Professor of Genealogy Transformational Studies Christopher Stanton Braithwaite pondered on how difficult it would be to convince the largely awaited crowd of people attending his yearly scientific forum of what was upon them that cold November evening. He sat nervously, going over the several dark scenarios in which he would be able to confront the anxious room of university dignitaries, faculty and students, warning all that they were in the company of an evil older than time itself. He didn’t know what was worst, the endangering factor of his present situation or everything that he taught and was taught in his academic career for the most part was a lie. Things beyond human recognition and comprehension do exist and there wasn’t a damn thing that neither he, nor anyone else could do about it yet he would make an attempt. Time was running out, so much that even one of his adversary’s long boring speeches on atmospheric diagnostics was too short for him. The anxiety of his present circumstances made his head pound furiously and his heartbeat faster from the countless thoughts rambling through his clouded mind like a runaway freight train spewing smoke. Unraveling at that point in time was definitely not an option, he would have to keep focused until it was all over with. “Professor Brathwaite, you are up in five minutes!” A voice bellowed from outside of the dressing room door.
“Thank you Robert, you may enter.” Professor Brathwaite hesitantly answered.
The 56 year old Harvard graduate paled in the face just enough for his assistant to notice. His once beautiful curled bronze locks presently flat, gray, and lifeless. Sparkling blue eyes which once danced now, dull and sunken due to merciless nights of tossing and turning.
“They’re coming.” a faint voice echoed in his head.
“You okay sir?”
“Yes Robbie.” He nodded. “I will be.”
Giving the astute young man a reassuring smile slowly stood up clumsily adjusting his clothing.
“A few more moments, please.” Stanton directed to Robbie.
Convincing himself that the professor was only feeling a little fatigued or just distracted, Robert nodded and closed the door behind him. The shaken, shadow of a man stood in front of the mirror hanging above the green suede couch that he sat on many a night before a lecture and cringed. He had no idea that the last few months had taken such a toll on him mentally and physically. A loud knock at the door startled him.
“It’s time professor!”
Again entering the room and seeing his mentor standing before him still looking weak and smaller than life melted all of the surety away that Robbie once held about his teacher.
“Yes, it is. I just hope it isn’t too late.” Christopher mumbled to himself as he walked towards the door.
“Are you sure everything is alright sir?”
Ignoring his younger counterpart’s annoying inquisition Brathwaite moved past the baffled intern giving him a pat on the shoulder. He imagined the walk to the podium as being an eternity, knowing with every certainty that not only would this be his last speech but, his last night breathing. Removing a pair of silver rimmed specs out of his black suede jacket pocket and placing them on his nose, he cleared his throat. Tiny trickles of sweat formed across the worrisome man’s brow as he speculated whether he would go gentle into that good night as poet Dylan Thomas had described or in dreadful retching pain. Needing to clear his throat again, he felt an unease building in his upper extremities. Realizing that the tightness and squeezing in his chest wasn’t just one of his profound anxiety attacks, he placed an aspirin he was carrying in his hand into his mouth. “This is not the time to have a heart attack”, he thought as he commenced to his earlier concerns and questioning if the God that he once had so little faith in had finally forsaken him. He wondered if this was what abandonment by a parent was like. He chaffed inwardly about the daughter he was rarely supportive of and for the first time in his life Christopher Brathwaite felt totally destitute and alone. He needed help, he wanted someone in the audience or backstage to come to his rescue knowing all the while that it would never happen. “Get a grip Christopher.” he demanded of himself walking onto the stage. He found an enticing focal point in the audience. A long-haired brunette in mid row would do just fine to keep his mind from wandering into a never-ending abyss. She wore a bright red dress with matching lipstick just for him. They usually did. Christopher was a magnet for the female faculty and student body at the university and he found it quite humorous yet, tonight he needed her. He needed that bright red dress and her full beautiful lips to prove to himself that he was still alive and only when she modified into pitch darkness would he be sure that he was gone forever.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen.” He began. “Tonight we will be focusing on the vast theorems plaguing the informational track of human DNA and the deafening consequences of a society that has revolutionized not only ignorance but also, total incapacitation of the human psyche.” The well-versed man watched as the eyes of the crowd darted around as they chattered in total confusion. Some glancing down at their programs to see if they had missed anything. Breathing a sigh of relief, he had now gotten thus far and was still alive. There was no time to work around his speech he needed to warn them about what was approaching. The trickles of perspiration were now thin streams of sweat falling down the sides of the nervous man’s face. He found it getting more and more difficult to breathe. He was sure that loosening his tie from around his neck would assist in him receiving some sort of comfort but to no avail. As hard as it would be, he needed to get past whatever was happening to him and speak. Overwrought with fear Stanton opened his mouth to begin his tale when his tongue began to swell. He struggled to speak but nothing would come out, but dead silence. His airflow steadily thinned as his tongue enlarged totally covering the back of his throat. He gasped and scratched at his neck, his face turning from deep red to a paling blue. The professor’s bulging eyes searched the stage and audience for someone to help him only to find people staring in disbelief as they watched his body slam onto the stage floor with a loud thump. Track lights above the stage flickered off and on bringing with it shrieks and screams from the panicked crowd as the place they once thought of as a safe educational venue now a rumbling box of horror. The podium shook and rattled violently pushing, pulling and rolling Brathwaite as it moved. The audience scattered towards the exits attempting to get away from the explosive sounds of glass shattering and falling over their heads. As if someone or something had suddenly cut off a switch the obstreperous noises halted leaving behind a deafening silence. Stanton laid on the stage holding his throat still gasping for air. He wanted it to be over with, he wanted to die but he was being kept alive and held hostage by a thin string of air in which he hadn’t even the slightest control over. He was being tortured, taught a lesson by whatever he was about to speak against. What was left of the crowd turned to see why it had gotten so quit. A formless black mist appeared circling around the professor’s convulsing body sliding beneath him as it hauntingly raised him to his feet. Though he had no control over what was happening to him, he could still feel every painful sensation that pulsated through his tormented body like an infected tooth. All attention was on him, not the way he’d planned but at least people would see what was really happening, even if it was at his own demise. The enigmatic mist covered him like a black smoking blanket, penetrating him through every pore until the beaten man took it in wholly. What felt like a sharp piece of ice pierced through the back of his spine making Brathwaite crave for death for the first time in his life. The seminar attendees gasped and screamed as they watched blood drain from the stage-ridden man’s ears and down to the floor forming a pool under his levitated feet. Robbie stood holding on to the thick red stage curtains, trying to contain himself and not faint at what he was seeing. Watching the professor suffer as he did in the worst conditions imaginable not only terrified the young man but, surprisingly pleased him as well. He secretly despised his mentor, even wishing him dead on occasion. A meager smirk formed around the corners of Robby’s mouth as Christopher whaled in agony at the sounds of his own bones breaking within his limp, lifeless body.
“Wishes do come true.” Robbie whispered to himself wide-eyed nearly salivating.
Robert Sims was weary of living in his Professor’s shadow, never being seen or heard as the professor’s errand boy. The old man had been getting all the attention from the campus bait, even Robbie’s own girlfriend became part of the kitty pack that found any and every reason to call or visit Stanton’s classroom and office. Blood spurted from Stanton’s gapping mouth as his body relentlessly continued to convulse while the crowd of people trampled each other to escape the gruesome scene. The dark mist released itself from Brathwaite causing him to drop to the floor like an old torn rag doll.
Using the last of his breath he stared up watching the stage lights as they slowly faded away. The darkness had come and Christopher Stanton Brathwaite was no more.