Behind the Dark Curtain
For what seems like hours upon hours, if not days, I follow Treize. Time doesn’t really exist here, so it may not even be that long, but he leads us far from my perceived “home,” and deep into places that I have never imagined. We drift weightlessly toward our destination, passing over the realities and perceptions of other people, each one strange, different and unique from all the others. I never realized it before, but being here, being dead, we can move ourselves in a way that is close to flying, and it’s exhilarating, to be able to float slowly through the air this way. Treize chuckled at my surprise when I first saw him go airborne. I still have a hard time with the fact that here, we can do anything. If I want to walk, I walk; if I want to ride a bicycle across the ocean, I can do that too. Treize suggested floating, though, since it would be more direct, and so, my spirit form glides effortlessly with his.
We pass through a beautiful city where there is activity everywhere, people talking and walking and interacting, and it all seems very much like a ‘real’ city, other than the fact that everything here is spotless and clean. I notice that every person that we pass over seems happy, their face smiling, and I look ahead to concentrate where we are going. Treize leads me on through this metropolis and soon we are floating through beautiful mountain ranges and valleys. The colors are breathtaking – natures brightest hues of green fields and blue skies dotted sparsely with puffy white clouds and a glistening, golden sun. Below us winds a clear blue river, lazily making its way through a majestic canyon, and I am in awe taking all of this in, because I’ve never seen anything this gorgeous, even on Earth. Treize notes my wonder and he smiles, nodding.
After the range of canyons and mountains, things open up into lush fields again, and I can see the thick grasses swaying in the gentle breeze that propels us along. Breathing in its sweetness, I close my eyes for a moment and allow myself to get lost in nature’s beauty. It really is nice here, if only…if only. My mind returns to the purpose of this trip and I open my eyes once more.
Far ahead, and at the edges of all the meadow below us, we are approaching a thick, black mark in the horizon that disrupts the calm and tranquility of the scenery, and staring out at it, I begin to become uneasy again. As we get closer I can now make out trees, lots of them, all bald and barren and black. It looks like a dead, leafless forest, and the closer we get, the heavier this feeling becomes inside me. All the vivid color of the last landscape begins to disappear as it is swallowed up by this monochrome before us, but still we move closer, my feeling of dread growing as we do. Soon we are about to soar above this desolate remnant of a grand forest, and as we do, I turn and look at Treize with a look of question.
“This is the boundary of Heaven,” he tells me, obviously having felt my discomfort. “Things are going to look very different on this side, Heero. Be prepared.” Then almost as if on que, as he finishes his warning, a flock of ravens bursts out of the dead treetops before us, blackbirds scattering throughout the gray sky and startling me.
“How much further,” I ask, noting that the further we go into this dark passage the heavier my emotion is becoming, and I start to consider just how deep the despair could possibly be in this place.
“On the other side of this wood. What you seek is there, Heero.”
Looking straight ahead of us and determined to keep his mind clear, Trieze carries on, his face sullen and his conversation short. I steel myself for that which I know is coming, and that which I have no clue about, and fly purposefully beside him, forcing my apprehension down. You have to stay calm…you have to succeed in finding Duo. I remind myself once more of the object of this quest that we are on, and let my memories of Duo give me the strength I need to continue into the land of darkness on the edge of paradise.
We pass over the darkness of the dead forest for a long time. Watching below us as we do, I can see all the symbolism of despair and pain – the blackness, the bleakness, and the suffocating dreariness that seems to creep in that much closer every time I stare. The treetops are littered with ravens who caw and watch as we fly over, occasionally taking flight around us in a big cloud of shadow-like shapes, and they send a chill racing down my spine. Catching myself, I force my mind to remember the days of the Colony Wars, in the beginning, when I was so afraid but knew I had to force the feelings of fear away, and I follow on. I’m anxious to see what’s at the end of the journey, but hoping that we never reach it at the same time.
When the thick, tangled treetops finally begin to thin out and shrink below us, what I see before us shocks me with a wave of desperate emotion so strong that I am powerless to fight it. A city, black with soot and grime and filth lies beneath us, and it is impossible to not feel the sadness radiating up from it – it’s everywhere. Burned out buildings and vehicles line the streets, and dark, shadowy forms scuttle about aimlessly, entranced in the desolation around them. Treize and I look at each other in realization of the depression wafting off this place, and he tells me “We’re almost there.” Almost there. Almost where? I shudder to think that Duo is here somewhere, being subject to this darkness.
When we finally touch ground again, we are in the middle of an intersection that I recognize. It’s the street that our condo is on. Whipping myself around in a circle to look at everything, I’m in near shock at the destruction around us. The question of how Treize knew where I needed to go formulates in my mind, then disappears as it makes its way to my tongue due to my surprise.
“What…Treize…what the Hell happened here?”
He steps up behind me, placing that comforting hand on my shoulder again as we both take in the ominous sight before us. “Remember, Heero. This is a different place. This isn’t your home anymore. This is what it looks like here.
Treize hesitates and looks around as he answers. “I suppose this is reality to him now.” Threatening clouds are forming overhead, making the sky a bruised blackish-purple, and he suddenly looks very pale and gray against this backdrop.
For a few moments neither of us say anything, and a cold, empty wind howls around us. A few more blackbirds fly over and land in the dead branches of a lone tree nearby. I make eye contact with Treize once more, then start to move away in the direction of our former home, but I’m halted as he grabs my arm.
“Heero, you must be careful.”
I nod. “I will.”
“You don’t understand the power here,” he says, his eyes flitting all around me, conveying his uneasiness. “You have to be quick. We can’t risk being here long or…”
“I’m not leaving unless Duo is with us.”
“Heero, please. I know you have very noble intentions, but I’m very serious when I warn you that remaining here too long will be very detrimental. What we’ve done is already a big risk. Please…I can only wait fifteen minutes.”
“Fifteen minutes?” My eyes widen, and there is a trace of annoyance in my voice. “Treize…”
“Heero, trust me, I beg of you. If we don’t leave quickly, we’ll never leave at all.”
Turning to glare in the direction of our condo, the place that I hope I will find Duo, I sigh deeply. This is the hardest reality I’ve ever had to face.
“If I don’t come out in time, just go back without me.” I purposely turn away from Treize so our eyes cannot meet.
“Oh! Absolutely not!” Treize says with concern. “Heero…fifteen minutes. Then we have to leave.”
When I face him again, my eyes hardened and cold, I say nothing, but he knows the truth. That I am not planning on leaving with him, unless Duo leaves with us as well. That I would rather spend an eternity in Hell together with Duo, than live in bliss knowing that he is here without me. Without another word between us I face the street again, and take my first step away from Treize, and away from my one and only link to eternal peace and happiness. He calls out to me one more time, reminding yet again that time is short, and I break into a run, passing down the middle of the deserted street to home, and to Duo.