The Power of Darkness and Fear

Chapter IX

Outside, a pine tree elegantly swayed in the rain like a ballet dancer. The Orchestra of Nature made a beautiful crescendo as the rain and wind caressed the tree into their arms, twirling and twirling into a spin of fierce beauty and passion. The ballet was The Storm.

Nikiv Popov lay in the California King bed in a spare room that was much bigger than his own at home. The graying sky from the storm caused the walls to close in and the ceiling to collapse. The bed shrunk and the change of clothes that were laid out for him on the chair disappeared. Looking into the mirror that hung on the wall across the room, Nikiv saw not himself, but a former shadow. His face was there but he was grayer. His eyes were dry, his cheeks were wet and his hair was matted into knots. He also wore a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt.

Laid across the bed before him was his father's blue jay pin. Even though Nikiv had picked up this pin a million times, this was the first time it felt weighted- too heavy to bear and too impossible to lift.

Sitting up, Nikiv placed his hands on the large comforter and let it slowly advance to the pin like a lioness stalking prey in the savannah. The roughness and ridges of the comforter reminded Nikiv of the hills that surrounded the estate which he grew up. He closed his eyes and felt the crisp autumn breeze from coming from the Northern Plains of Russia. He heard the naked boroughs of trees battle against the wind as a woodpecker condescended work on his house. He saw a slight snowfall coat the ground with pure innocence and benevolence- as if it were the quintessence of everything. There was no fury, there was no ambiguous ending to the story, there was just simplicity- a world without complications and stress. A world that Nikiv missed and was never in to begin with.

Tears fell like a weighted coin does to the ground- quickly- and when it impacts, the ping and scarring is the loudest in the world. It was so loud, the Doppler Effect reached the ears of Reepicheep who was walking down the hallway outside Nikiv's room heading towards the library. He was headed to a meeting with Caspian and Kashmir, the King of Milland (the independent kingdom in the Western Wild) to discuss the next step in defense measures. The Second Winter wasn't going to be easy for anyone and to say that it was déjà vu would only be true to nature.

The Mouse stopped in the doorway and looked into the spare bedroom. It was a domicile of dust, decay and discrepancy in a city of uncertain future and a populace of misunderstanding souls. Nikiv bowed to his grief, his knees were underneath him and his head was down on the mattress. The blue jay pin, Reepicheep noticed, was underneath the bed. Tarnished by the death of the man who wore it, the pin's gold finish was darkened by the shadow of the bed- a hope lost in fear.

"I didn't even say goodbye to me." Nikiv said in between his sobbing. "How could you leave without saying goodbye, don't you love me?"

He rolled himself over and took a few deep breaths but tears overrode the attempts of calmness and tears fell again. He sat up and looked out the window. The ballet was reaching a climax, the part where the main antagonist comes on the stage. The pine tree buckled under the weight of the storm- there was no support from the wind and rain this time around. It was just the pine tree and her trunk and roots against the forces of resentment and instability.

"He always hated storms." Nikiv said. "Always thought he would get struck by lightning."

He stood and walked slowly to the windowsill. Placing his hands on the latch, Nikiv opened the window and thought about how high it was from the ground and taking in the factor of the wind, how far his body would go into the forest to be forgotten and decompose without any bother. The rain poured in, masking the tears and soaking his shirt and face. The rain sprayed the floor and bed and the wind rustled the curtains and bedclothes in a fierce fury. Nikiv submitted to fear and screamed out to the storm.

"Why did you leave me to be alone!"

Slowly, Nikiv leaned over the edge out into the storm, using the windowpane for balance. He jumped off the floor and slowly pushed himself further and further into the outreaches of space, seeing nothing but rain and a tree who loved ballet. His fingers slipped a little as water eased the friction, and for a moment Nikiv considered going into The Realm of the Souls Who Doubted but when he looked back into the room he noticed a small unmoving aegis in the doorway.

"How much did you see?" The boy asked as he placed his feet back on the floor.

Reepicheep approached nonchalantly and as you would expect a mouse to approach someone. As he passed the bed, he scurried over to the blue jay pin and grabbed it in his mouth- it tasted like a tarnished penny. Nonetheless, he walked to the wall with the window, scaled it and placed it on the windowsill.

"Enough to be concerned." Reepicheep said.

Nikiv nodded and looked out into the storm again. The tree was straight again, the antagonist died on the stage and the harmony between the wind and rain resumed.

"There's nothing to be concerned over," Nikiv replied, "just wondering how high this window is from the ground."

"I can tell you that," the Mouse said, looking at the boy's eyes, noticing that Nikiv's hazel irises carried a hint of misty gray. It was a sign of blindness or a lack of ESP. "I don't think you would like my answer."

"Why is that?" Nikiv asked, blinking a bit.

"Because it isn't an answer I would like to give. By the way, your brooch was on the floor."

Nikiv reached out for it with trembling hands and a slow approach.

He's too afraid to see the grace and beauty of it. Reepicheep thought. The grief, trauma, or sheer thought must be devastating. To have it be the last and the first link to a person makes it difficult to bear I suppose. Nikiv's fingers hovered over the pin and wanted so much to embrace the last remains of his father's, the urn that carried the name Vasily. A voice inside his head told him to cry, told him to jump out the window and told him to give in to his sorrow- to make the pain easier.

"It's alright," Reepicheep said smiling a bit, "I just wanted you to be aware that you still have it."

The Mouse looked out the window and saw the dancing pine tree. The ballet was coming to a close, the wind was tiring out and the rain gently sounded against the trees, bringing out the sweet smell of pine and cedar. A woodpecker worked on a maple tree in hopes of obtaining sweet sap. Steady and heavy raindrops fell onto the windowsill. Nikiv withdrew his hand from over the blue jay, allowing it to see the beauty after a rain storm. Nikiv looked out the window again.

"Beautiful isn't it?" The Mouse asked.

Nikiv nodded but said nothing.

"To think," Reepicheep continued, "that you were going to vault over and out a window and miss it. Tis a shame it would be. For the record, had you done it I would have rushed ahead."

"No you wouldn't have." Nikiv said. "You would have stood there, shut the window and went on with your business."

"Is there no substance in friendship? Do you have no trust in me? Have I failed you so much that you devour my body like a beast hunting in the dark? Whatever this malice be I rebuke it. Whatever this grief be I rebuke it also!"

Reepicheep advanced, his eyes searching for a reason and his heart begging for Nikiv to open up to him. "I would have gone before you because I consider it a shame to go through grief alone. If it takes my death for you to see that grief is only a moment in passing then so it shall be."

"If grief is a moment in passing, then it passes slowly." Nikiv said.

"Usually it does but only because it's meant to." Reepicheep replied, "Grief passes slowly because it's making room for hope. The best remedy for grief is hope and the best acquirer of hope is belief."

"I guess faith is left out of the 'cure depression equation'." Nikiv said, reaching for the window panes and shutting them finally. Reepicheep moved out of the way, even though there was really no reason to.

"On the contrary," Reepicheep replied, smiling a bit now that the window was closed. "Faith is the foundation of this 'cure depression equation'- good choice of words by the way- but then, not really because depression isn't a disease- or rather, the common definition of a disease. It's more of a psychological problem that occurs when grief overpowers the brain's will to grieve properly. It's very similar to a fire. If you are the fire and grief is the wood then you will slowly burn through it and rise above it, much like a flame does. Then sometimes, more wood is piled on, creating stress and anxiety- but if you're in the care of a great pyromaniac- then you will be fueled back to health."

"Seems like my pyro's out of commission." Nikiv said. He glanced at the blue jay pin, taking notice of the tarnish that was on the bird's face that resembled a tear drop. Reaching for it again, he moved a bit faster and boiled up the strength to clutch it in his hand. "He said that it was good luck." Nikiv said, turning towards Reepicheep, "What good is it in terms of luck when you die with it on?"

The Mouse sighed, the question had been asked before in many voices, languages and tones, all of which he could verbally and intellectually understand in both the nature of the question and the answer- but he could never provide one himself. Staring at Nikiv's hand, Reepicheep noticed that the knuckles were turning white and that rain had stopped all together. It was as if the universe were waiting for him to speak the answer he didn't have. "Perhaps it's meant in the non-literal sense." He said. "It is probably meant to be a good luck to those who need it. Why would a dead man need an Albatross?"

"An albatross?" Nikiv asked, "Isn't that a bird?"

Reepicheep nodded. "Seen as a good or terrible omen of the seafarers. There's a story about it- I know of it, if you wish to hear it."

Nikiv turned back towards the bed, seeing that it was wet but not completely soaked. He walked over to the bad, pin in hand and sat down and let his feet hang over the edge, over the dark abyss of depression and forswearing. Opening his hand and looking at the pin once again, Nikiv sighed- for he saw not a fond memory of his father but a reminder that his father was no longer going to be there for him. Vasily Popov was dead and for the first time, truly understood that his father would never again tell him words of encouragement, would never laugh at a joke, would never see a wedding, would never see a grandchild and would never see old age. Vasily Popov was dead and he is survived by his son.

"There was a mariner who sailed the world and all its seas," Reepicheep said, getting straight to the point and to quickly change the subject. "He was a renowned fisherman, respected captain and loyal to his causes. In short, he was just and righteous man." The Mouse jumped from the windowsill and crossed the room again in the same manner as before- nonchalantly and as you would expect a mouse to cross a floor.

"Before you continue with the story," Nikiv said, "I want to know something, how long were you standing in the door?"

"Long enough to enter this room and see how far you were willing to go." Reepicheep replied as he scaled the bed. "Now I have a question for you, were you considering it?"

Nikiv nodded. "I was, and to be honest, I still am. You distracted me."

"If you were distracted by me standing in the doorway," Reepicheep said, "then I can presume that you weren't in too much conviction to go through with it. Is there something you're not telling me?"

"No." The boy answered, "I haven't a single thing to hide."

Reepicheep nodded, noticing that the bed wasn't as wet as he thought and proceeded to make himself comfortable when he noticed a slight tear in the cover sheet. Examining his person to be sure it wasn't his blade and finding that it wasn't- felt through the hole and felt something syrupy.

Odd, Reepicheep thought, it almost feels like-

The Mouse removed his paw from the hole, noticing that it was red. Turning towards Nikiv, Reepicheep said nothing, he merely cleaned his paw off the best he could and smiled weakly. Nikiv turned towards the Mouse and sighed. The boy understood what was revealed and made his way to the window again.

"I'm sorry, but I couldn't do it. I thought that if I-"

"Mar yourself that you would feel somewhat justified in your grief?" Reepicheep said, finishing his sentence the way he perceived it to go.

"I thought that it would make it easier." Nikiv replied. He slowly removed both of his shirts. At the sight of the deed, Reepicheep stood, jumped from the bed, walked to him, stopped at his feet, curled up in a ball and cried.

"I'm sorry," Reepicheep said, through his tears, "but this isn't your fault. It is never your fault!" He looked up at the boy, still streaming grief from his face. "It was a man who dare not show his face, a devil who knows no cage. He carries fear in his left pocket and death in his right. It was his hand and his fury and his resentment and his evil that killed your father. It was not you!"

Reepicheep embraced Nikiv's ankle and spilled out what he perceived to be the truth.

"It was not you. I'm sorry for not acting sooner- forgive me of this mistake. Forgive me of being the catalyst for your grief. Maim me and strike me in Aslan's name I do not care boy, just end me if you so will it! Do with me what you will. Seek vendetta and do not regret it. Be the harbinger of death, be the reaper of my soul, do not let me see sunlight for I am a wicked thing of slothfulness and I am content in it. The story of the mariner ends with an albatross round his neck and shame on his name- I am that dead bird and that shame you bear. Release me now into the sea and force me to sink into the abysses. I will not chastise you if you catapult me out that window and send me hurdling towards my maker. I do not care about my life- only yours. You stabbed yourself and marred your innocence. You have fallen to depression and misery and have only me to blame for it. Your father's death is on my head, your life is on my shoulders and your future heirs- I have cursed and damned their souls to the Wicked Ether."

He looked up into Nikiv's eyes and saw nothing of forgiveness or resentment. Only a look of indifference. "Please, for the sake of clearing my conscious- forgive me or destroy me."

Nikiv bent down slowly, grabbed his shirts and put them on. As he did this, Reepicheep backed off, dried his eyes and composed himself. When Nikiv put himself back in order and looked at the Mouse with the same indifference that he had given him- seemingly.

"It's good to know," Nikiv said, standing, "that it's never your fault when it comes to grief." He walked towards the bed, placed the blue jay pin in his pocket and removed the pillow, the bed sheets and a small pocket knife from the bed and put them in a bundle. He then crossed the floor, placed the bundle on the floor, opened the window and released everything out into the world. He closed the window.

Outside, the pine tree resumed her dance and the rain slowly returned to the stage for a new ballet, The Firebird. Looking into the mirror once again, Nikiv saw a little more of himself and placed the blue jay pin on his shirt. Nikiv saw his father for a moment- and smiled. He walked towards the door. Reepicheep smiled as well, as he followed Nikiv out he realized two things: first, that love follows grief and second, that Aslan was in the hallway.

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