CHAPTER 1: Vengeance
And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."
-From Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
Riding a plane isn't the least bit fun.
That's what he had always thought. The rapid change in air pressure sent unbearable pain into his ears. Though it was a common occurrence, plane trips always sent him into a gloomy mood. Though he had no idea how long he'd been on this trip, the pain that began shortly after takeoff showed no signs of fading away. In fact, it was growing worse and worse. He felt like he was going to rupture from the inside. The pain had never been this bad before.
He felt the pain start to constrict his brain, and grew nauseous. He wished his ears and head could just split open. Even without his ears, the "sounds" around his would still relentlessly jump directly into his mind. If his head could burst open, he would no longer need to pay any heed to those "sounds."
The boy who had been leaning his head against the window turned to look at his parents, sitting together to his right. The two seemed to be having a wonderful time, lying against the backs of their chairs. Although they appeared to have their eyes closed in sleep, the "sound" of their joy reached the boy's mind.
This was the first time the boy's family of three had rode a plane together. Though the boy had not a single positive thought about this trip, his parents were apparently beside themselves with joy. However, it was not the fact that they were riding a plane on a family outing that brought them joy. This was not even a "family" outing in the very first place.
Now we will be free of that child.
That was the only thought that united the mother and father.
Though only ten years had passed since he was born in an impoverished, unremarkable village off in some corner of the Soviet Union, the boy had already lived long enough to fill him with the same hate for the irrationality and misfortunes of life that old men had.
At the age of 10, he was already elderly and despairing at life.
His first memory started when he was just emerged from the womb, and could not properly speak.
The mother who had been looking at him questioningly twitched and grew pale.
Though the only sounds he could make were crying, laughing, and babbling, not unlike any other baby, the structure of the language of his parents and the surrounding adults had already taken deep root in his mind. Though his body had not progressed enough to speak, he had acquired the same knowledge of language as an adult. However, this knowledge of language did not take on any meaning, for his newborn brain had not developed enough to utilize language. Back then, language was nothing but a foreign invader to his body. He was like a tape recorder that faithfully recorded language. And, a tape recorder always has a microphone to receive sound, along with a speaker to emit it. In humans, the ears are the mic, and the mouth is the speaker. However, he needed neither mic nor speaker. Before the adults around him could speak, their thoughts would enter directly into his brain. He completed, in just a moment, the process of language acquisition that humans normally underwent as they matured.
He heard the sounds without using his ears, and without understanding their meaning, he transmitted them to his mother without using his mouth. Just like a tape playing back its recording. A tape recorder has no knowledge or responsibility regarding what it has recorded. The newborn boy was not unlike a tape recorder, but this was unnerving and terrifying enough. Machines and humans are two separate things.
The boy's mother panicked as the baby she was holding suddenly spoke to her mind. That pure and innocent baby had instantly transformed into some unknowable monster. The vision that the mother had was transferred into the boy's mind. What he saw was his first portrait.
I am a monster.
This was the boy's self-image.
As the boy grew, his monstrous powers blossomed with him. In addition to reading the thoughts of others without the use of sensory organs such as his ears or mouth, he gained the ability to move objects with his will alone. But, the more the monster grew, the more people around him feared and rejected it. Even the parents that gave birth to him steadfastly refused to touch him.
Though the boy had no way of knowing this, countries in the West were having a small boom in so-called espers. A young Hungarian Jew from Cyprus, known as Uri Geller, had conducted performances where he would thrill the world by bending spoons and moving a stopped clock with his mind. Though some rational minds regarded these to be stage magic, other men fervently researched these abilities.
Some of these people were a part of the Western and Eastern militaries that made up the foundation of the Cold War.
One day, a journalist came to visit the boy's village. The man thoroughly interviewed the boy's parents and neighbors, and the boy exhibited his powers for him. Convinced of the boy's powers, the journalist told the boy's parents that he was the esper who could surpass Uri Geller. He showed them the signatures of scientists who wished to research his powers, and said that he could mass-market the boy. "I'll take over management rights for the boy, and make you two rich," said the journalist. The boy's parents were overjoyed to hear these sweet words. The boy quickly understood that their joy at making so much money was largely overshadowed by the joy of finally being separated from the monster living with them.
That was not all the boy sensed. He knew instantly that the man was no journalist. He was a KGB agent sent to investigate the military applications of the boy's powers.
The boy's parents, who had not even noticed this fact, mechanically signed the documents the man presented without stopping to read the contents. A few weeks later, the agent returned to the village with some men who anyone could tell were soldiers, and put the boy on a military plane. Their destination was a research facility near Moscow.
Several scientists met with the boy, conducting various experiments and interviews. On this point, the agent had told the truth. However, he hadn't the slightest intent to market the boy as a talent. Conversely, he was classified as top-secret information, kept as far from the television or mass media as he could be. But to researchers and military officials, the boy was a superstar. They analyzed and experimented his abilities from countless approaches.
The boy's parents, who had not doubted the self-styled journalist's words, did not receive the massive payment they were promised, nor did they see see the boy appear on television, and the two grew disgruntled. Word spread through their little village, and this was an irritating sight to the journalist. The KGB rummaged their minds for a solution. In the end, the journalist returned to the village, and invited the boy's parents for a tour. This family trip would be their reunion, as well as their eternal farewell with the boy.
They would bring the boy to reunite his parents, from the Czechoslovakian research center where he was now staying, and then they would enjoy a flight to Moscow. Once they landed at Moscow, the boy's parents would be disposed of. The unsuspecting parents reunited with their son at Prague's international airport, and rode a Soviet passenger plane together with ordinary travelers. To anyone else, they may have seemed like a happy family of three.
The agent got the results he had aimed for, but not in any way he could have imagined.
The plane few through the night sky. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and turbulence rocked the plane. With each jolt, a sharp pain pierced his ears like a drill. To make matters worse, the fear of the passengers inside the rising and falling plane flowed into his mind as well. And, even if he tried to look out the window to distract himself, there was nothing to see outside but a veil of clouds.
At this time, he was passing directly north over Cyprus, where Uri Geller grew up.
He thought he heard someone screaming. This was a sensation the boy had never felt before. Normally, when he sensed others' thoughts, he heard them as spoken language. Even if he were reading someone who spoke a different language, those broadcast messages would be translated into his main language once he received them. Even emotions of fear, sadness, and happiness would be converted into words. This was a technique he learned in order to keep the thoughts of others from intruding against his will. If he did not convert them into words, then the meaningless information simply passed through him.
However, that did not happen.
This was something that could not be translated. Something that defied words invaded the boy's brain. This was something that preceded conversion into language. The world as it was perceived through the body's sensory organs before language acquisition. What might be described as a vision that could not be spoken of entered the boy in its entirety.
The boy was assaulted by the sensation of an invisible giant gripping his head with its massive hand.
A harsh metallic tone rang in his ears, and a stabbing pain penetrated both ears. His brain felt as if it was boiling. The information that he had diminished through language conversion rushed into his mind without end. Where was it coming from?
The boy looked around him, knowing it was in vain. His parents were asleep with their mouths half-open. The agent sitting in front of him showed nothing unusual. Among the passengers, there was only sporadic unease from the plane's unsteady flight.
It had to be coming from outside. There was no other answer. But could anyone have thoughts so powerful they could reach this passenger plane flying 10,000 meters in the sky, the boy wondered. However, this question was eradicated by the growing pain. Feeling something strange, the boy wiped his face with his hand, only to find it sticky with blood. At some point, his nose had started bleeding. His consciousness started fading away. He closed his eyes, but instead of darkness, he saw nothing but a pure-white light. He felt as if he would faint. In fact, this would be a desirable outcome compared to the pain of this unidentifiable intruder. He wished to leave this world. However, his mind, or rather his very existence, held on tightly and refused him any escape.
"External temperature, minus 46 degrees Celsius."
Suddenly, he heard a voice. And along with it, powerful gusts of wind buffeted him from the front. Where was he?
"One minute to dropoff. Move to the rear."
When he opened his eyes, a sharp orange light pierced through. The sun. The sun was rising from the gentle curve of the horizon. What is this?
"This is one for the history books; the world's first HALO jump."
Whose vision is this? The gusts of wind nearly blew the boy away.
"Spread your wings and fly! God be with you!" someone behind him shouted, and pressed against the boy's back. He waved his arms, but there was nothing for him to catch. Screaming a wordless scream, he plummeted to the green earth beneath at a frightening rate. The jungle that filled his view grew closer and closer. Plunging into the ground at this speed would most certainly kill him.
He closed his eyes, but the scenery did not change. He only dropped faster and faster. Stop! Help! He screamed again and again.
This was someone's vision. This wasn't reality. Though a part of him realized this, he could not escape from the fear he felt now.
Who are you? The boy asked as he fell. Who are you!?
The jungle answered him. The jungle changed form. No, something that had been covered by the giant ate its way out. It was the giant. What had been a jungle moments ago had transformed into the silhouette of a colossal man lying on the ground. The giant large enough to obscure the ground beneath looked up at the boy. The boy fell towards him.
The giant's body was covered in wounds, and his face was hidden beneath a layer of filthy bandages. What appeared to be a bony spike protruded from his head. He looked like a horned demon. This giant was the one who was showing this vision of descent.
The giant roared. This was not a noise that could have come from his bandaged face. It was a wail that was wrung out from the innermost recesses of that colossal frame that was lying like a corpse. It was something the boy had never heard before in his life, an eerie scream that could instantly char the soul of anyone who heard it. What is this? Was the giant lamenting something? The first thing the boy noticed was the sorrow and despair behind that scream. The grief of being left behind. The resulting sorrow and despair, But, that was only the shadow cast by that scream.
The giant spat forth an endless stream of rage. An acidic rage that could melt away the whole world, and his own existence. Or perhaps it was a crimson rage that could burn anything away in an instant. This rage was directed towards everything. Against the one who reduced the titan to this form, the one who consigned him to this solitude. That rage was the giant's energy source, as he attempted to mete his vengeance.
Against the world. Vengeance against the world.
He sensed such an answer from the giant. And, this matched something the boy had been lacking.
This is who I am.
Yes, this giant's rage is my rage. The boy came to a deep understanding. The unjustified discrimination, violence, and irrational treatment that the boy had been subjected to came surging back to him. Monster! Demon! So had the darkness of the world hunted him down. The supernatural powers that the boy had never asked for robbed him of a life as a human.
Yes, I must exact vengeance on this world. I must exact vengeance against the world that birthed me without my consent and then tried to dispose of me. With that thought, the fear he had felt vanished like a lie. I'm not scared of anything anymore. That is who I am. He and I will kill the world together.
Then, a wound on the giant's abdomen split open, and sucked the boy in. He and the giant had become one.
When the boy opened his eyes, the plane he had been riding in had transformed into a flying hell.
Everything around him was burning. The foul odor of burning hair and flesh, and the fumes of the burning chairs, floor, and fuselage stung his nasal membrane. The alarms alerted everyone to the danger, but it was already too late. The plane was filled with fire, smoke, and the final screams of the people within.
But, the boy was not the least bit afraid.
This was because he knew he was the one who had created this hell. He had now attained an ability that Soviet researchers would later determine to be pyrokinesis. The boy alone was isolated from this hell by a mental wall of his own creation. Only he could stand within this swirling hellscape with nary a single wound. He had reversed his life situation. The world that had hurt and attempted to eliminate him was burning, and he alone was unharmed.
His parents sitting beside him were immobilized within their seats, burning without being able to move even a single finger. It was as if they were sculptures of fire. The boy had held them in place with his psychokinesis. As they burned alive, the fear robbing them of any reason, they could not even scream.
Father, Mother, thank you for giving birth to me. For the first time, the boy had discovered a goal and joy in living. The world exists so that I can kill it.
And that's fine, he thought he heard the giant whispering to him.
The burning plane lost control and drew a bright red trail in the night sky as it fell. This sight would be remembered in various forms and interpretations. Some saw it as a burning phoenix, while others saw it as a shooting star of misfortune. Whether it would bring blessings to the world, or signal the opening act of a tragedy, that was a question none knew the answer to.
And, perhaps, the boy who would later be known under the codename Psycho Mantis never knew either, not to the very end.