The Friday Muse – XS

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The event occurred many years before Conrad’s time. He only heard of it from his father, who was a lover of history and enjoyed studying anomalies of the past, especially ones that the general public did not believe in. The tower – The Princeton, a scientific marvel housing black door technology, was destroyed by explosion. The specifics surrounding this event are scattered through the telling of urban legends and the writing of conspiracy theory novels.

Conrad’s father told him that because of the event – the destruction of the Princeton – that the fabric of space and time were weakened so heavily that it caused tears in reality. These tears were completely unpredictable and uncontrollable. Some led to other realities, some led through time. But the event also scattered the black doors that were housed within the Princeton, creating Black Door sightings, with each door leading to alternate realities.

These doors, dangerous in their own right because of their ability to travel between realities, have been the subject of discussion among those who both believe the stories and those who want to exploit the possibilities present within the black doors. Underground scientific circles devote their entire lives to studying the black doors. Fiction novel writers love to mention the black doors in their stories, if for no other reason than to add some urban legend flavor to their manuscripts. And those who study the Dark Arts have attempted to call forth black doors – to no avail.

It was a cold day in February, dark and rainy, when Conrad first stumbled upon a black door. His bathroom door – once a cream white, battered by years of abuse – had transformed to a glossy black stone material. A silver knob replaced the plastic crystal that used to grace his door. And strange etchings – unreadable symbols – lined the doorframe, carved by someone or something Conrad knew nothing about.

Curious, Conrad turned the knob and opened the door. His father had told him not to do so if he ever came upon one of these doors, that the doors were dangerous, unpredictable, and unrelenting in their capacity to push someone’s sanity. Stories moved through social circles about what people saw on the other side of the black doors – human sacrifice, frightening species, deformed humans, talking animals.

One article Conrad’s father read to him went into detail about a young woman who opened a black door to nothingness. She could describe what she saw no other way. Blackness, deeper than black, that filled the space on the other side of the door. Like space, but without stars. Without light. The void filled her with a dread so powerful, she attempted to take her own life. Fortunately, her roommate came home in time to stop the bleeding and rushed her to the hospital where she was saved.

When Conrad opened his black door, he was startled by what he saw: a sky of orange, clouds of brown,  a line of tall skyscrapers dotting the distance. The door seemed to be hovering above the ground some miles from this terrifying landscape. But the city and the clouds weren’t enough to scare Conrad. It was the massive creature enveloping the sky above the city. Oily black in color, taking the form of an octopi, with massive eyes that glowed a bright orangish-red. The monster bellowed, and the sound was like a horn when a car battery is running low. The sound frightened Conrad, but he did not know why.

The octopus immediately focused its massive eyes on the black door. On Conrad.

Conrad fought to catch his breath, and a scream attempted to flee his throat, but was quickly extinguished on the way out, leaving him with an open mouth and stained jeans.

The octopus moved through the sky like grease in a hot pan. Lightning filled the sky as it moved, flashes of white and blue light nearly blinding Conrad. He could feel the heat from the electric storm, even though it was some miles out. It chapped his skin, dried his lips, and singed the lifted hairs along his arms and the back of his neck.

His mind screamed at his hand to move, to grab hold of the door handle and shut the door and seal it and run. Instead, he watched as the creature approached. It shrank in size as it drew closer to the door, until it was the size of the doorframe and no longer resembled an octopi, but instead resembled a human male taking the form of a black, featureless silhouette.

When the creature’s hand reached out and touched Conrad on the forehead, he nearly screamed. The creature’s touch was cold. It pushed its hand into Conrad’s mind and then completely burrowed within his frame, possessing him…

In the years to follow, Conrad fought to control the alien entity residing within him. But XS – the name this entity identified itself with – refused to be controlled so easily. It fought Conrad’s will, forcing him to do things he found morally abject. Kidnapping, killing, theft. He wreaked havoc upon his small town of Minster, and then went on to nearly destroy four more towns (not to mention ending the lives of dozens of people). XS never verbally spoke to Conrad. XS simply drove commands through Conrad’s neural pathways and controlled his body and his actions with no explanation at all as to why he was forcing Conrad to do the things he was doing.

He imbued Conrad with slightly more strength, slightly more cunning. Nothing too spectacular. No powers of fire throwing or levitation or mind reading. It was a strange tradeoff, one that yielded little to no benefit to Conrad, aside from the ability to reveal and open black doors. The skill was one XS bestowed upon Conrad, and then XS forced Conrad to travel through the revealed doors into other realities, other worlds, where Conrad was then forced to cause more destruction and more chaos.

Conrad debated on committing suicide one day. He wondered if he was even able to do such a thing with XS having control over him. He wanted to try, but was afraid he would fail and end up worse off than he was now.

All seemed hopeless for Conrad.

Then, during a struggle with a man much stronger than he, in the town of Abernash in a totalitarian reality much different than his own, Conrad accidentally transferred a very small portion of XS’s essence into the man. This seemed to have no effect on the man, but Conrad could feel XS become slightly weaker from the act. He found he was able to repel XS’s control to a very small degree after this incident. This in turn allowed Conrad to turn the tables and begin to control XS.

Conrad jumped from reality to reality, leaving behind portions of XS within those he was forced to fight, rape, and steal from. XS eventually became weaker, while Conrad’s control became stronger. Soon, Conrad had full control over the alien entity. Or so he thought. XS managed to reform parts of his missing essence, and in turn gain some of the control lost, forcing Conrad to adhere to a strange balancing act of shedding parts of XS without shedding too much – else he lose the powerful gift of revealing black doors, while also gauging how much of XS comes back each new day.

It wasn’t long before XS and Conrad became one in heart and mind, spirit and name, with free access to all realities…

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