Flame in the Dark

Chapter 5

Rei and Masanori were walking along a very bizarre corridor. Walls made out of whirling flames surrounded them and fiery tongues of various shape and sizes grew out of the floor. The passage seemed to be going to infinity, its every meter looked the same and people wandering by it thought that they had been frozen in one place. They both lost perception of the reality of their own consciousness, their eyes registered only a red fire of the world they were in and their other senses were entirely useless. Their proprioception seemed to be totally out of control, they didn’t feel their own bodies, they didn’t know whether they were going through the corridor themselves or perhaps they were observing somebody else through the curtain of flames. Every step brought them closer to the travel’s destination, every step was directed opposite to the temporary stream, every movement carried them over backwards in time: minutes, hours, days, months and years. Their physical bodies or perhaps their mental representations also changed in that unusual place. Their hands and legs shrank, silhouettes started assuming younger shape and hair of the girl grew backwards, shortening its length. The magic of the corridor caused that their clothes had also shrunk in order to cover their more and more children like bodies. After the passage of time, seeming to be almost infinitely long, fiery whirlpool started slowly losing its intensity. They could use their senses and observe the world surrounding them. They were small children again standing in the middle of the urban square feeling the Sun’s heat and crowds of tourists walked around them. Water gushing out from the nearby fountain splashed their faces with cold drops and the shadow of the growing tree provided shelter from the heat. Rei could not speak or contact Masanori in some other way and similarly he could not establish contact with her. They both realized the nature of the spell. Their awareness moved backwards in time of their childhood so that they could exactly see what had happened in the day, when they had freed the demon, but they were only bystanders of those events. They could see the world with eyes of their younger counterparts, but they could not influence them in any way. They had to wait patiently for the course of events and learn from them the truth, needed for the victory over the demon. They heard someone’s voice and saw their friend with golden hair, Mei from the neighborhood. They were supposed to go to the funfair with her.

At the same time, Arthur Knight watched over the magic circle, the return gate for the girl and the boy. He clasped the handgun tightly, sensing approaching danger. He went to the window in order to see whether his premonitions had justifications in facts. After a few minutes of fixing his eyes on the total darkness stretching out in front of the house, he realized that he wasn’t wrong. He spotted figures of some strange persons coming near. Their behavior, creeping, betrayed that they hadn’t been tourists passing or locals coming back from the night-time party.

“Damn it!” The man said stepping down from the view.

“Fortunately, these are only pawns rather than the chief actress of this damn show.” He added trying to feel more comfortable. He hoped that magic seal which he had used on the door and other entrances to the interior of the house will keep the inflow of unwanted guests.

“Rei, Masanori... wherever you are... better hurry up or else it won’t be so good here.”

Rei and her two friedns went along the road towards the longed-for funfair. The path looked totally different than many years later, was nice looking, not-overgrown by weeds and trees’ branches. People passed by them, the entire families with color balloons afloat above their heads going to the funfair or coming back from it. Everyone were happy and nothing heralded the tragedy which was supposed to take place that day. Gates of the funfair, looking huge from a perspective of small children and colorful clown inviting them play on various attractions offered by the place of the entertainment, greeted them. Mei quickly took the initiative in the group and indicated places which she wanted to visit with her friends. There were many places on the list of children, for example the merry-go-round with the music, which Rei had remembered from her dream, the hall of mirrors, the shooting range and the large roller coaster. When the night came and lightings on attractions gleamed like fairy lights, the three of friends came off into the most distant part of the funfair, where the large red building stood. There was a colorful sign with letters on the yellow star - Mister Incredible and his House of Marvels. Interested with the advertisement, they looked into the interior. The place was dark and some gloomy melody interrupted by distant children’s laughter came from hidden loudspeakers. Rei, Mei and Masanori looked all around, feeling anxiety growing in their hearts. The decor of the room would frighten even an adult, but it was just terrifying for children. Strange stage props loomed into the view from the darkness: stuffed dog with two heads, black-white photographs portraying freaks such as the fat bearded lady or the dancer with three legs, large jars with formalin which housed deformed fetuses. All objects were a fraud, the mixture of photomontage and wax sculptures, but they all fulfilled their objective very well. Curiosities frightened young guests of the palace. The strange case decorated with the image of a face twisted in a very peculiar grimace riveted the attention of the entire threesome. Mei heard some voice in her head, something which was calling her, inviting her to go up closer, look at the case... the girl wasn’t able to oppose growing temptation, she moved away from friends and went in the direction of the object. Masanori and Rei were soon interested with her sudden change of behavior. Unexpectedly, Mei turned around. simultaneously looking into the eyes of the black-haired girl. Her eyes were cold, full of fury and sorrow.

“Mei-chan, what’s going on?” Masanori asked.

“Mei-chan why aren’t you answering? If you are afraid we can leave from here.” He added.

“Let us walk from here. It was a stupid idea to come here.” Rei told. The blonde touched her arms.

“Rei-chan... It is the most interesting place in the entire funfair. It’s good that we have came here.” announced smiling ominously.

“Mei-chan...don’t it hurts me.” Rei felt her cold and strong hug not resembling the touch of a small child.

“You have something I need very much... something which will let me become known in this world again. I feel in you the piece of the power which took my body away from me.”

“Mei-chan? What are you talking about? It isn’t funny at all!”

Suddenly a bright circle with magic symbols whirling around its circumference appeared behind the back of the girl with blue eyes. A spectral hand loomed from the middle of the strange phenomenon. Rei and Masanori moved closer to each other, they were too terrified to escape or act in any other way.

“Somebody is trying to connect what was with what is supposed to come? Does somebody want to open the forbidden doorway proceeding to new opportunities? The better chance won’t repeat itself.” Mei ran up to Rei and pushed her towards the materializing spell. In the same moment the enormous fireball fired from the body of the black-haired girl, destroyed the opening portal and then hit the case with the golden mask. The object immediately caught fire and flames very quickly spread over all the place cutting children off doorway. Mind Rei, its two instances, the small girl’s and the young woman’s were poured over with visions developing in red tongues eating wooden building.

Arthur Knight stood in the middle of the room listening closely to dark sounds of the beings hitting doors and windows, trying to tear over the wood and glass as well as magic barriers created by the bald man. He knew that the protection wouldn’t keep them for long, because circus freaks were too pervaded with the ancient evil of the demon and hate of his newest advocate. He was sure that soon he was going to have one of the most serious fights of his life. When he looked out of the window, he observed strange purple-blue coloring of the night sky. He watched it more carefully noticing that waves of the light moved towards the city and their source was most probably in forest’s ruins of the funfair. He could also see other silhouettes of people going in the direction of the house. He realized that the magic of the demon had started having an influence on residents much more stronger than ever before turning them into passive dummies obedient to the will of their new master.

“You cowardly slut... you’re using innocent instead of coming here alone”. He said alone to himself.

“When Rei comes back, if she comes back... we will defeat you once and for all.”

Rei was surrounded by raging flames, her senses went mad again and she wasn’t able to distinguish her personality from the awareness of her own counterpart from many years before. She had to obey visions attacking her mind from all possible temporal and spatial directions. She could see a city, distant from her in the space and the time, full of houses and roads on which people and carts drawn by horses travelled. She could see a mysterious man covering himself with a black material, flashing by in the darkness of dirty streets in the direction known only to himself. She watched the world through his eyes, seeing an interior plunged into a darkness and strange people gathered by him in one place, under one roof. Some of them were short men, others were tall and towering above the rest. The woman with three legs was sitting in the corner and nearby there was very obese lady with facial hair like on the adult man’s face. There were many other people in the room, with unusual, sometimes bizarre appearance given them by the nature. The door leading to the room opened and a tall man with persons keeping him company came inside. His eyesight was ruthless and he had malevolent intentions towards the company hiding in the shadow. In one hand he kept a crucifix and in the second one a ball of the pulsating fire. Huge tongues of flames hit from every side, engulfing bodies of everyone around until at last they reached the man dressed in black. Rei closed her eyes not being able to look at bodies melting from the heat. The man who she saw at the beginning of the vision appeared before her eyes.

“I had been living in peace for many years... my travelling circus gave the refuge to everyone who could not find the place in the society because of his or her difference. Everything was all right until they found out about me and accused me of the black magic. The Inquisitor who came after me accused me that, using the help of the devil, I had changed bodies of these people, I had created monsters so that they could serve my dark affair. He destroyed me that night... burnt my house, my entire belongings and all my friends... at the end his flame consumed my body, but then an unexpected thing happened... it wasn’t an ordinary fire... it was something preternatural, having an awareness and a memory about a past times. Then I thought that it had originated in the deepest infernal circles. My pain and hate united with his cosmic mind and then I was born anew. Although my body was lost, my mind survived in the sentient fire and I became a demon because only a hate was left to me. I was defeated... I was defeated many times and I made a success to come back many times in order to have my revenge on everyone who contributed to my death. Through hundreds of years, my fire died down not-fueled with new hate it started to dissolve into the oblivion. Until the moment, when I met you, girl. You had the same entity, which granted me a new form, in your body, you had a fire in yourself that I needed so much. The gate that was opened backwards in the time let me free myself and rouse flames put to sleep in your body. I still needed a hate for my return. Therefore I destroyed the body of that girl and I filled her mind with a hate to you and your friend. I am the owner of the circus unjustly accused of goblets and sentenced to death, but I am also Mei, the woman who could not become adult because of her childhood friends. When you come back to your times, Mei will destroy you and she will capture such a power that cleaning the world of descendants of people who took everything from me will become as easy as an pie. Goodbye, black haired woman and see you in the future.”

She interrupted the yard noticing the contact with the demon raging around flames. She felt that somebody had dragged her by the hand and realized that he had been it is Masanori.

“Rei-chan, escape! ” The boy shouted and at the same time one of walls collapsed, cutting two children off from their friend with golden hair forever. After a moment, Rei and Masanori were back in the fiery tunnel again which carried their awareness to bodies left in the future.

The door of the house was torn out from hinges and the magic barrier broke like a soap bubble. The dark room was flooded by strange people from Mei’s the new queen of the circus, procession. The man with cock’s head led the congregation, he crowed insanely seeing the figure of the bald hunter of demons hiding in the dark. He hated the man and wanted to settle a score with him, because Dale almost run him over by his car. The fat clown and the bearded woman rolled out right after him. Knight fired towards the circus clown killing him and later he tried to aim at the fat old lady, but the hairy giant very quickly disarmed him with one blow of the large paw. The monstrosity was much stronger than ordinary man, therefore he knocked the man down without a problem.

“I’ll...” The bald man said, trying to reach for the weapon. Unfortunately, a short man with bald head ran up to it, picked it up and directed at the face of the hunter. He laughed with the children’s voice putting the gun straight at his head.

“Leave him alone!” Rei appeared in the doorway of the room with the large magic circle. She came back from her travel into the past and was ready for the last fight against her old friend. Masanori stood of few strides behind her. He looked at people being the fulfillment of his long-term nightmares with an terror. The black-haired girl created a ball of fire in her hand and hurled it into the shaggy monster. The wild beast was caught in flames and her gloomy shouts frightened the short man, the cock and the great woman. Rei threw another spell which hit the floor raising a barrier which was not penetrable for her opponents.

“You could hurry a bit up. This little shrimp had terribly bad breath.” Arthur said getting up off the floor. Rei smiled to him.

“I like to appear at the last moment.” She announced.

“Now let us come back to the room of transformations.” She added.

“Did you found something about pasts?”

“Yes, but we have no time for talks.”

“Let’s better look what is happening behind the window.” Masanori paid attention to the unusual atmospheric occurrence. The night happened to be brighter and green stripes resembling mix between clouds with the aurora were moving across the sky.

“It’s bad , it has begun.” The girl announced.

“What has begun?” The bald man asked.

“His... or her expansion beyond this damn circus. This demon, whom you talked about, took control of Mei, she became him. Fueled with the hate to me and Masanori as well as the energy of the flame... she or he... it’s unimportant... he wants to teach the entire world a lesson.”

“You will have to tell me everything when it ends.”

“If it ends...”

“Aren’t you going to fight with her? After all now you got rid of the magic virus and you recovered the power over the flame...”

“I won’t win against her... because she... she controls my flame, it revived her. The spell of connecting the future with the past, the gate which was opened by Mei’s grandmother became a passage by which the demon could turn up in this world again... and my fire... he got it out of me when I was a little girl... and the hate which he instilled in the disembodied Mei’s soul gave him the power. Until the gate is open I cannot stand up to Mei... she will defeat me without a problem. The gate links with the past and the fire from the inner self of my childhood’s counterpart.”

“And probably not only with it, because you said yourself that the flame exists independently from time and spaces. Until this connection is broken, his influence will be expanding.”

“I hate temporary paradoxes.” The bald man spoke banging his fist on the wall.

“What are we waiting for, let us destroy this gate.” Masanori said looking at figures of freaks dancing behind the barrier of the fire as well as under windows of the house.

“It’s not that simple. We cannot stop the spell. Nobody can apart from its author. We could kill her, but there’s one little problem. She no longer lives and thanks to the energy she still can watch over the gate in her wraithlike form.”

Rei thought deeply. She remembered her earlier encounter with the older woman, her hospitality for the traveler drenched with the rain.

“It’s possible to communicate with her. I’ll go to her and try to convince her to close her doorway. It’s the our only chance for the victory.”

Rei was standing in the doorway to the children’s room trying to find enough strength for making the next step. She looked at the apparition of the older woman sitting on the bed covered with dust and webs, keeping remnants of the destroyed doll in its hands. The apparition tried to piece the doll together, to fix it the way she once tried to restore her granddaughter to life. The black-haired girl looked around stopping her on the wall colored by the green glow shining into the interior through panes daubed with dust on. The older woman sensed her presence, but this time she didn’t show the hostility for her.

“You are a friend of my Mei-chan? You came to play with her? It’s late, perhaps you should get back home?” She asked. Rei moved closer to her, sensing that this time she was not a danger to her.

" I am... or rather I was a friend of Mei-chan...” She started the conversation.

“Did you two quarrel? ” The surprised old lady asked.

“No, nothing of the kind... something completely different happened. Look at me. I’m not a child, I’m adult woman.” Rei told smiling.

" I knew Mei, but a lot of time passed, you should remember, I ask you...”

“Why are you talking such nonsense, you are small child!” The apparition started demonstrating the first signs of aggression.

“Look at me now! Remember everything!” Rei was angry. The woman looked at her and then released remains of the doll which fell on the floor.

“You aren’t small... and Mei isn’t...”

“Yes, a terrible tragedy happened and Mei lost her life. You tried to turn change the past, but you did something very bad... you used the knowledge no man should posses.”

" I...” The old lady fell into a pensive mood and after a moment she burst in tears.

" I remember everything... I wanted to get Mei-chan back. I wanted Mei-chan to be with me again...”

“Your spells worked, but not in the way you wanted. Instead of Mei, you called something terrible, the power which used the body of your granddaughter and enslaved her, even after her death. And now, this being is threatening everything!”

The woman didn’t know how to behave. Memories flowed into her mind and she slowly understood how disastrous consequences her act brought.

“Did Mei-chan... did she come back?”

“Her physical body came back... but she isn’t the same Mei that you remember. It’s a demon risen from hate to the entire world. Mei is enslaved, she hasn’t got her own will, she is a puppet in hands of evil powers. Please look out of the window. This glow, people around our house and in the distance, that’s all effects of action of the demon holding Mei prisoner! He is threatening us... but nobody of us is able to fight with him, he is now too powerful because he’s using the magic created by the gate!”

“I don’t want Mei to suffer... if I knew that it all would become something like that I would let her pass away... I would let her fall asleep forever...” The old lady cried.

“There is still a chance to help her and actually only you can help her.”

" In what way? I will do everything what you tell me, if only my Mei stops suffering.”

“You must close the gate. Disconnect the demon from the past times. The flame must cut off from him.”

The old person turned to the window and thought for a moment. Automatic thoughts which filled her head up were disappearing giving a room for real memories from the times before performing the transformation. All moments she spent which with her granddaughter, all joys and sorrows which she shared with her came to her mind. Rei observed green glow above the forest with an anxiety. She knew that everything had depended on the final decision of the apparition of the girl’s grandmother.

“Well. I’ll do it. But you must promise me something, Rei.” The woman spoke at last.

“Yes?”

“You must promise me, that if I do it, you will do everything in your power to give Mei-chan a peace so that she could finally fall asleep.”

“I swear.” Rei answered without a second thought.

The black-haired girl and the apparition of the woman were in a room with the shining magic symbols on the floor. Masanori and Arthur y waited for her there, looking either at the window or at minions of the demon trying to pass through the curtain of magic flames.

“She agreed to close the gate. We’re ready.” Rei announced.

“Turn away.” The older woman said. She moved to the center of the drawn circle spreading her hands out. Symbols around the pictogram started changing their color to red, one after another, the old lady typed out some code compound of them. Soon, the all symbol started disappearing, similarly to the figure of Mei’s grandmother. The apparition became more and more transparent, it waved, lost her materialness and the contact with physical world. For the last time, she smiled up to Rei.

“Goodbye Rei-chan and remember about what you promised me. Help my granddaughter to find the eternal peace.”

“I won’t forget about this promise... ” Rei whispered quietly.

The apparition vanished in the black of night. For a moment only a silence, disturbed by the crack of flames of the magic barrier and dying away voices of circus performers standing on the other side, was in the room. Thoughts of the girl were stopped by her bald acquaintance.

“Rei, a time for the reveries will come when it all ends. There is a huge danger awaiting for us. We must complete what we have started.” Rei didn’t move from the place, her face was hidden in the darkness of the room.

“I know about it... I cannot simply be reconciled how something like that could happen. I cannot accept that the life of one little girl was stopped in such a pointless way. And I had my participation in this.”

“Don’t agonize over it. You were a child then, you didn’t know what power you carried. You were the same victim as Mei, as her grandmother, as Masanori...”

“But if my consciousness didn’t move backwards in the time maybe...”

“Rei, stop thinking about it! In time travels you are never able to know certainly what is effect and what is cause. Thinking about it won’t help you must have a fresh mind when you want to confront what is ahead of you.” Arthur shouted at the girl.

“And now I will have to kill Mei... once again. This time being truly conscious of this.”

“Rei, we must act now. If you retreat now, somebody can suffer harm because of it. Somebody can go through what I had experience through all years because of that!” Masanori cut in on the conversation.

“Be strong. We will help you.” The bald man added. The black-haired girl felt more confident.

“Well. Let us do it and let this nightmare finally end.”

Rei caused that the barrier from flames had cease to exist with one move of the hand as quickly as he had created it earlier. As it turned out, the gang of oddities managed to escape, not leaving the smallest trace after itself. The entire threesome vacated the dark room and went outside. Each of them felt relief being outside the walls saturated with the tragedy and touched by the black magic. The Moon was shining above their heads and stars were twinkling, the sky had a midnight, natural color and a even the trace of the portentous glow didn’t remain. Rei looked around noticing unconscious people lying and lawns and road.

“What did happen here?” She asked.

“They live, but they are unconscious.” Masanori replied checking the pulse of one of city dwellers.

“They were enslaved by the increasing power of the demon, but closing the gateway caused to severe their connection with them. The shock caused that they had lost consciousness but I think they should wake up in the morning.” Arthur said.

“And all these circus performers? Did they also disappear? Who were they actually?” Masanori asked.

“Look there, you have your reply there.” Knight pointed his finger at the first trees of nearby forest. As it turned out, the gang recalled by the black-haired boy hid there from their eyesight. At some moment, four short men with small, shaven off bald heads appeared on the street. Each of them held burning torch. Figures stood in pairs on the opposite sides of the road creating some kind of invisible gate, strange passage symbolically inviting to other reality. The rest of persons escaped. They probably returned to the place of their settling, the abandoned funfair.

“What are they doing?” Masanori asked.

" I don’t like it.” He added.

“They are inviting us...” The hunter announced.

“She is inviting us, she wants to meet with me and to fight with me once and for all.”

“Will you accept her invitation?”

“Yes, but not as Rei Hino. I will square up to her as Sailor Mars, turn away from me.” She instructed her friends.

" Mars Star Power, Make Up!” She shouted and her body was engulfed by the living, magic flame. Her clothes were changed into Sailor Mars dress. Rei felt differently than during all her previous transformations. She felt stronger, more self-confident, she understood her abilities much more than ever before.

“It’s remarkable... now I know... I can use so many different spells... earlier I never felt such a power in myself!”

“Rei, we probably should follow them.” Arthur announced pointing at short men carrying burning wooden sticks walking away.

" I must stand up to Mei, because I promised something to her grandmother. I have no choice. But you can still retreat.”

“I’m a hunter, killing demons is my duty. Apart from that, perhaps you will need my help again? I’ve already rescued you three times!” The bald man replied.

“She destroyed so many mine years. Before I would run a mile, but after our shared hike in the past, I am not afraid anymore. I’m ready to stand up opposite her and to wipe the mocking smile off her face. I’m with you.”

" If we’ve decided there is no need to wait anymore. Let us walk.” The girl finished the conversation.

Meanwhile, the abandoned funfair revived again. Lights shone on the merry-go-rounds and other attractions and laughter coming from non-existent children’s throats spread all around. Bizarre circus performers stood around the square of the funfair holding each other hands and reciting some pointless counting-out rhyme, the same as the one which they were murmuring while walking under the hotel window in the night-time procession. The woman in the long, red dress with a golden hair stood in the very center of the circle. She looked at her companions of the curse smiling.

“Rei-chan, we will finally square up with each other. I will finally have a chance to take my revenge. I will fight with you, even now when the power of my benefactor is slowly starting to disappear. And I promise you, that I won’t sit down until one of us becomes steaming dust.

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