“You don’t want to do this.”
The bully smirked.
“Oh, I really, really do.”
Julian sighed. “Alright, suit yourself.”
As the boy lunged, time slowed to a stop, allowing Julian to step out of the way. He hit play, allowing the boy to fall to the floor. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Principal Heights approaching. He decided to let the kid land a few punches. He allowed a right hook to hit him square on the face, but kept his eyes trained on the offender. He wiped the taste of blood from his mouth and wiggled his jaw. The punch was harder than expected.
A faint mumble alerted him.
“What was that?” he asked the boy.
“I said, how’s it feel to be my b****?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know, but I assume I’d feel overqualified.” He placed his hand to the bully’s forehead. A blinding light erupted from his hand, and the boy crumpled to the ground. Heights rushed over, calling for a nurse.
“What the hell happened?!” Heights looked to kids for an answer, but nobody could explain what they’d just seen. As Julian disappeared into the sea of students, one of the boy’s goons shouted something.
“You’re a freak Cornelia! A bloody freak!”
“Don’t get too excited now,” he called back with a smirk.
CHAPTER 2: MIND PALACE
It a was large, artificially lit room, though there was no clear source of light. The floor and walls were a royal red, and the ceiling was a pale gold. Aside from two small couches and a walnut coffee table, the room was barren. There wasn’t a single window. Lucius sat opposite James. His arms were folded and legs crossed. James spoke first.
“Do you mind explaining what the hell that was? You could have killed him!”
“I had it under control, alright I just…” Luci trailed off.
“Almost sabotaged this entire operation? We had 3 rules. Remember? 1: Keep Julian safe. 2: Don’t draw unwanted attention, and 3: don’t go off script. You managed to break all three in less than 30 seconds!”
“If you would just-”
“No. I don’t want to hear it. Just… just don’t do it again. Okay? Alright?”
“Yeah,” Luci sighed, “whatever”
“Alright?!” James spoke calmly but firmly.
“Okay, jeez, yeah... I-uh, I won’t do that anymore.”
“Okay. I got this next one, just, cool off, alright?.”
“If you say ‘alright’ one more time I will throw us out of an airplane.”
“Alright, relax. Damn.” Luci’s eyes pierced through James. He chuckled. “Toodles.”
And with that, he was gone. The room shifted and Luci now sat in dark theater with Julian. His fondest memories played on loop. Luci asked how he was doing. “Just alright,” he said. Luci saw a familiar look in his eyes. The look of a broken person. He thought for a moment, then spoke:
“Hey Julian, can I show you something cool?” To his surprise, Julian agreed.
3 WEEKS EARLIER:
The Boss’ waiting room was dark. Eerily silent. Lucius was far more comfortable than James, who seemed to be whispering something to himself. A disembodied voice beckoned the two through a black glass door. When they entered, a wispy figure sat behind a desk, its face covered in shadow. This time it spoke with clarity and authority. “Kneel,” it demanded. James did as commanded. James rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. The room flooded with light. The figure was clear now. It was a man in his mid-twenties; he was chipper, but there was something about his eyes that told a different story. He stared at James, who now looked foolish. “Compose yourself James. I’ve got a job for you two.” James stared back. “Alright, seriously, get up. You look like an idiot. Rápido James, rápido.” James rose to his feet, where he was met with a sharp elbow to the side.
Lucius raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “What? What are you-- I don’t know what: ‘this’ means,” James said, mimicking Luci’s facial expression and posture. He darted his eyes back and forth, searching for an explanation. They all exchanged looks, before James broke the silence.
“I’m messing with you, James, lighten up.” Still not getting it, James shook his head. In a desperate attempt to change the subject, he blurted out:
“So what’s the job?”
“It’s a kid, his name--”
“Oh come on,” Lucius protested.
“You’re not gonna kill him ass-hat, you’re going to help him.” The Boss bit his tongue before adding, “By… possessing him.”
“Oh great, we’re not killing him, we’re just, entering him without permission!”
James knew Lucius had a problem with authority, but this was the first time he’d actually witnessed it. His tone quickly changed from frightened to embarrassed. “Don’t make it weird,” he pleaded.
“Me make it weird? You’re the one asking us to possess a kid!”
“He’s 16,” said the Boss.
“And? We don’t possess children, you know that.”
“What I know, is that you two are going to do as I say,” the Boss interjected.
“Luci, let’s just hear him out, okay?”
“James, of all people, you’re telling me to listen to him? Do you hear yourself?”
“Are you done?”
“No I’m not done!...Alright now I’m done.”
The Boss rolls his eyes. “As, I was saying, his name is Julian Cornelia--”
“That’s a stupid name.”
“Are you going to let me talk? Good. As I was saying-- his name is Julian Cornelia. And he needs your help." He went to hand Lucius a manilla folder, but hesitated at the last second. “Before you go do something stupid, remember these three rules: number one, you keep Julian safe. Number two, be smart, don’t attract any unwanted attention, and number three, do NOT go off script. Everything that you need is in here. You’re free to go.”
Lucius vanished. James tried to leave but the Boss slapped a hand on his shoulder.
“Not you, James. What the hell was that?”
“Didn’t you tell me, and I quote, ‘act scared, and be convincing,’?
“Key word: convincing. That was like a b-horror movie. I mean seriously, you are the worst actor I have ever seen. I mean, you just made Keanu Reeves look like Robert de Niro. That, was a train-wreck! You know what that was, that was like if--”
“Are you gonna keep going?”
“No, you can go.”
“You are unbelievable.” James left with a not-so-subtle flip of the bird.
CHAPTER 4: PREPARATION
Lucius tapped his finger on the file as he read it. “Alright, it says here: Julian Cornelia. Age 16. Height 6’4”. Weight 180 lbs. Complexion: Fair. Brown hair. Nostril… diameter?” He whipped around to face James. “There is some weirdly specific stuff in here: angle of feet when walking, distance between eyes… chewing style? Oh, and here’s a good one: length of --”
“Alright, I’ve heard enough. Where do we find him?”
“Is there a home address?”
“No, but I can tell you his favorite flavor of chewing gum.”
“Wait, I think I found it. It’s an orphanage.”
“Are we really gonna do this?”
“Possess a teenager.”
“You were 16 once, right?”
“I guess, but--”
“So it’s settled. Let’s rock.” James vanished. Lucius reluctantly followed.
CHAPTER 5: GETTING PERMISSION
They approached the orphanage slowly. It was dark and drizzling. The scent of rain was potent. The house was ancient, and the white finish was peeling away, revealing a graying wooden structure. James answered Luci’s question before he could ask. “Let me do the talking.”
James seemed to be getting through to Julian.
“So again, you’ll be in control most of the time. We’re just here in case anything bad happens; 90 percent of the time you won’t even notice us.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Well, we actually need your permission before we, um…”
“So are you like demons or something? Or is this like some cheesy guardian angel deal?”
“We’ve been called many things throughout history, but you can think of us as--”
“Yes.” Lucius chimed in.
“Yes you’re Demons, or yes you’re my Guardian Angels?”
“It’s not important. What’s important is that we help you. And we can’t do that unless we possess you. So, can we, you know, posses you?”
Julian thought for a while. “If you can help me, then yes.”
CHAPTER 6: CRISIS
The car was approaching fast. Julian turned to face it. The driver slammed the brakes and the tires screeched but it was too late. The car crumpled on impact. Time slowed to a stop and Julian walked over to inspect the damage.
Inside Julian’s soul, James and Lucius bickered.
“A little dramatic, don’t you think Luci?”
“Just a tad.”
Julian pulled the driver out of the car. “Why are you here?!” his voice boomed.
“You tried to kill my son,” the driver spat. “Why should you deserve to live?” Julian’s eyes flickered from a silky white to a deep black. “Tell me! You put a finger to my son’s forehead, and he almost died. You don’t deserve that power! You don’t deserve anything!” He revealed a handgun. Julian erupted with anger.
Suddenly, James and Lucius were back in the mind palace. The room shook. Color drained from the room as the parts of the ceiling crumbled.
“What the hell is going on!” Lucius shouted into the darkness for James.
“He’s kicking us out! He’s losing his mind!”
“How do we stop it?!”
“Just hold on until I get back!”
“Where are you going?!”
“I’m getting help! Just hold on tight!”
James ran into the Boss’ office, frantically explaining the situation. The Boss seemed unfazed.
“What the hell are you doing Michael?! You have to help us! Didn’t you hear me? Julian’s gone mental, we have to help him!”
Michael took a deep breath. “Damn it James, no!” He angrily swiped everything off his desk.
“No? What the hell do you mean? We have to help Julian!”
“Would you forget the damn kid for once?!”
“What are you talking about.”
“After everything that has happened up until this point,” Michael pointed to the floor furiously, “what has led you to believe, that this is about Julian?”
“I don’t understand…”
“You can’t save them James. I’m sorry, but you can’t save them.”
Lucius protected his head as larger parts of the ceiling collapsed. He searched the walls for a door, but found nothing. He shouted Julian’s name, but it was too late. Lucius was ejected from Julian. While Lucius was struggling, Julian had gotten a hold of the attacker’s gun.
“Julian you don’t have to do this! This isn’t you!” Lucius’ true form had been revealed to Julian. He was radiating light. His shadow had wings. Broken, mangled wings. He wasn’t an angel, but he certainly wasn’t a devil.
“I have to. You wouldn’t understand!”
You have no idea, thought Lucius. “I do understand. I know how you feel, I’ve been in your same boat. You feel like the entire world’s against you. You feel like no matter what you do it doesn’t matter, and you’re taking out your anger on anything that moves. I know better than anyone, but I also know you can fight it. For every bad memory you’ve had, there is a good one to pick you up when you fall. But if you do this, if you kill this man, you lose that bit of your humanity. And then you’re no better than the bullies you hate, you’re no better than the people who torment you daily. Put the gun down Julian, I’m begging you, please!” Lucius fell to his knees. Julian looked between the gun and Lucius, and then at the man. “It’s okay Julian, just put it down.” Julian was crying now. He fell to his knees, and smiled painfully. “I’m sorry Luci.” He put the gun to his head and fired.
“What do you mean I can’t save them?” James looked shattered.
“You can’t save everyone James. But you can still save yourself. His death was out of
“Michael, what are you saying?” tears streamed down his face.
“Forgive yourself James. It’s time.” Michael disappeared. The world around James shifted. He was in the middle of a street. Luci was clutching Julian, crying. Lucius began to morph, and soon James was looking at himself, clutching the body of what had once been Julian, but was now Lucius. He watched as he sobbed. “I’m sorry Luci.”