The dim light that managed to pass into my room from the corridor outside greeted my puffy eyes. I passed through the doorway into the narrow passage leading up to the staircase.There was an unexplainable heaviness in each of my steps and the flashes of memories that materialized before my eyes made my heart thump wildly. No matter how much I tried to push them down, they resurfaced refusing to be forgotten.
The old wooden stairs creaked with every step that I took, their shuttering sounds enveloping the air and resonating behind my ear. Its melodic noise took me deeper into the gravestone of my mind where my memories laid, how I once used to run down these stairs without a care about the world. But that had changed now, everything did.
How did it all come to this? I wondered.
Of course I knew how. It was all his fault. His negligence had caused it all. If not mother would still be alive and nothing would have changed…
As I reached the bottom of the stairs, the semi-lit living room came into my view. As expected, there was nobody. I didn’t assume his presence either, for he neither attended my mother’s funeral nor the anniversary that followed.
It was cold hearted but after knowing him for all my life, I’d gotten used to it. His work mattered more than his family did. What made me angrier was the fact that he would sent his butler every single damned year to remind me of his presence—that he was there but still refused to come.
I passed another look around the room and found it to be devoid of any life, drastically different from the memories that still lingered in my mind. I found myself instinctively drawn toward my mother’s room. It had remained locked ever since her passing, and I hadn’t been able to enter it. When I asked about the key, the butler couldn’t provide any real answers.
Now that I thought about it, was he behind that too? Did he want to even deprive of my mother’s little memories that remained. It was odd and I found my mouth turn bitter.
I took a turn around a corner and saw faint light coming out from the room that was supposed to be locked. In the dark passage the light stood out greatly like a sore thumb.
My feet came to a halt as I took in the sight, my mind flaring into different emotions. First confusion, then surprise and finally anger. He was here!
I felt my cheeks flush in fury but then calmed myself down. There was no point in barging in with anger. It would not change anything at all. I should know better than that. Anger solves nothing, I reminded myself.
As I slowly approached the half-closed door, the inside of the room became visible to me. It was exactly how I’d remembered it. She used to keep her shelves clean and organized with various books. And every time I’d managed to play a prank, she used to get really angry.
Remembering the thought a small smile rose but soon dissolved when I realized it was there.
I hid my body behind the door and it’s frame and my eyes fell on the man who I refused to acknowledge as my father.
He sat on the mahogany table opposite of the shelf and turned through the pages of a book, the sound of which made me feel uncomfortable.
I wanted to ask what the hell he was doing there, but the mere thought of seeing his face made me feel sick to the stomach.
Just when I was about to leave, his voice pierced the silence, “Zareth, is that you?” His voice sounded older, rougher than what I’d remembered.
I hesitated for a moment, torn between the desire to ignore him and walk away, and then an inexplicable pull that drew me back. In the end, I gave in to later.
Pushing the door I entered the room.
His facial features appeared less sharp, and wrinkles around the eyes took away his youthful glamor. There were some gray streaks of hair that stood out.
His uncaring eyes followed my every movement as I approached the table with unsteady steps. Looking down at him, I mustered a blank expression and asked, "Why are you here after all this time, Father?"
But I still failed to keep the snickering tone out of my words. He raised his brow as his cold gaze moved down to my clenched hand, gripping the edge of the table tightly. Noticing his eyes, I let it go and he closed the book that was in his hand, placing it above some other things which I didn't bother to notice.
After a moment of silence—which felt more like an eternity to me, he spoke, his voice carrying a tinge of what I assumed was disappointment and resignation. " Because it's time, my son." His words were left hanging in the air as the word 'son' revibrated through my mind. Even if he was my biological father, for the longest time now I've stopped considering him so. All there remained now was hatred.
A humorless smirk played on my lips as I looked down at him. "Am I your son? Me? Fucking me?
A wave of bitterness swayed over me as the words flooded out of my mouth.
With an unusually calm demeanor, he watched me as I poured my unrestrained anger on him, his eyes remaining unfazed. "I understand that you must hate me, Zareth. And I don't blame you for it."
His words only fueled my anger further. "Even if that's true, even if I hate you with every fiber of my being, it doesn't change the fact that it's your fault. Mother would have never..." my voice trailed off, unable to bring myself to complete the sentence.
Reaching down, he picked up the old book which fell off because of my violent outburst, and then dusted off its cover. "I know you blame me, and perhaps I deserve that blame. But don't burden yourself with it, Zareth. I don't expect you to understand me either."
He paused his eyes meeting mine, "But for some reason, I've got a hunch that you will understand pretty soon."
He picked up a silver-colored lamp from the table and placed it in front of me. Its sight reminded me of the time when my mother brought it from her country on their seventeenth marriage anniversary. But was it here all this time?
"This is for you, Zareth. Your mother intended for you to have it." He said.
I took a look at the lamp, its design wasn't extravagant but it still had an air of mystery to it. I picked it up in my hand, feeling its brass-made body.
Then started walking straight toward the door, not wanting to stay another moment where he was, but before I could step out of the room, his voice stopped me.
"Happy birthday, Zareth," he said softly, his voice still sounding bland.
Happy? It wasn't a word I expected from him. But that was fine. I stood there for a moment, my hand still gripping the doorknob, contemplating my response if I had any.
I couldn't remember a single moment in my life where he had displayed even an ounce of care for me or my mother. All I saw was indifference in his eyes. From my childhood to even today. As I turned to face him, our eyes locked for a moment, and I saw a flicker of something in them that I didn't quite understand nor wanted to.
"I don't know if I can ever find happiness in this life. But even if I did it surely would happen when I have managed to forget everything," I finally spoke, my voice laden with calmness that even surprised me. And with that, I stepped out of the room, leaving him behind.
I was going to leave this city soon. There were enough memories here that shackled me and all I wanted was to escape from them…
I snapped my eyes open, sucking in the cool and moist air, and passing it through my sore throat, and upon reaching my heart, it pumped me with the feeling of being awake and alive.
The beads of sweat that had formed on my forehead because of the nightmare trickled down to my eyes; causing blurred vision and the stinging sensation that followed after made me feel like someone threw sand at my face.
But it wasn't sand, instead the rough patchy remnants of mud that were left on the side of my face.
What was that? What was that nightmare about even? I couldn't remember. But the distinct and almost realistic afterimage left by it made me feel as if it was a moment that I had just lived by. Perhaps long in the past or very recently. Either way, where in the hell was I?
My entire body was being cushioned by some kind of green leafy grass and -what I'd assume are creeping plants- yet the small droplets of dew formed on their tiny and slender bodies were enough to wet my entire back.
Or was it my cold sweat formed by the nightmare?
The mud underneath wasn't as solid as I'd expect but rather its texture was rough and sometimes sticky, leaving behind brownish marks as I touched them.
Using both of my hands as support, I pushed myself up to my legs and then observed my surrounding for a moment with a blank stare. But it was all for naught, no matter how much I tried to figure out where I was, everything denoted that I wasn't 'home'.
Although there was a garden at the back of the house, it sure did not have trees as large as the ones surrounding me. The width of their body wasn't anything to joke about either. Clearly, thicker than even the Warner.
They had their branches and leaves entangled amongst themselves forming a net-like structure and the light that fell through it created shadowy spider webs around me. There were also some roots and stems growing out of the soil and sticking out.
The tree trunks were at least thrice my width and the height was long enough for my neck to be strained while trying to see its top.
As I slowly came out of the cage of those trees, they started to spread apart from each other creating more distance in between.
But it was still a question as to how I was in the middle of a forest.
When that piece of thought left its mark in my mind, I noticed something subtle but noticeable. I let myself go near it and crouching down felt the small hollow space left by boots.
It wasn't deep, instead had its mark almost fleeting and shallow.
From the different sizes of them, I could guess there were at least three people here before me, passing by this route. Are they the ones who brought me here? Why even?
But the odd part was how spread out each of their steps was as if they were jumping meters each time and still landing perfectly fine. Well, that's how two of theirs were but the third's mark was more clear and the space between each was incomparably less than the other two.
And from the size of the mark, it was someone of short stature, perhaps even slower than the others.
It did not take me long to decide to follow the leftover footmarks. I couldn't tell how large this forest was and my best choice was not to sit still but try to figure a way out. Something inside me told me they were the key to escaping this place. That feeling again…
But that said, If it was them who had brought me here, I couldn't let my guard down.
As I followed the trail, the leftover marks continued to become more and more clear, making it easier for me to trail along. But then all of sudden the marks completely disappeared into thin air. Before I could put my mind to try and figure out the reason behind it, a sudden metallic sound of metals crashing against each other filled the air, abruptly breaking the stillness of the otherwise quiet forest.
As I cranked my neck, at a speed I'd think was impossible- a flashy light disappeared from above one of the branches and a burst of cold air came straight for me, sending chills down my spine.
"Why are you running away, Sirius?" The voice echoed with a mocking tone, resonating among the swirling leaves. Perplexed, I frantically scanned my surroundings, trying to locate the source of the mysterious voice, but it seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once, shrouded in the veil of anonymity. Unable to see anyone or discern their intentions, a sense of unease crept over me, raising the hairs on the back of my neck.
They were moving all around me at such speed that my eyes were not able to keep up with them!
Taking the opportunity, I swiftly and cautiously positioned myself behind a tree with a comparatively large trunk, which provided ample cover for my entire body. Peering out from my hiding spot, I observed the scene unfolding before me.
The man who had just mockingly addressed someone as Sirius stood there, cloaked in black attire that concealed his entire stature. His face was obscured by a thin cloth, his presence made it harder for me to breathe even with the distance. On the other side, Sirius hid behind another tree, successfully concealing himself from my sight.
Instinctively, I made a conscious effort to remain concealed, ensuring that I did not give away my presence. It was clear they were in a fight of some sort, although the reasons remained a mystery to me.
There was no reply from Sirius, and the pursuer snickered, "Are you trying to sneak up on me, now?"