Beyond The Holders
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The Seeker (Chapter 4)
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-- Here, mister Sebring. Come this way.
The director took the corridor on the left. A few steps behind him, Dave was having troubles keeping his pace. He was still shocked because of... well, because of everything. Less than half an hour ago he was in a completely different world. He was quite convinced he'd be interned for even asking of the Holder, or at least they would laugh at him for believing such an absurd story. You have to be crazy to give credit to that.
Dave had stayed in the room with the Holder for a little less than a minute, according to the director. The vision had probably taken just a few seconds, a fugitive moment perhaps; but it had been by far the longest moment in Dave's life. He was still having some difficulty believing what he had experienced: the rational side of his mind was slowly trying to take the control again, but the horror of the Holder's prophecy was just too vivid. Even worse, Dave was well aware that his mind had already been broken into pieces way before meeting that little man. Even though he couldn't feel that influence any more, he couldn't get out of his head the awful sensation of the chant that crumpled his soul. He had been feeling a sort of mental suffocation, as though all that was supposed to survive that experience was his body, and the animal rules that dictated its movement - fear, above all. Even if he hadn't really dreaded the moment he'd be in the Holder's room, he had gone there as a prey to the chant. He was not in control, at least not as much as he would have hoped. It was like the Holder had drawn Dave to him, only to show him the darkest prophecy of fear and irrationality.
The director's voice interrupted Dave's thoughts. Dave raised his head, stopped staring blankly for a second, and asked the director to repeat.
-- I said we've arrived, mister Sebring. Now, before I let you in, just a few words of advice: some of the people we're going to meet now are quite dangerous, for themselves and for who stands close. But don't worry, those are all in padded locked cells. The ones you'll see walking around are pacific and harmless.
Dave blinked, confused.
-- Who are they? Why have you brought me here?
-- The people you'll meet now have been Seekers.
-- What do you mean, they "have been"?
-- You see, mister Sebring, -- the director said as he entered the corridor, -- he who visits the Holder is called a Seeker. But amongst us directors there is this little convention, to call Seekers only those who visit at least two Holders.
Dave was surprised at what he saw. He expected another dark, tenebrous place, and instead in front of him there was yet another of those white corridors, the kind the asylum was filled with. Just like the white hall at the entrance, it was completely white, with plain walls and a relaxing, non-stimulating design.
-- Why? -- Dave asked.
-- You are a strong man, mister Sebring. Your reaction in my studio showed your attitude.
-- Did it? I cried. Is that your definition of "strong"?
-- Please, mister Sebring, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. -- The director stopped walking and turned to Dave. His voice was quiet, nothing like the cold, brisk behaviour he had had to that point. -- Why did you cry?
-- Well, because... because I was shocked...
-- No, you stared blankly at your feet because you were shocked. You cried for another reason.
The director showed Dave a door. It had a wooden cover on the corridor, but it was clear that it was much stronger than a wooden door. The director slowly moved a peephole and a spy glass was revealed; he looked inside and then invited Dave to do the same. Inside the room a man in a strait-jacket was staring out of a small window in the opposite room; he looked quiet.
-- This is Edmund. He came here saying he wanted to know what would happen if he looked at the object of the Holder of the End. He got down there, met the Holder, and in the end he didn't look. When we got back he tried to attack me to kill me. We had to call seven men to hold him down. Now he lives in there. If you look at him he's always staring outside, he doesn't move at all. We give him six live animals a day. We never see them again.
-- ...cute, -- said Dave with a disgusted face.
-- This here, instead, -- said the director pointing at a man walking down the corridor, -- is Greg. He used to be a pharmacist, and claimed the Holders couldn't be real. I took him there, and when i dragged him up he was completely empty. It took three years for him to walk again. Now he's totally harmless, feelingless, he has no soul nor spirit whatsoever. He doesn't see you, either. You can kick him if you wish, he won't even notice. Only, please, don't.
-- No, no... I... won't.
-- Mister Sebring, I can give you the weirdest freak show you've seen so far, but it's not what I want to do here. The reason I'm showing you these people is to warn you.
-- Warn me... from what? From becoming like them?
-- Sort of. You see, these people came here with a bad attitude. They somehow thought that meeting the Holder of the End would be the crisis of their life. You may know that the Ancient Greeks meant, by "crisis", a change, a moment of truth. Well, all of these failed Seekers knew in their heart they would die, or go crazy after meeting the Holder... or that anyway, their life would not be the same again.
-- You are different, -- the director went on. -- You came here and were wisely scared. But you were not desperate, or prepared for the worst. When you sat in my studio, you thought "How will I ever be able to go on and share my life with the vision I've had?". That is why you cried. I've seen many cases, and only a few people were thinking of how to move on, what to do next. Most became obsessed with death, pain, the End they've seen in that room down there.
Dave was glad the director was talking about moving on; it was like somebody had given him the chance to wake up from the nightmare he was drowning in. He was going to thank the director for the advice, but something went through his mind all at once. A doubt, a sensation, an elusive feeling of being cheated. But the director didn't give him the time to reflect; he hinted at the exit door, and in a few seconds the two of them were out of that corridor.
-- Now, mister Sebring, -- the director said as he closed the door, -- do yourself a favour, go home, take a sleep. Tomorrow you'll go to your workplace, or maybe you'll want to take a day off and bring your children to an amusement park. Do you have children, mister Sebring?
The director had resumed his fast-paced walk across the asylum's corridors, and Dave could barely follow him. His breath was short and he didn't answer for a second; but the director had continued talking without waiting for the answer.
-- You could build a sailing ship. You know those wooden models, they're quite a hobby, and they keep your mind busy. But no matter what you do, try to put your mind as far as possible from this place. Far from the Holder of the End, far from the Holders at all, far from your vision. -- The director stopped as they had reached the hall at the entrance, and was now talking to Dave in a calm voice, looking straight into his eyes. -- Move on as much as you can. You'll be fine. I can understand your state of mind now, but it will be ok. Take your time, mister Sebring. Take your time.
-- I, think... I think I will.
-- I see you're feeling a bit better, but you're still shaken. Do you want me to drive you home?
-- No, thanks doctor. I'll be fine. I'm in a hotel not far from here, I'll be there in a few minutes.
-- As you wish, mister Sebring. -- The director opened the door for Dave. -- Accept my most sincere wishes, and my apologies for keeping you here till late. It's almost half past two, and you'll be eager to go rest. Have a nice day tomorrow, sir, and don't forget what I told you. Can I trust you to take care?
-- You can, doctor, of course. The anxiety is going away, and I'm indeed feeling better. I'll take a minute or two for a walk and then leave. I'll be alright. Thanks for everything, and good night, doctor.
-- Good night.
Dave turned to his car and walked without hurry away from that asylum. He heard the voice of the director:
-- And another thing, mister Sebring: remember to be more cautious. You could have made a mess with your butts.
Dave halted. How could the director know of the butts? Nobody was there to see him, and the director's office looked on the inner court, not on the parking.
And then, in a moment, all of his doubts emerged and crowded his mind. Why did the director talk of the Holders, as if there were many of them? Were they actually 538, one for each object, like the story said? And where were they? He had been shown two of the failed Seekers, and according to the director they both had met the Holder of the End; but what about the others? Where were the other Holders?
And again, why the director lied about not knowing what the Holder was like? He said he had seen many Seekers, that means he was not the first one, as the director had said before going down that staircase. And thinking about it, Dave recalled him talking of "us directors". What does that mean, that there are other directors? Do they form a... what, an association? Is the Holder in one place or in every asylum? The Holder of the End, that is, because apparently there were a lot of others.
Why did the director keep the Seekers in there? Why not kill Edmund? He was definitely a sociopathic, maybe he was a crazy guy before meeting the Holder in the first place. The director said they fed him live animals, why would they do that? And "they", who? The asylum workers? The directors?
Dave turned back to the door, and saw it was closed. He thought about it for a moment and decided to go back, talk to the director and demand answers to these questions.
He rang the doorbell, but the lock didn't open as it had done when he first entered. So he knocked loudly on the door, until a young man showed up.
-- Yes sir, how can I help you?
-- May I talk to the director? There are a couple of things I wish to discuss with him.
-- I'm sorry, sir, -- said the young man. -- The director has left at 7 pm. I'll tell him you've asked of him tomorrow. Do you want to leave me your name, sir?
Dave was astonished.
-- Let it be, it's ok. It wasn't anything urgent... I'll talk to him tomorrow, thanks. Good night.
-- Good night, mister Sebring. Go home and rest.
Dave turned to the young boy, who was smiling, as he shut the door close.
"I'm outta here," thought Dave as he entered his car and left the asylum's park.
How do you inform your challenger of your victory? By telling him the details instead of discussing the sales projections, that's how.
Justin listened to every word of Dave's story with the enchanted look of a child in a toy store. Only when his friend was over did he speak.
-- Are you saying they give that crazy guy live animals? What kind of animals?
-- I have no idea. And I don't care, honestly. I'm content enough with being here again.
-- I knew you were a tough guy. Maybe I would have looked at the object of the Holder, but you didn't. Great job!
Dave was much less enthusiastic than Justin. He was playing around with a pen, and keeping his eyes down. Justin noticed it and his voice got more serious.
-- Dave, what did the Holder tell you?
Dave smiled and put the pen away. He joined his hands, breathed deeply and then looked Justin right in the eyes.
-- I can't tell you.
-- Oh, come on! We've been knowing each other for so long! Won't you tell me you've signed a non disclosure agreement with a man in a padded cell?
-- No, you see, it's not that I'm not allowed, or that I don't want to; I cannot. I am actually incapable of telling you.
-- What do you mean? Did you forget?
-- I wish. -- Dave stood up in front of the window. -- It was a terrific vision, it was like I was implanted it... it felt like the... Holder had ripped my brain open and was pouring the answer directly into it.
Justin didn't say anything. After a few seconds Dave went on.
-- I know it sounds absurd... I'm still shocked when I think of that. I can't even tell you how horrific it was. There are really no words for that. You can imagine something very very very... horrible, but you would still be far from what it felt like.
Dave stood silent for another second. Justin didn't speak either, so Dave continued.
-- It was a prophecy of the end.
-- We knew that.
-- The end of the world.
Justin commented with a glance. Dave, once again, stood in silence for some moments, for a longer time. After a few minutes, Justin grabbed a ream of sheets he had brought with him, and went to the window, next to Dave.
-- I know that you will probably want to go home and forget about this story for a while, but I thought you may want to know. Listen, let's put it like this: I leave these info for you in the lowest drawer of your desk, -- Justin said as he opened the first drawer from the bottom, -- and you decide whether you want to read it or not. While you were away I've done a bit of research.
-- About what?
-- About the others, Dave.
Dave stopped staring at the window and looked at Justin. He was serious.
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