“I thought I could trust him. Somehow this time felt like it would be different then all the others, but it hurts the same. I didn’t think it would hurt this much…” the bench creaked as the young girl shifted forward, her hair spilling over her fingers as she buried her face in her hands.
Next to her, Luci flinched, not because she could feel her pain but because she hated these situations. She never knew what to say, other than the obligatory “well that sucks”.
She tried. Luci tried to feel, tried to understand emotional pain, tried to relate. But it didn’t work. It never worked.
The soft sob that escaped from the hunched figure further polarized Luci’s mental state, blurring clarity until she couldn’t see the girl beside her anymore…
“You’re back?” Logos asked in surprise, his shadowy form brushing against the tree trunks as he approached Luci and helped her stand up.
Nodding, Luci swiped a stray leaf off of her jeans. “She needs help and I can’t find my empathy.”
Logos was still as Luci looked around at the gloom blanketing her cerebral forest. It was dusk, as always.
“I haven’t seen it for a while.” He murmured.
“Yeah… I should use it more often, it’s just so hard to find.” Luci’s fingers closed around the handle to the lantern lying by her feet and she straightened, holding it out for Logos to light.
“Be careful.” A tiny flame flickered in the globe of the lantern as Logos snuffed the match. “The forest is getting worse. It’s about time you went for a walk in it.”
“I’ve been busy.” Luci shrugged. “But you’re right.” She squinted at the surrounding forest and swung the lantern in front of her, the golden flickers of light dancing between her from the darkness. “Whenever my dreams get worse, I need to walk in the forest.” She said, almost to herself, willing her feet to take her into the fringes of the trees.
“Remember…” Logos’ voice was already getting faint. “Whatever you do, don’t let the light go out.”
Nodding without looking back, she hadn’t walked very far before she heard the unmistakable rhythm of chanting and pounding feet. Pale blue light illuminated the ghostly shadows on the path Luci didn’t dare leave, and by the light she caught glimpses of misshapen creatures lurching around a sinister sapphire flame, singing in hoarse voices. Luci gripped the lantern tighter and held it higher. The creatures hushed as the living golden light overpowered the weak spirit flame. And she, their creator, kept on walking.[i]
Faint whispers of fear fluttered around her, threatening to gutter the lantern, but Luci knew the light was more powerful and didn’t stop.
Luci didn’t know what Hell looked like. But what she saw around her was pretty close. Heat licked at her arms, reaching out of a sweltering landscape of burning trees. Every other minute or so, a tree with flames swarming up its trunk would creak loudly, then slowly, dramatically, fall to the forest floor in a shower of sparks. But no flames touched the dirt path.
A half-burnt creature that resembled a lion reared up out of the flames to glare at Luci with crazed red-rimmed eyes. Luci gazed back for a moment. The lion huffed, smoke curling around its singed mane as it returned to snuffle around in the flames.
“A difficult beast feasting on burnt-down trees.[ii]” A sighing wind struck Luci as rather desolate as she continued down the path, vaguely feeling the fringes of her dress being singed. The lantern in her hand was forgotten for a moment as she came to the end of the burning trees.
The chapel. Of course, she had forgotten.
Luci was quiet as she entered the church, stepping carefully over the crumbling remains of the door. Warped floorboards greeted her bare feet, their surface almost too hot to touch. The pews were hotbeds of angry red coals, the glass windows nothing but colored vapors. The wooden beams crossing the ceiling were white and ashy, threatening to crumble at any moment from the weight of the smoldering chandelier.
The altar was the only thing untouched by the flame. Luci stood beside it, her eyes stinging from the smoke, because she never would have admitted that the drops on her cheeks were tears.
“Domingo en fuego…” Her voice was faint and whispery when she began to sing. “I think I lost my halo.”
“I don’t know where You are.” She reached out to brush a speck of ash off of the magnificent Bible that lay open on the altar. “You’ll have to come and find me.”
The pages burst into flames when her fingers touched it. Luci recoiled from the sudden blaze, the flickers dancing in the horror reflected in her eyes.
“Domingo en fuego.” Tears spilled down her face as she backed away from the altar. “I think I lost…” the hazy air was suffocating and she gasped for breath. “My…” the lantern slipped from her fingers. “Halo.” Luci choked out, groping around on the ground for it. Unable to see through the gathering smoke, Luci stumbled against a wall.
The ceiling groaned. A chain holding up the chandelier snapped and it tilted sideways, flame spilling all around Luci.
“I don’t know where you are!” Luci screamed, terror trembling in her tones as she ran through the vicious flames devouring the chapel, her scorched lungs begging for air. Flames hissed at her, the blazing terror crackling with triumph. The entire chapel lurched, the ceiling beams crashing to the floor just like the burning trees. Luci ran through the flames in a desperate search of a way out, blinded by the smoke and tears.
Something crumbled before her outstretched hands and a searing sensation enveloped her skin in a blaze of agony. With a pained gasp, Luci tripped, tumbling onto blessedly cool grass.
Convulsively, she gulped in the fresh air, her entire frame trembling. “Please…” she said weakly. “You have to come and find me.[iii]”
The wind was gentle, and a light rain began to fall, misting the forest with dewy drops. Luci raised her head to look around, sweat and tears streaking her face. The chapel was gone, the trees and ground green and living. The forest was still, unbelievably peaceful. Luci wiped the desperate tears off her face, her rapid breathing slowed to a calming rhythm. She sat up, a slight smile creasing her face for the first time since she had entered her cerebral forest.
In the place where Luci had lost the lantern, a small gem lay on the ground, transforming the rays of waning sunlight into purple beams.
Luci’s hand was steady as she picked up the gem reverently. It lay in her palm, small and warm and glittering.
Something white fluttered onto Luci’s sleeve. Ash flecks.
“The Bible…” Luci murmured, turning around to look for it. All she could see was the forest.
She looked up.
“Thank you!” Her voice was shaky, but her eyes were wet with gratitude.
**Luci is derived from “allucinor”, a Latin word meaning “to wander in your mind”**
***All song references are from Twenty-One Pilots, one of the most amazing bands to ever grace the radio. If you don’t listen to them (yet), I would strongly urge… nope, plead with you to go listen to their music. A good intro would be their second-last album, Vessel. Then if you like it, their most recent album Blurryface can solidify your relationship with tøp. (and get you to realize that they’ve made other songs besides Ride, Stressed Out, and Heathens.) Now you’re ready to be hardcore and listen to their first released album, self-titled as Twenty-One Pilots. If you’re Clique/emo material, you’ll fall in love with it. If you’re a shallow music listener you’ll hate it and think it’s weird as heck. The last couple steps are simple. If you enjoyed Self-titled, then go listen to their unreleased album Regional At Best on Youtube. Then (almost) lastly, listen to Tyler Joseph’s singly made songs in his album, No Phun Intended. They’re terrible basement quality (as they were recorded in his basement) but the lyrics will have you in tears, they are so heartfelt and deep. If you’ve managed to complete all this and you hate Twenty-One Pilots now (for inconceivable reasons) you can go live your shallow life somewhere else and ignore what your soul is really thinking (Before You Start Your Day, self-titled) but if you’ve come out the other end with a profound respect and love for Twenty-One Pilots… welcome to the Skeleton Clique, friend.***
[i] More on this in a later story that will be based off of Oh Ms Believer (self-titled album)
[ii] Migraine (Vessel)
[iii] Polarize (Blurryface)