“I beg you, do not proceed any further! Do not touch memories long forgotten, for you have no idea of the danger that lurks behind them.”
Nimrod listened, but paid no heed whatsoever to this stark warning from a strange reconstructed voice that had been silenced for literally tens of thousands of years or cycles, as they were then called. Instead, assiduously driven by a blind obsession and a singular purpose, Nimrod continued to delve into the secrets of a mysterious, long forgotten device known only as the Oracle. “Only the Oracle can tell me who or what I am,” Nimrod thought as it systematically scanned deeper inside the mechanism’s damaged inner core, attempting to access other voices long silenced and buried in history’s infinite obscurity.
Moments later, Nimrod sensed a second voice; the shrill high-pitched cry of a terrified young girl. “We have to get out of here,” Nimrod heard the girl scream hysterically. “Mother is dead! Father killed her.”
The girl stood frail and alone in an open doorway. She was no more than ten, with a petite figure wrapped tightly in a delicate pink and white sari, her long flowing blonde hair glistening angelically in the morning sunlight, as her astonishing emerald eyes burned with a raw, boundless terror. “We have to run!” the girl declared with a frightful insistence.
“I don’t understand,” Nimrod said aloud, mirroring the words of a second child, a boy of no more than four or five, who was playing in a sandpit in the front yard, only a few feet from the doorway. The boy was decidedly odd looking, with strange oval shaped purple eyes that seemed far too large for his diminutive head. “I know this boy,” Nimrod realized with a fitful start.
“Belicki,” the girl shouted as she scampered frantically from the doorway. “We must run or father will kill us too!” But the boy, Belicki, was far too young to understand what was happening. Instead of reacting, he merely stared with a vacuous, confused look, as his sister abruptly grabbed his tiny dirt covered hand and pulled him from the sandpit, where he had been blissfully engaged. It was only then that Belicki noticed the tiny speckles of blood on his sister’s sari. Yet before he could say another word, he heard a familiar, mournful, terrifying beast-like cry emanating from inside the house. “Mira, Belicki, come here!”
The children did not wait for their father to emerge from their neatly constructed and ornately decorated log cabin. Instead, they turned and ran into a nearby field of wild flowers of the most astonishingly multihued variety. Sensing these memories, Nimrod marveled at the strange juxtaposition of indescribable beauty combined with unadulterated terror.
Already exhausted, her heart pounding, her legs burning with excruciating pain, the little girl, Mira, whispered to her brother, “We must get to the river. It is our only hope!” Tentatively, her senses overwhelmed by an unbearable fear, she turned her head and, with deep apprehension furtively glanced back toward the cabin. As she did so she saw a stout man reeking of alcohol, stumbling wildly out of the door, his shirt drenched in bloody scarlet, his right hand still clasping the handle of a sharp, silver, serrated knife. As Mira spotted her father, she insistently pulled her brother toward the turbulent and untamed waters of the nearby Kapapa River.
“Quick, we must get to the boat.” Mira had difficulty speaking these few words, for she was nearly out of breath. Still, it was at least another fifty yards before they would reach the river and the boat, which bobbed precariously in the nearby water, grounded only by a short piece of rope tied to a stick.
It was then that Nimrod sensed an exponentially growing terror, this time emanating from the young boy’s thoughts. “I can’t swim,” Belicki thought. Terrified and too frightened to run, he instinctively pulled his hand away from his sister, for he was now trapped between two equally alarming contingencies. He was every bit as afraid of the water as he was of his father’s unpredictable ill temper. Sensing her brother’s unbridled panic, Mira turned and shouted, “Come with me Belicki!”
But Belicki simply could not move. Frozen in place, trapped between two equally horrific images, he could neither move forward nor backward. Instead, he remained immobile as he watched his sister continue to limp awkwardly toward the boat, occasionally looking back to see if Belicki was following her. As Belicki stood catatonically still he suddenly felt the ground tremble beneath his feet, as his father charged quickly toward him with a desperate, demonically hateful expression on his face. Unable to bare the tension any longer, Belicki merely closed his eyes, expecting his father to strike him dead at any moment. Instead he heard the footsteps charge past him, as his father sprinted inexorably toward the mighty Kapapa River.
Slowly, his hands trembling with a frightful palsy, Belicki opened his large purple eyes, and when he did he saw his sister leap headfirst into the boat. Her hair was now knotted and wet with perspiration, her once beautiful sari torn and ragged about the legs. Hysterically, with her father fast approaching, Mira struggled to untie the knot, desperate to unleash the boat from its moorings. “Get away from me,” she screamed at her father, as she continued to fumble with the rope. “Why won’t it come untied,” she cried out frantically, her eyes moist and wide open, her breathing even more labored than before. With her father swiftly approaching, Mira finally gave up on the knot and instead pulled hard on the stick to which the rope was tied. As she did so, the stick snapped in half and Mira fell backward hard against the inside of the boat.
A few seconds later, as her father arrived at the shoreline, the river’s powerful currents already were carrying the tiny vessel downstream at an increasingly expedited velocity. Belicki was young, but he instinctively understood the mounting danger, for he knew that Mira had never been in a boat before and she had no idea how to control it. Worse yet, she had no oars and the boat appeared to be dangerously unbalanced. As Belicki’s eyes opened ever wider with an intense, innate fear, he heard his sister scream, “Get away from me,” as their father desperately waded into the waters trying to reach her.
“Mira, come back. I would never hurt you,” Belicki’s father shouted, as the boat and its passenger were carried further downstream by the river’s chaotic white waters.
“Liar!” the young girl shouted above the sound of the raging water, as she stood precariously in the tiny craft. “You’re a murderer!”
Desperate, suddenly sober and fearing the loss of his cherished little girl, Belicki’s father plunged head first into the violent waters, struggling mightily to break through the currents. As he did so his body was swept rapidly downstream.
Belicki witnessed this scene, still too frightened to move. Nimrod concentrated on the boy’s thoughts and his mounting confusion. Belicki did not yet understand that his mother was dead - that terror was yet to be fully realized. But his sister meant more to Belicki than any other human being. He could not even imagine life without her. As he watched with growing horror turning to a paralyzing desperation, Belicki heard his father cry out, “Mira,” as his head occasionally surfaced above the river’s fierce, undulating waters.
“Get away from me!” Mira responded, her voice trembling with fear, as was her entire body, which was drenched by the successive waves from the river’s increasingly hostile waters.
Finally, able to speak, Belicki called out, “Mira, come back!” Other than these few words, Belicki stared helplessly ahead. Then his mouth dropped open as he saw the unstable boat rock violently to the left and then to the right, before striking a large half concealed bolder in the middle of the river. Belicki’s mind began to spin as he watched the boat turn sideways, with Mira still inside, valiantly clinging to the rope that had once moored the boat. As she struggled to maintain her balance, the powerful currents spun the boat around in a complete circle before it again struck a second and much larger rock. As Belicki watched, the boat shattered upon impact into several pieces both large and small. Mira too was thrown hard against the rock. For several seconds the river’s increasingly strong currents pinned her body firmly against the slimy rock. As she lost consciousness Belicki noticed that her face was still as beautiful and as angelic as ever, though she no longer appeared to be breathing. Then, as young Belicki took a solitary step toward the river, he watched helplessly as his sister’s body slipped ever so slowly from the rock, before it finally was stolen away by the river’s insistent currents. As Belicki screamed out his sister’s name, he took another small step forward, then stared ahead as his sister’s pink and white sari and her limp frame were carried downstream by the river’s powerful rapids. Though Belicki’s father struggled to reach her, the currents carried her body along faster than he could navigate. A few seconds later, Mira’s body disappeared, never to be seen again.
Belicki stood silent and still for quite some time. As he did so the only thing that he could sense was his own breathing, its echoing sound reverberating endlessly inside his head. In a state of terrified shock, he was not even aware when his father, exhausted and utterly drenched from head to toe, emerged from the river, his blind raging anger replaced by an equally frightful sorrow. “What have I done?” his father shouted to the unrepentant heavens. Nimrod too could sense all of these feelings. It was only then that Nimrod realized the power of these images. They would remain with Belicki for the rest of his life, shaping and defining the man that he was to become.
Sensing a complete oneness with the young boy’s thoughts, Nimrod tried to communicate directly with Belicki, but instantaneously another memory appeared. Nimrod witnessed an open field, surrounded in all directions by leafless trees of a dark and most foreboding sort. In the middle of the field Nimrod distinctly saw five people, each of them tied to large circularly configured wooden stakes that had been driven deep into the ground. Two of the unfortunates were adults, but three were innocent children, one no more than five or six cycles old. Standing not far before them was a middle-aged man and his son. The man carried a lighted torch, while the boy, which Nimrod immediately recognized as a slightly older Belicki, was again terrified, uncertain whether to tightly hug his father’s leg or to run as swiftly as possible from this terrible new scene.
“Please, I beg of you, let my family live.” This fervent cry for mercy came from the desperate man tied to the stake. His skin was pale, his face sallow, and his voice weak. He apparently had not eaten in some time, for his flesh merely clung to his ghastly, emaciated body. The man with the torch, Belicki’s father, was unmoved by the frantic man’s plea. Instead, he stared forward with a sadistic pleasure, as his prisoner again begged, “Please, for heavens sake, I stole the food. Punish me, not my family.”
“But they ate the food too, did they not?” Belicki’s father insisted in a frightfully calm voice.
“My children were starving. I had no choice.”
Belicki’s father walked directly before his prisoner until he was no more than a few inches away. “And I too have no choice, for those who steal from me must pay for their sins.” Without another word he sharply jabbed the man in the chest with the scalding torch. Young Belicki, still nervously clutching his father’s leg, saw the man cry out in unbearable pain, while the poor man’s wife, who was likewise strapped to a nearby stake, wept profusely, repeating one solitary word, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no…” in seemingly endless repetition.
As for the three children, Belicki could only see the backs of their withered bodies dangling nearly lifeless from their respective stakes. They did not even whimper, so weak were they with hunger and disease. Belicki recognized that one of the children was a boy of about seven, the same age as he. Still clutching his father’s leg, Belicki looked up and stared at his father to see if there was any mercy in his eyes. Instead, he saw something more than mere insanity. For the first time in his young life, Belicki also witnessed the spectacle of absolute power. For at this instance, his father was omnipotent, in complete control of the destiny of these five poor souls, able to do anything that his depraved imagination desired. He alone could choose between vengeance and mercy. All rested on his individual will!
It did not surprise Belicki that his father chose vengeance, for there was no mercy in his father’s soul. He therefore understood that there never was even the slightest chance that his father would listen to the poor man’s frantic, heartfelt plea, or heed the desperate look in the woman’s barren eyes, or consider the lives of three innocent, totally helpless, starving, emaciated children. They were all doomed, a victim of his father’s incessant rage and unpredictable madness.
Belicki therefore hugged his father’s leg with a sense of strange detachment, as he watched him ignite the dried hay. Then the two stepped back, his father’s eyes gleaming insidiously with a hypnotic admiration as the flames rose ever higher into the cold, still night sky. It was at this point that Belicki realized, “I must find a way to escape from my father or I will end up like mother, like Mira, or like these five unfortunate souls.” But Nimrod sensed something else in young Belicki’s thoughts, an unfortunate desire to emulate his father, to be utterly omnipotent. In this peculiarly schizophrenic moment, Nimrod could sense Belicki’s soul begin to slip irreparably away.
The scene ended as abruptly as it had begun and was replaced by a dark void. There were no more images, just one bleak solitary voice. Nimrod listened attentively to a deeply disturbing adult male voice cackle, “So what do you think of my childhood?”
Nimrod did not pause, but merely replied directly to the adult Belicki’s query. “Your father murdered those people.”
“Yes, he killed them all, and thousands more just like them.” Nimrod realized that Belicki’s voice betrayed absolutely no remorse whatsoever. In fact, Nimrod recognized it as an unrepentant inflection of pure unadulterated evil, lessons taught by a sadistic master and unfortunately well learned and often repeated. “So,” Belicki snarled, “do you still want answers? If so, I will tell you all that I know about who, or should I say, what you are.”
“And what if I prefer another host?” Nimrod responded cautiously.
“Only I know your full story,” Belicki cooed hypnotically. But it is true, if you open the Oracle to these memories you will find nothing but pain, suffering, and immeasurable sorrow combined with a raw, insatiable desire for power so blind that it corrupts and destroys everything it touches.”
Nimrod listened, but was unmoved, for it too was driven by an uncontrollable compulsion. “I must understand who I am,” Nimrod said with a fierce determination.
Belicki laughed, a deep and hearty reflex, for he understood the hypnotic allure of temptation better than any other being that had ever lived. “It is an obsession that drives you, poor Nimrod. It is the exact same sort of obsession that consumed my thoughts, my destiny, and eventually my very soul. It is fortunate then, that you have no soul.”
Nimrod listened eagerly, for what Belicki said was true. Like Belicki, Nimrod had no soul, no conscience, only a series of utterly insatiable desires. For Nimrod was and never had been human: in fact, at present he was no more than a question in search of meaning. Without fear or due caution then, Nimrod encouraged Belicki to continue to tell his strange and devious tale; sure that what it was about to hear would be far darker than the images it had just experienced. But Nimrod expressed no fear for the truth was that Nimrod was willing to pay any price to discover the secret of its identity.