The doorway closed behind us as we exited the tunnel and entered the mausoleum. Gerard walked over to the opposite wall and leaned against it, his hands deep in his pockets and stared at the floor. He looked absolutely miserable.
"What was that all about?" I asked softly, noticing the delicate situation. The fury I had felt just moments ago had somehow faded into nothingness at the site of his depression.
Gerard shrugged, looking at the floor and everywhere else except at me. "Just ignore him... he's not a very people's person. Hell, most of us aren't. We've been down in the hole so long we don't even know how to act like human beings anymore."
I pondered about that for a few minutes. "Gerard... I need to know more about my tattoos. Why I can't remember anything about them? I know you know why."
"Frank, I'm sorry but I can't tell you about that right now. You really need to just trust me on this. It's not the right time to talk about this yet. I'll tell you all about it when it'll be easier on you. Okay? You just need to trust me." He looked at me almost pleadingly. I simply nodded at him; I /did /trust him.
"Okay then, I'll wait. Tell me about the Ruins, instead. Who are they really? They aren't normal people. They acted liked wild animals when they chased you into the cemetery. What do they want?"
"Uff..." Rubbing his head, he seemed to search for a way to put his thoughts into words. "The Ruins are not humans, you're right. Well, they are humans at the same time that they're not. They have no souls, you see, and are therefore not human. They are humans that have had their souls taken away from them. And that... that is exactly what they are after."
Gerard nodded and frowned at the same time. "The magic that some people have is held in their souls, and that is what they want. Power. They actually take souls from anyone, because even without magic, they are a source of power, but they don't do it too often to not attract attention from the police or media. They normally concentrate on bums that nobody cares about, however cruel that sounds."
"But what do you mean it gives them power? If they take the soul from a person that has supposed magical powers... do they get the 'powers'?"
He shook his head rapidly. "No, nobody can steal powers away from anyone. When they steal souls they become stronger... physically stronger. It's hard to explain but souls are very powerful things."
"How can you take someone's soul... if it even really exists."
"It exists, Frank, don't doubt it. Everyone has a soul, it's what makes us human. Only very few have their soul full of powers, and these are the ones that must protect the others... it's our mission."
I leaned against the other wall from him, staring at him and trying to register all the information he was offering.
With a sigh, Gerard continued, "Without your soul... you turn into a monster. Something that is neither dead nor alive. The Ruins would attack their own mother if she crossed in front of them. They lose all sense of love and family; no memories of themselves or their lives remain. The only thing that keeps them from killing one another is the extreme sense of importance of survival and their master, Mauritius. He was the one that started the whole Ruin tribe. He taught them all to steal souls to get more power."
"You still didn't answer my question. How do they steal it?"
Hesitating, he pointed to the center of his chest, he said, "Your soul is here, more or less. They thrust their fist into your chest, allowing a way for the soul to escape from the body and place their mouth over the wound..."
"They eat it?"I cut in, surprised and disgusted.
"In a sense, yes. The soul escapes the original body and enters the Ruin's body. They prefer to do it when the person is still alive... they maintain the theory that the soul loses strength if the body is dead. They can do it more carefully if they want the person to become a Ruin, because the body must not die. It's... evil. To steal what is most pure of a person is nothing less than evil."
I gaped at him. I couldn't begin to imagine how incredibly terrible it must be to have afist thrust into your chest when you are still alive... when your heart is still beating right next to it!
"The Stone of Life..." I mumbled, remembering my night trip with Aileen.
Gerard's head shot up. "How do you know about that?"
"Well, since you wouldn't tell me anything, someone had to inform me about something... even though I'm not sure how it's helpful right now."
He chuckled, which wasn't the response I expected. "That girl is a sly one. I would've told you now. She didn't beat me by much," he joked.
"Yeah... but how did she tell me exactly? It was like a dream, but it wasn't. I was really there, but I woke up in bed."
"It's her power. She can enter people's dreams and take them or do to them what she wants. She has complete control over dreams. It's called Dream Manipulation."
"Psh. Sure. Just like that guy and his crystal ball." I still didn't believe in all that hocus pocus shit.
I didn't even say the guy's name, but simply talking about him was enough to make Gerard get serious again. "He doesn't have a crystal ball. He has real visions. He has them all the time, but nobody knows about them now. At first, it was obvious when he had them because he would scream and fall to the ground. His power is now so well developed that he could stand here talking to you and have a vision, and you wouldn't even realize it. He only shares the visions that he deems important..." He said the last line with an undeniable tone of disgust and hatred that I had to look away from him.
"You really believe in this magic stuff, don't you?"
He looked me straight in the eye and nodded. "I believe it as much as I believe I'm standing here talking with you. It's real, Frank, and you'll find out soon enough."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"On October the 31st, Halloween as your knuckles have very well told you since you were born, you will become 17."
"That's when everyone receives their powers. The ones that do receive powers, that is, although you can get powers after that age, too. It's when it'll all start. It's when your world will turn to hell," he said, smiling sadly.
I frowned at him. "What powers? And why the hell are you so depressed about this all if you're the one that brought me into this fucking world!"
Nodding at the floor, he said, "You're right." Looking at me intently, he continued, "I've brought you into this world just like I have done so to more people than Icould ever count. It's my job... it's my fucking job to bring people down that Ithink have or will have powers and ruin their lives."
"That's why you took me down with you? You think I'll have powers?"
"With you I'm not mistaken. You will have powers; you're covered in signs."
I looked grimly at my "tattoos". "What happens to the people that you take down that don't have powers?"
"They normally stay down there. They become obsessed with searching for their powers. They eventually go crazy like that old lady you saw..."
"But wouldn't it be a better idea to try and help them find their powers or train them or something, instead of taking them down there and then doing nothing?"
He looked up, slightly offended. "You can't train someone or help them find their powers, they have to do it on their own. They have to look deep inside of them which is something that nobody else can do for you. We help them at first, of course, but sometimes the magic just never appears or they never learn how to control or use it."
"How do you know who has powers and who doesn't?"
Gerard shook his head, looking troubled. "I can sense it. A lot of times I think someone has powers because they have a strong soul; that normally means that it will develop powers but many times... it doesn't." With a slightly insane look on his face, he said in a shrill voice, "So, I walk the streets at night looking for perfectly innocent kids that I think may have some potential and I take them down to the hellhole where they will most likely spend the rest of their miserable lives until they rot!"
I stared at the stressed out man in front of me, not sure what to do. It was obvious that his mission was causing him great pain, and it was understandable. He had to choose the people that would go to the Underworld, having to face the fact that the person may or may not develop the powers they hope for. It was ironic though; here I was feeling sorry for him, when I could end up being one of those kids that waste the rest of their lives underground until going crazy because of this very man.
"Who decided you had to do this job?"
"I did. I'd rather do it myself than see another suffer what I have."
So great was his unselfishness, it left me speechless. Knowing that so many lives depended on your decision was a huge burden to suffer.
I walked over to where he stood looking at the floor, and stood next to him. I glanced around, not sure what to do to comfort him, finally deciding on placing an arm around his shoulder and giving him a pat on the back. It was a dumb and useless thing to do, but it was the best I could think of in that moment. He glanced at me and offered a smile that disappeared the moment he looked back to the floor. We stood in silence a few minutes while I chewed on everything that had been said.
"Gerard... why didn't the Ruins come into the cemetery when they were chasing you? They just stopped at the gate even though it was open and watched you."
"They can't come in. They're terrified of death, and the cemetery is full of it. It's beyond them. That's why they don't do mass killings. Just a few at a time is all they can handle. Unless they come in huge numbers... but normally they go around in small packs."
"If they want souls... they'd surely want the Stone of Life, right? Since it represents all souls or something..."
He looked up at me fondly. "Smart guy. Yes, that's what they're after. They want all the souls they can get, but what they want most is the Stone of Life. While for us it is a symbol of life, to them it is a symbol of immense power. Even so, nobody knows the full powers of the Stone... some think the Ruins want the stone for something other than power; they have a real obsession over it."
"But there's really nothing to fear, right? I mean, if that guy Mikey supposedly has visions, he'll know whenever they attack or when the Stone is in danger."
"He has visions... but not of everything. And like I said, he only shares what he deems worthy."
I turned to look at him, tired of facing the walls. "I don't know why you do, but I know you hate him. Why don't you just kick him out of the Underworld, or at least tell him to find his own tent?"
He shook his head, avoiding eye contact. "I can't. That place belongs to him as much as it belongs to me."
"But can't you-"
"He's my brother."
My mouth stayed open with what I was going to say, but couldn't pronounce because of the shock. "You and Mikey are brothers? But how come-"
"We are brothers of blood, but it's not what I consider him. It's best we talk about something else."
"I'm tired of asking questions."
"And I'm tired of answering them. But you should know one more thing. One very important thing. The Ruins know I've found you, I don't know how, they must sense it. They will probably be on the look-out for you, although they probably won't attack until you gain your powers and your soul is at its strongest."
Grabbing my shoulder and looking me straight into the eye, he said, "Keep your eyes wide open."
"Gerard... I'm sure you're making a mistake. I've never been anything special and I'm not going to have any supernatural powers on my birthday. The fact that I don't remember where I got my tattoos doesn't mean I'll have powers..."
He smiled at me. "The very fact that you were able to open the secret tunnel door and enter the Underworld is proof alone that you have powers. And being that you're not even 17 yet, I'll say your powers will be incredible. Keep the faith, Frank."
I smiled back, that was one of my favorite tattoos.
"We should head back down..."
"I can't, Gerard. I have to go back home, my mom will be worried about me."
He sighed."It's not safe for you to continue to go back and forth. They could catch you on one of your trips." After a moment of hesitation, he continued, "Go for now, but be careful. Be very careful."
Yay, some answers! Even though they are vague and generalized. Getting more complicated, huh? That's the way I like it... even though it makes it harder for me to write without screwing it all up. It's okay, I like challenges.
Like it?Hate it? Want me to dedicate myself to something else in life? Review my story and let me know what you think. I'll be waiting for them =)
Thanks for reading.
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