Time was hastened by a steady diet of Haldol. Before Carl knew it, there was frost on the windows of the community room and snow on the ledges. The weeks he had spent here seemed a blur—a side-effect of the drugs, he supposed: he could remember meeting with Doctor Yume ever Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning like clockwork but he couldn’t really recall any individual meeting.
Carl and Max were sitting in the community room, playing poker with the Nazi and Adam. They had no money to gamble with but they used chips to keep score. At the moment, Carl was down, Adam stank and the Nazi had lost his last chip to Max. “What’ll it be, gentlemen?” he asked, doing his best Jim Backus impersonation. “Are you in?”
Carl looked at his hand: were it not for the four of diamonds peeking out, he’d have had a royal flush. He was short only the queen of hearts.
“I raise,” Adam said, tossing three more chips into the pot. “So, what’s the news in the other ward?” Carl looked up from his hand of red and took in the alarmed look that flashed on Max’s face. Max—the ever-informed Maxwell Swift—always had news from the other ward and the other patients perpetually pestered him for it. No one knew how he got it and no one cared; it didn’t even matter to them that the news never changed: Deimos was still railing at his captors, Suicide Dave was still incessantly whining, Pandora was still stroking her hellfire effigy and Sol Invictus was still asking for his mask…
“Same ol’, same ol’,” Max offered apathetically. “Are you in or what, Carl?”
“Nah,” Carl said, laying his hand down on the table. “I’m out.” Max’s attention shifted to Adam then and Carl took the moment to scrutinize his expression: as he expected, Max looked agitated. That expression returned any time the residents of the maximum security ward were brought up. If Carl had to muster up a reason, he supposed to all went back to his first day here, when Max told him to forget about Sol Invictus. Was that why he glared at anyone who asked about the other ward? Was he afraid Carl might pick up the suspicions he had surrendered along with his belt and shoe laces?
“Is that Sol Invictus guy still asking for his mask?” Adam asked. He chuckled to himself. “I wonder what he looks like. Have you ever seen his face, Max?”
Max shook his head. “I haven’t.”
“Man, I wonder what why he’s so obsessed with that mask… Think he’s horribly disfigured? Like, maybe his face was burnt off or something?”
“Are you gonna talk or are you gonna play cards?”
Grumbling, Adam laid down his hand and revealed a trio of 8’s—easily enough to best the strange hodgepodge of cards Max held: he held the Queen of Hearts that Carl had needed, the Ace of Spades, Three of Diamonds, Seven of Hearts and the King of Clubs. At the realization that he was victorious, Adam reached to rake the pot to him when a pair of doors was suddenly sucked down the hallway.
The sound of metal tearing away drew the attention of everyone in the room—both patients and the nursing staff alike. Carl could feel his heart beat racing: he didn’t know what had happened but he knew that something had happened. After weeks of wasting away on a diet of antipsychotics, something was happening… Thus far, all of his days had seamlessly blurred together, but now, something was happening to make today stand out.
For several tense moments, no one moved. Everyone just continued to stare at the threshold where a pair of doors had just been. Everyone was trying to rationalize exactly what had just happened. It was then that Carl realized that those doors led to the stairwell that led to the maximum security ward.
It was then that Mark inched his way over to peer in through the fractured doorway. Carl called to him—to tell him to move. If Mark could see what was in the stairwell, then what was in the stairwell could see him. Suddenly, a massive shape resembling a crumpled up ball of paper erupted from inside and smashed into Mark, crushing him between it and the wall ten feet behind him.
Carl shuddered as he realized the ball was forged from the doors: the doors had been ripped off their hinges and crumbled up into a ball that had been flung by an invisible force and with incredible speed.
Carl had seen a similar effect: it was nothing that Dipole, Mister Loder or Miss Bedford couldn’t do by commanding magnetic force.
It had to be the work of Sol Invictus.
Right on cue, the man emerged from the stairwell. His azure blanket was wrapped around his body like a cloak; his face was hidden behind a cobalt helm whose face had been fashioned into a sunburst.
Orderlies charged for him while a nurse ran to check on Mark. The windows groaned and the room was sprayed in an explosion of glass. The frames flew from the walls, writhing in the air as they sailed towards the madman’s former captors. The first was driven Carlos’ eye while another shot clean through Tony’s stomach. The bloody bar circled around for Paul and joined its brother in twisting around his neck.
Sol Invictus never moved a muscle. He never raised a hand to guide the metal that obeyed his whims—he never even turned to face his prey. He simply paused and slaughtered two of the three men who had rushed to subdue him. The third now struggled to break his metal collar—his feet frantically kicked as he was dangled inches above the floor.
“Let him go!” Carl screamed, pouncing to his feet. He wasted no time in thrusting his arm out front and steadying his aim by clutching his wrist. He didn’t expect Sol Invictus to listen to him and he wasn’t about to let another innocent person die: Carl unleashed a blast of light for his opponent and then watched as Paul was cast aside.
Sol Invictus turned to face the light that never reached him. As Carl’s blast sped to connect with its mark, it faded until nothing but an afterimage seared into sight remained of it. “Is that all you can do?” the masked man asked. “Visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum: it bends to my will and will not turn against me.”
“C’mon, Carl!” Max urged as the other patients frantically tried to open the doors that would lead to their freedom. “Just, sit back down! Leave him alone! If we leave him alone, he won’t touch us!”
Sol Invictus chuckled behind his mask. “You should listen to your friend, Carl…”
“You killed them,” Carl hissed. “You were going to kill Paul… I can’t just stand by and let you hurt innocent people!”
Sol Invictus continued to laugh. “And that’s where you and I differ,” he intoned. “You can’t allow it… and I’ve been anxious to do this since I got here!”
Carl’s ability allowed him to control light. How that allowed him to fly, he wasn’t quite sure—no one was, really. He wasn’t about to question it now: with his offensive array so easily countered, torpedoing himself into his opponent seemed like the last option allowed to him.
Sol Invictus flung up his hands—he must have tried to negate Carl’s ability to fly or possibly deflect him from his path. He failed to do either—he failed to do anything—and Carl crashed into the man.
Knocking Sol Invictus to his back, Carl proceeded to give in to the only attack open to him now: he swung his fist down and into Sol Invictus’ chest. Every fiber of his being told him to hit him in the face but that mask granted him some degree of protection while the blanket he robed himself in offered him none.
Memories of straddling Raanan Lumanta flooded his memory. Though this was similar, something was different: Carl’s blows were hardly as savage now; his attacks were more a frenzied panic than they were an animalistic pummeling. He knew the primary difference: before—with Raanan—he had given in to the voice in his head.
“What’s wrong, Carl?” Sol Invictus asked. “Why don’t you just give in to your dark side?”
Carl hesitated with his arm pulled back, ready to swat the man with another of his weak punches. The taunt had done more than cause him to falter however: unnerved, Carl was easily blindsided by the crumpled doors that had killed Mark.
The large orb slammed into Carl and knocked him off of Sol Invictus. Slowly, the two men got to their feet. “How did you…?”
“Sound travels pretty well in the maximum security ward,” Sol Invictus said. “I heard every word you said the day you were brought in.” Carl wasn’t sure how he knew, but he knew that the madman was grinning behind that mask. “Maybe you don’t like seeing innocent people hurt… but I’m guessing we have some similarities…”
Carl slowly shook his head and Sol Invictus was slowly nodding. “I want to meet the real you, Carl! I want to face the Carl who crippled that boy at your school! I want to see just how similar you and I actually are!”
Sol Invictus turned his neck and took in the handful of patients struggling at the door. A pair of nurses was with them as was Paul. One of those in a blind panic was the Nazi; the Nazi’s powers would make everyone close to him feel the same way he felt emotionally, making a bad situation worse.
Lyle had given up on trying to escape and was simply sitting in the corner, hugging his knees into his chest. Adam had crept to the row of shattered windows and appeared to be judging whether or not he could survive the leap.
“Do you know what one of the biggest dangers of a nuclear attack is?” Sol Invictus casually asked. “Granted, anyone at ground zero will be effectively vaporized but those further out could be potentially blinded by the accompanying flash, suffer radiation burns—and then there’s the fallout to deal with… In the end, it seems like those at ground zero were given the most humane death. Everyone else just…” He turned towards those scrambling to get through the door. “…Get to suffer…”
“Get down!” Carl screamed.
Too late: there was a flash of light from Sol Invictus and then, Carl lost consciousness…
To Be Continued... wrote:"Did somebody take your tongue?
In worries of the words that you couldn't say if they could've saved them from
But I don't want to sleep without so I bid to you goodnight
Tonight, sleep tight, my love..."