Life and Death. When I think of those two things, I think of the flowers, the flowers on the cherry blossom tree outside to be exact, the beautiful tree that has adorned the backyard for years now. When we moved in it was just a small sapling, I remember my Dad wanted to get rid of it because he wanted to put a playground there. But I screamed and cried and did everything in my power to stop him from cutting it down.
It’s larger now, but it would be dead had I not intervened with my father’s decision. Nineteen years have passed and it’s big and beautiful. And its flowers, they’re gorgeous. They’re as pink as the clouds in the sky at sunset, and light enough to float through the air gracefully on a windy day.
Those little cherry blossoms, it’s hard to believe that they’re alive, just like you and I. But they also die, just like you and I. From the moment they fall from the tree, the moment they begin elegantly descending, twirling towards the ground in an array of beauty, they begin to die. Their life is sucked from them minute by minute until they dry up and shrivel onto the ground, simply to be stepped upon and forgotten… just like you and I. And just like you and I, they don’t seem to have real meaning in this world, an actual effect on anything in life, until the day they shrivel up and die. When the flowers die, they get sucked up by the ground and fertilize it, which helps new plants grow, plants that feed off of the flower’s old nutrients. Every person in history who has had a significant effect on the world is dead. Some people continue to feed off of the words of those lost wise ones in hopes of finding some ultimate peace or happiness, and those who claim to be wise today will not actually be heard until after their death. It’s strange how after you die, it is then that people begin to pay attention to the things you had said.
Now, this book you’re reading is about my life. It’s true only if you want it to be. It could happen again, I suppose, but let’s focus on now. If you want to know where my life started, it was back in 1988, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We lived there until I was four, then we moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where I’ve lived ever since.
If you want to know where my insanity started, it was when I was seven years old. My father had taken me to a pet shop in town, and he wanted me to pick out an animal, a dog, or cat, or lizard, something to keep me company since I was being taken out of school and would be spending a lot of time home alone. I didn’t like any of the animals, the cats scratched me, the dogs bit me, and the lizards gave me these awful glares of hatred with their beady yellow eyes, it made me feel like even the animal kingdom couldn’t stand my presence. And then I saw a man’s face reflecting into the tarantula cage. He wasn’t behind me, he actually appeared to be in the tarantula cage.
And then he spoke to me, very softly, very soothingly, very gently…
“Do you want a friend?” I was stunned, this reflection, this man in the glass wall of the cage was talking to me. Was I crazy? Was it an illusion? Or was he really there in the cage?
“Y-yes… I do…” I was lonely, so I responded truthfully. The kids at school bullied me, I stuttered at times and couldn’t always say what I truly wanted to say. I was socially awkward, but little did I know that things were only going to get worse once I continued to listen to the man in the glass…
“Take this tarantula home, and you’ll have me as well, and I will be your friend.”
I was highly arachnophobic as a child. I didn’t even know why I looked at that spider to begin with. I only asked my dad for it because that man in the cage intrigued me, if he was going to be my friend, hell, I’d bring an alligator into my room for him. I wanted someone to talk to, someone to be around, someone to play games with and laugh with and watch movies with, and the minute we arrived home, the man in the glass promised me all those things and more. He extended his image from the carry-home cage and came to stand before me in my bedroom. He was a little taller than me, his body itself was short but his legs were very long and slender. His eyes were thin and an emerald green, and his hair was black as night. His smile was haunting when he showed his teeth, his pearly white teeth that seemed to glow in the darkness of my room, but when his mouth was closed he seemed innocent and sweet, like a child.
His outfit was quite eccentric. He had black skinny jeans on and a skin tight blue button up shirt that was puffy on the sleeves and long enough to cover his hands when his arms were down. But at that moment he had his arms crossed, and he stared at me, studying me as though I’d do something interesting at any moment.
“What might your name be, master?” He spoke with confidence in even the simplest of sentences. I admired his confidence, but although he was speaking as though he were a humble servant, his stance proved more authoritative.
“M-Ma-Master?” I stuttered nervously, barely even audible as he licked his lips and giggled at my response.
“Yes. You’re now my host, you’re my master. Now what is your name so I can address you informally?”
“Nageku? Well then, nice to meet you, Master Nageku. I am Maxim Hylo. ” He placed his hand over his heart and bowed towards me, his black hair flinging down softly in front of his forehead as he did so. He raised himself and placed both of his hands behind his back and began to stare at me again, a sudden frown coming over his features.
“Is… Is s-som-something wr-wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong. It just seems as though you are a very sad person, Master. Your spirit is crying for help.” He came towards me and placed a hand upon my forehead. I didn’t feel his touch immediately, but as the seconds passed I began to feel a tingling sensation right above my eyes. My vision turned blue, and everything appeared as though I was underwater. Within an instant Maxim jerked his hand back and I felt a bolt of electricity leave my brain and shoot out through my head. I suddenly felt joyous and a certain light, airy feeling came over me. My arms tingled with a silly feeling, and I felt like I could both fall and fly at the same time simply by moving forward. I laughed and Maxim gave me that haunting smile, the smile I wished I’d never have to see. The smile that changed my life.
“How do you feel, Master?” I simply giggled and fell back onto my bed, the feeling overwhelming me with calmness.
After that, Maxim and I became best friends. Every time I was sad or lonely, Maxim would do that thing, that thing with my head, and all the unhappiness would drift away. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, all filled with happiness and joy. I was so happy that I became blind to the world around me. My room became very messy and unkempt. I stopped eating full meals and instead survived on a few sandwiches that I would eat at lunch each day. I stopped doing my homework assignments and soon stopped coming out of my room for anything besides the bathroom, my food, and to take off to random graveyards under Max’s coaxing. But I didn’t care at all what anybody thought, because he was making me happy.
Years passed, soon I was nineteen, and I didn’t even realize how bad it all had become until I looked in a mirror and saw a monster that didn't resemble me one bit. I was skinny as a toothpick, my eyes were red and droopy and large black rings surrounded them. My hair was long and messy, matted and tangled.
And then I looked at Maxim and noticed what he had been doing to me. Every time I was sad, he wasn’t making me happy. He was just feeding off of my own sadness, that’s how he was living. He fed off of my unhappiness, so he made sure to keep me away from things that would make me happy. He simply gave me an illusion of happiness so that I would keep feeding him my true feelings of sadness.
My parents eventually had given up on me, I couldn’t even recall the last time I had seen them. But I knew I needed help. My mother was willing to get me back to normal, but my father wanted nothing to do with me. Neither of them had a clue of what was going on with me, what was happening with my brain, what Maxim was doing to me, but my mom, she knew she had to find a way to end it at this point. I remember she was too embarrassed to bring me to a hairdresser to have them fix the matted mess upon my head, so she cut my hair herself and made it at least halfway normal, as much as she could. She started me on some strange smoothie diet to help me slowly gain my nutrients back. She quit her job so that she could tutor me and help me graduate. Soon I was looking a little more like a human and less like a monster.
I stopped being unhappy so that Maxim couldn’t feed off of me anymore, in hopes that he’d go away altogether. And yet he didn’t. He stayed. He was the one thing my mother couldn’t fix. Maxim wasn’t happy with the transformation I had gone through. He was ticked off, actually. But soon he began getting weaker and weaker. He was extremely skinny and his face was fearsome. He’d cross his arms and stare me down every moment of the day, when I was eating with my parents, when I went to the store, when I went to the park to draw, he even came with me on my very first date with the love of my life. No matter what I did, he’d be there, staring.
I began ignoring him entirely, he started making himself easy to ignore. He was still wicked looking, but he was no longer something I feared. He just stood there in the corner of my mind, lying dormant, waiting for the slightest ounce of sadness to come drifting through my head so that he could come back to haunt me again.
Now this is where the real story begins, sort of, on the day that I believed was going to be the happiest of my life. The day I was going to marry Lucy Redfield…
It was a beautiful summer day. Birds were singing in the trees above, cicadas buzzed love songs throughout the heated earth, and there I stood underneath the cherry blossom tree that I grew up with, surrounded by my loving family. A white carpet had been laid down upon the ground, and my sweet little sister Kiseki, who was a little older than the average flower girl, happily scattered cherry blossom petals all over it as she walked towards me and then turned to the side, where my wife-to-be would soon be standing.
Teresa, Lucy’s maid of honor, came next, her arms locked with my Uncle Henry’s, who had ended up being my best man since I didn’t really have any guy friends. In fact, all my groomsmen were simply family members of mine, except for Reo, a good friend of my mother, but he wasn’t related to us in any way, even though I had always insisted upon calling him Uncle. Then came the young and beautiful Darlene and my cousin Jack, the rather ditsy Abigail and my other cousin Billy, and finally Lucy's good friend Laura and my Uncle Reo.
Laura was crying, and even though crying was expected at a wedding, her tears didn’t seem to be those of joy. Reo was trying to console her and walk with her at the same time, but right before they were to part and stand at their designated spots, Laura collapsed to the ground in sobs. Then she turned to me, her baby blue eyes red with pain, opened her mouth soaked with tears, and she spoke through deep harrowing breaths,
“Nageku! G-go inside… The kitchen… Go!” Had something happened to my beloved Lucy? I bolted off towards the house, anxiety rushing through my veins as horrifying pictures slashed through my mind. Was she dead? Was she hurt? What the hell happened that would cause one of her bridesmaids to react like that? I opened the door and stepped inside, immediately rushing towards the kitchen. And there, lying on the counter with her arms strewn around the neck of her “friend” Claude, was my beloved Lucy.
Laura had apparently witnessed the scene without Lucy knowing, and had been debating with herself as she walked down the aisle whether or not she should tell me. Always being the dramatic type, she did make things out to seem worse than they were. But nonetheless, I was still both heartbroken and furious.
“Ku… Ku, this isn’t what you think it is…” She gasped the moment I laid my eyes on her. They looked like a pair of deer caught in the headlights, backstabbing lovers with zero remorse facing their due, an angry and emotionally unstable ex-groom. I couldn’t do anything but scream as loud as I could and as long as I could, an earth shaking, ear shattering blood curdling scream, and when I lost all the breath in my body I ran up to my bedroom, my throat dry and cracked and stinging with pain. I slammed the bedroom door and ran to the bed, my body shaking and cringing with pain.
Was it what I thought I saw? How could she have been his arms, in such a heated embrace, not anything unlike the ones we use to share?
I contemplated it long and hard, and then I looked over to the side of my bedroom, and saw Maxim standing there, his ugly, fearsome features entirely gone and replaced with an eerie aura of madness. His face was no longer starved and bony, but once again childish and innocent. He smiled at me and began walking towards the bed… “Welcome back, old friend…”