My story starts out like the typical schlock that Hollywood pumps out every month. A man has everything, and in one dreadful instant, he’s lost it all. Now with nothing left to lose, the man sets out to avenge all that he’s lost and to regain his manhood. This man is stoic, brave, cunning, and intelligent, and through violence, dominance, and faux-heroism, he shows the audience that he’s still worthy of being called a man, no that he is still worthy as a human. But that’s what all these revenge power fantasies miss; no manhood, there is no humanity, nothing of value in the quest for vengeance.
The man in this story was named Luke, and it began eight years ago. I had spent the day taking my family out to the beach; as soon as the sun started setting, we began to pack up. I’ll never forget the auburn rays of light and the shimmering sea. My daughter Natalie was four years old at the time and had just become fascinated by stars, being so young she didn’t quite understand what they were. As we were leaving, she pointed at the water and asked if the little twinkling lights were stars. My wife Lydia and I found her curiosity amusing, A sign that she was going to be a bright child. As I started the car, I placed a gentle hand on the little bump forming in my wife’s stomach. She placed her’s over mine, and I knew at that moment that I was truly content.
It happened in a split second, a single point in time seared into my being for the rest of my life. One moment I was driving down the highway, taking the time to adjust the radio, and the next, my chest is screaming in pain as an immense pressure forces me into my seat. Then the weightlessness of space comes over me, and the last thing I see before it all fades to black is little shards of glass floating across my field of vision. I have the strange thought of how the headlights reflecting off them make them look like little twinkling stars.
I awoke several hours later in a hospital bed; the white rooms and beeping machines instantly made my heart sink. I tried to get up only to see that my left leg was in a cast. My questions about my wife and child were ignored the first few times until a doctor very calmly confirmed my worst fears; there were only two survivors. Me and the culprit, my antagonist, the subject of vengeance, a man named Henry Colston.
Henry was a Wallstreet bigshot, ran a very successful investment firm, and had a wealth vast enough to gain him an abundance of luxuries unimaginable to a man of my class. One of those luxuries was abusing the justice system. He was found guilty for manslaughter, but it didn’t mean anything. All he got was a suspended jail sentence and a few years probation, while I had lost everything at the age of 32. Goes to show what a good lawyer can do, and for a man Like Henry, it only cost him the equivalent of a few dollars.
The thing that hurt most, the thing that cemented my need to tear down this man and make him pay for all he had done, was when he testified and shifted the blame onto me. Even if the majority of the court didn’t side with him, I knew that a few would and that burned. I made a promise then that I would devote as much time and effort as possible to see all his accomplishments crumble and fade away.
It was a lot easier than I thought; a few years, a name change, dyed hair, and a beard was all it took to be hired as part of his landscaping crew. I spent the next two years scouting his vast estate; I learned every nook and cranny of it. When the time was right, I snuck into his house and planted a keylogger on his personal computer. Over the next year, I would collect personal information and passwords. I also discreetly started planting illegal content in hidden files on his computer. Child porn, to be exact, looking back on it, I realized how fucked up that was. Using the exploitation and abuse of children for my gain, but that’s what the pursuit of vengeance does. It dehumanizes every aspect of a person and their lives; you reading this aren’t so different. I realize now that people’s morals are actually quite twisted and malicious, and they just delude themselves into thinking that they’re not. How many times do people casually throw around comments about how they would kill those who bring harm to them and their loved ones. Heavy statements thrown around so lightly is indicative of the kind of collective morals our society holds. The pursuit of revenge is not only condoned but glorified to an extent. But what most people don’t truly realize is the cost of every action, and the price of revenge dwarfs all preconceived notions.
After another year of slowly setting up my plans, I left an anonymous tip with the FBI. They confiscated Henry’s computer; he was confident that they wouldn’t find anything. I wish I were around to see his face when they told him about the files they found. He was arrested, he paid bail pretty quickly and was back at his estate only to find that his bank accounts had been emptied. Next, I posted several anonymous accusations online of Henry being a sexual abuser, sent a few messages to prominent internet blogs and news sites. Within a day, the online world was flooded with articles of his supposed abuse. Hordes of online users condemned and viciously attacked Henry; someone leaked his address, and before long, death threats and other abuse were hurled at Henry in the real world. His wife of 20 years announced her plans of divorce and revealed that she was no longer living with Henry.
I didn’t stop there, I organized a mass protest of his firm, and within a week, Henry was forced to resign from the company he had spent his entire life building. Henry’s life was virtually destroyed; at the age of 52, he was broke, alone, hated, legacy in ruins, he had nothing left to live for. It wasn’t enough for me; no, I had to be there at the height of his despair; I wanted to tell him that this was what he deserved for what he did to me. I wanted to see his face, the agony of knowing that he did this to himself, I wanted to see him realize that there was no way out of the hell I had created, and most importantly, I wanted to see him give in and take his own life. I wanted to savor the sheer depths of suffering I had brought to this man, to know that I had the strength to avenge my grievances.
I broke into his house on the night before he was due back at court, armed with a revolver. I found Henry slumped in a chair in the middle of his living room, his back to me. I aimed my gun and cocked the hammer. Hearing the noise, he turned around to face me, an expression of recognition carved into his visage.
“You know who I am?”
“So you know that what you did to me justifies what I have done to you.”
“I see, I guess I should think so.”
“Smug to the very end.”
“End?” he asked.
I threw Henry a little capsule I had prepared, a cyanide pill. He caught it and examined it closely, taking a few moments for him to realize what it was and what I wanted.
“I guess it’s only fair for it to end like this,” he said.
“I learned a long time ago that nothing in this life is fair. You taught me that; you destroyed my life. This is only the price you have to pay.”
Henry gave me an almost sad smile before placing the pill between his molars. I drew closer, wanting to witness the moment he bit down on it. I was in a near euphoric state, eight years of planning finally paying off. From the corners of my vision, I saw a familiar sight, little lights, like stars, started appearing. I recalled the fateful day that bound us, Natalie asking if the shimmering ocean water was filled with stars, Lydia’s soft hand over mine, the life growing inside her, shattered glass caught in mid-flight, twinkling like stars. It all came rushing back to me in the most literal way possible. A blast of pressure flung and pinned me to the ground, my limbs went limp, and I felt that familiar weightlessness that exists in the split second of a car crash. The lights that I mistook as stars coalesced and started taking form before my very eyes. Henry stood up, a smug grin on his face; he spoke as the lights became more defined.
“You think I didn’t know about your scheming? I’ve known for years; I knew exactly what was going to happen and how.”
I tried to say something, but the words died before they even formed, I tried to reach for my gun, but my body refused to even respond. It was as if some invisible force was pinning me down.
“You see Luke, ever since I was young, the otherworldly and metaphysical has fascinated me. It wasn’t until I made a name for myself when I had the funds to indulge in my interests. In the decade I spent searching, I never found a single thing. So you can imagine my shock when something found me.”
I was still struggling to move when the once abstract form the lights materialized into something physical. The being that stood before me defiled all laws of natural biology. It couldn’t have been something created in our world; no, this being must’ve originated from some recess of existence so foreign to our own that to see it unfiltered would surely drive most to madness. The closest thing it resembled was a cephalopod, long gnarled tentacles twisting and writhing through the air. Where a mantle should have been instead contained a massive gaping maw, fangs filling the crevice. A single eye, larger than my head, was set at the center of its body; it gazed unto our world with unrivaled curiosity.
“Ah, you’re finally here, we can begin. First want to apologize truly, what happened was unfortunate. I would have gladly gone to prison in an attempt to atone for my sins. But, fate interfered, and I had to fight to stay out of prison. See, shortly after our accident, I came into contact with the being you see before you, it offered me a chance to leave this world for another, it promised to show me planes of existence unknown to man. It showed me the future that awaited me, so we planned. We knew exactly what would occur tonight eight years ago, and it’s exactly what we wanted.”
The otherworldly being focused its gaze on me, and I felt myself being lifted off the ground. I was levitating now and was able to look around, but my body was still unresponsive.
“You see, in order for us to open a gateway into the upper recesses of the astral planes, a sacrifice must be made. However, it can’t be just any sacrifice. The person most intimate with you has to be sacrificed. My wife and I had been drifting apart for years; she wouldn’t fit the criteria. However, you devoted almost a decade to me; in a way, we’re closer than lovers. You know me better than my own parents, so it’ll have to be you, Luke, there is no other way.”
I wanted to scream, but still, no sound would escape my lips. I saw a limp body move into view; it was lifted and suspended in mid-air by forces beyond my comprehension, forces surly belonging to the entity. I tried to make out whos body it was; I thought for a moment that maybe Henry had lured someone else into here. It was the clothes that gave it away; I recognized the black sweater it wore as my own, silent screams flooded my every thought. Somehow, my consciousness had been separated from my body.
“Fortunately for you, we only need your physical body. See, the physical can’t travel into the outer realms, but the mind can. It’s said that some extraordinarily gifted people can project segments of their consciousness into the astral planes, but for ordinary people like me, this is the only way. I hope that you can forgive me for this one final cruelty.”
I saw Henry’s body fall limp, and he collapsed onto the floor. Streams of light flowed from his body and convened into a singular brilliant orb. The orb moved through the air and settled next to the entity. My body was lifted higher into the air before its limbs contorted and snapped back. The sounds of breaking bones reverberated throughout the room. I was left powerless and could only watch as my body collapse into itself. Ribs and spinal segments punctured the skin, blood and entrails pooled and were forced back into the fleshy mass my body was compressed into. Inexplicable despair filled my being as I watched my body being crushed and forced into a singular tiny point suspended in midair. It shrunk to the size of a needle’s head before it blinked out of existence. A rift immediately replaced the singularity beyond its threshold, a swirling tempest of colors so brilliant and vivid to call them anything but beautiful would be dishonest. Further still, I could see a realm of celestial bodies; I thought I saw them form the image of a massive cosmic eye.
“Thank you for your sacrifice; tonight wouldn’t have been possible without you.”
I saw the orb of light; Henry’s consciousness entered the rift and ascended into the worlds that lay beyond. The being that had performed this strange ritual gave me one final glare and spoke a single word.
It then turned and entered the rift, the portal closing as soon as it crossed. The distinct sensation of falling came over me as I felt myself being lowered. The last thing I saw before fading into unconsciousness was Henry’s lifeless body.
I awoke the next day with a start, momentarily believing my encounter to have been a wild hallucination. When I tried to get up, I knew something was wrong; my body felt off as if it was foreign to me; I got up and ran to the nearest mirror. I fell into hysterics upon seeing the face of Henry staring back at me. All that had happened, all that I had suffered only to be left with this. I trashed the place, I screamed, cried, and found the cyanide pill on the floor. I hold it now in between my teeth, unsure if I have the strength to bite down. I promised myself that I would write down my tale, let the world know what had happened, even if no one would believe it.
All that time spent planning and scheming meant nothing now. My convictions are shattered, my will is broken, it's as if my very being has been violated. Maybe if I had spent the time seeking closure instead of vengeance. What did I even expect to happen after I achieved my revenge? I would still be the same broken man, now with nothing to live for. I had never planned to move on, never planned for peace of mind. I was so caught up in my quest for vindication that I lost sight of any real end. Maybe the cost of vengeance is that there is no end, nothing that brings you to an end that you desire. As I roll the cyanide pill between my molars, I like to think that the cost has finally been paid.