition of all the pain you’ve experienced over the course of all seven of your lives spent on earth.” Balthazaar’s once emotionless face now exposed an expression that could only convey one of sympathy. This key will take you to the great beyond. This land is part of the passage The Great Divide. With fortitude and forehead of flint you can complete your journey to the other side. It’s up to you. It always has been.
“What about her Balthazaar? What of her?” Alvan desperately inquired.
“It is not her time. You, and only you must cross this great divide Alvan the Despairing.” His appearance appeared to lighten and the stoic Guardian opened his chest to reveal great purple wings. “Take this key,” he commanded sternly. “The time is now.”
“Aye. Let me not remember this pain Balthazaar the Stoic. Let me not remember.” Alvan, laid hold of the key with his right hand as it released a brilliant light meant only for angel eyes. “To the great divide! Let me not remember Balthazaar! Let me never remember this!” Alvan desperately yelled. The composed wanderer losing his composure in a flurry of tears and suppressed pain looked to the door with the head of a lion, bear and eagle. All three animals spoke, “We grant you safe passage” in an almost rehearsed unison strengthening the confidence of The Despairing Vagabond.
Balthazaar turned around as Alvan inserted the key and heard the all too familiar sound of the dimensions unlocking. “Be at peace, soldier. Rest in peace.”