Ashen Light Partial Dose

In the spiral. 

A circling black spiral. A mind tunnel. A sinking spiral. 

Laurence Glendale never really knew how to put it into words. It was a swift pass, but it’d been happening since he lost his parents in the accident. 

Of course, inheriting a billion dollar empire, helped soften the blow. But it did nothing for the visions of this spiral. It happened no matter what he tried. Thirty years and no solution so Laurence did the next best thing. 

Spent loads of money to make his life as leisurely as possible. He didn’t need to run the company. He didn’t need to make decisions. He could just choose to do or go somewhere and the myriad of hired assistants would take care of every detail. 

He wanted a certain food. They’d fetch it. If he hankered for some adventure, someone would book a vacation. His fortune and opportunities were endlessly, making it so he would never have to visit the same place twice. Unless he found a fondness. 

Except for museums, he’d learned that lesson already. 

No art. He didn’t need to exacerbate his hallucinations with something that would easily send him sailing into the spiral. 

It’d taken a long while to figure out that the art was the cause for the hallucinations. The rapid heartbeats, the heart attacks, the profuse anxiety, confusion and dizziness–

The spiral hallucinations. 

No better name for them. 

Laurence only discussed them with one person. His childhood butler, Henderson, knew well of his condition. He’d been there at every one of them to catch or provide medical care. 

So far, Laurence still lived his luxurious life. 

Calm and filled with all the amenities. 

As Laurence danced his way across the piano, he hummed the tunes and played in perfect synchronization. His musical talent was renowned. Or, use to be. Before he had a seizure during a performance. 

No more decent tunes. 

The notes were slightly off, not enough for most to tell, but he could. It wasn’t beautiful. It matched the dull decor of one out of hundreds of rooms. A giant room for a singular piano. Laurence sometimes laughed at his frugal spendings. The piano, the house, all of it might as well just been inserted into his life. Yet it didn’t mean he didn’t want them. 

A quiet knock tapped against the door. 

“Yup,” Laurence said. Now humming slightly out of tune before he started to grow an appreciation for his modified notes. 

Henderson, the butler and Laurence’s closest trusted friend, opened the door with perfect poise. Entering the room was a performance. An awkward one that seemed a bit clumsy. 

Laurence could swear the man never aged. He looked just as distinguished in a tux as the day his parents died. 

“Excuse the interruption,” Henderson said perfectly. “You’re private ride is finished fueling. Runway four, set for the Grand Canyon as per you’re request.”

Laurence stopped his playing and said, “Thanks, I’ll head down there in a couple of minutes.”

“Very well,” Henderson said. He stepped to the side and stood straighter than an iron beam, simply waiting patiently to follow his master. 

Laurence placed his fingers back on the correct keys. But, at the last second, decided he was done playing. He never felt like playing when he was sad. He shut the cover and sighed heavily. 

Henderson spoke up, “Something on your mind, sir.”

Laurence stared at his dear friend for ages. 

Henderson matched his intensity. 

“Can we talk as friends?” Laurence said, never leaving his seat. 

Henderson dropped his facade. He relaxed, grabbed a chair, and sat next to the piano. 

“Of course, Laurence,” Henderson said. His professional wall dropped as he leaned back in the chair. “What’s up? Talk freely with me.” 

Laurence sulked for a minute. He wasn’t sure how to word his concerns. 

“Did something change with the hallucinations? Do you need me to cancel the Grand–”

“No, no, no, nothing like that. It’s just,” Laurence said. “Do you think I’m squandering myself?” 

It had only become a problem recently. Usually he could brush off the spiral, the dreams, and anything else that tended to make him feel bad. But, this had been nagging him for a while like a tiny drill under his skin. 

“Was it something you saw in your last episode?” Henderson asked. 

Laurence nodded. It happened when he tried sculptures. He thought maybe their 3-D effect would sedate his desire. 

Nope. A seizure happened the second he found a piece he wanted to buy for Henderson. And, of course, he ended up smashing it when he stumbled to the ground. 

Not his best day. He made him feel out of sorts. Clumsy and irresponsible. 

“Don’t worry,” Henderson said. “The thought was what mattered to me.”

Laurence rubbed his eyes and slapped his cheeks. Just like with the hallucinations, he brushed off the negative feelings. That was Henderson’s main job. Catching him whenever he fell. 

It made Laurence smile. And it dissipated some of the regret. 

Henderson stood and, like a switch, sauntered with poise towards the door. “You ready?”

“Yeah,” Laurence said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky, and I’ll find it super ugly.”

“Won’t know unless we try, my friend,” Henderson said.

Laurence snatched his favorite notebook from a side table and followed his butler friend. 

It was finally time to experience another spiral. All for the sake of beauty. 

*****

A plane ride. A car ride. Laurence’s staff acted as shepherds, taking care of him every step of the way. It trip was smoothed to perfection, like a brand new sidewalk. In the back of the car, Laurence rummaged through his notebook. 

Each page was an exquisitely written poem of each location he’d visited since the seizures started whenever he’d face the beauty of real art. The list had started with one, and now stretched more than ninety percent of the pages. Each one was an experience. A description and loaded poetry creation that reminded Laurence of the places he no longer could visit. 

The Grand Canyon was just another bullet. One he’d surprisingly avoided for so long. This would ruin landscapes for him. It was the entire reason why he avoided peering out the plane windows or catching some of the rolling hills when on the open road. Already the ocean was a no go thanks to the sunsets given by Florida. The northern lights eliminated the north. And the forests of South America prevented him from enjoyed the flower fields of Japan. 

Now, Laurence decided, it was time for the ultimate test. If he was going to remember a landscape, he wanted to enjoy the most majestic of all sceneries. 

Or he could get lucky and end up seeing no appeal to the hole in the ground. Which, honestly, seemed like a great outcome for Laurence. At least then he could visit it without freaking out. 

“Sir,” Henderson parked the car and rushed over to Laurence’s door. 

Laurence kept his eyes tightly shut. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake as the Mona Lisa. He peeked back then, and never really got the final look he wanted. He’d regretted it every since. This time he was going to be good. This time, if it did happen, he wanted to at least remember every excruciating detail. 

Henderson took his hand and guided him through the parking lot. They passed tourists and families, but none gave attention to the rich man being led to the newest installment. 

“Here comes the glass,” Henderson said. 

“I’ll do the rest,” Laurence responded. 

“Of course, sir.”

Laurence released his guide’s hand. A group of other men protected him from a distance, just as always. He took careful, controlled steps across the artificial structure, a skywalk constructed of a glass floor so anyone could truly experience looking down into the canyon. 

Laurence’s shoes squeaked across the glass. Slowly, he approached the opposite end and leaned against the side so he was positioned to get the perfect, unobstructed view of the best part of the Grand Canyon. 

He was ready. The air rushed through his loose hair. His blood boiled with adrenaline and excitement. The rush curled his lower stomach as if he was falling from the top of Everest, another structure he one day hoped to put his eyes upon. He wanted to spot the river. He wanted the smearing, water colors to–

He was getting ahead of himself. He wanted it to be ugly. He wanted so bad for the scene to appear completely dull and make the trip a colossal waste of time. But, his instincts told him otherwise. 

And it made him irrationally angry. Just as with the other times, he wasn’t going to get a choice in the matter. 

He forced himself to open his eyes. 

And saw art. 

Extreme beauty. 

And alien spaceships. The classic silver saucer, an invasion of them as they descended on the canyon. 

People screamed, panicked, and scurried in every direction, all in hopes to understand or escape the army flashing through the atmosphere. 

A few discs descended towards the river, some landed at the tip of structures, while the gold one formed at the center of the flying mass. 

Laurence managed to tear himself away from the perfect picture. The last look he’d ever get of the Grand Canyon. 

The sauzers produced drills and tools, and started sifting through the rock to collect and analyze. 

Laurence looked back. Henderson was no longer with him. 

“Alright,” Laurence said. He stretched his arms, his back, and hopped up onto the edge of the barrier that kept people from tumbling over. He balanced without any trouble, ripped his jacket and shirt just so he could show off his chiseled body to the aliens. 

“Let’s do this,” he said to himself. 

The wind picked up and surrounded Laurence at his command. He could control the gusts like they were another body part. Those zephyrs carried him as if he weighed nothing. They churned and swirled together to keep him aloft. 

An alien ship became covered with a blue liquid, its size comparable to a car, and dive bombed. 

Laurence planned to give them a warm human welcome. He pointed his hands towards the incoming craft. He gathered the wind, collected photons and waves of particles, he called on heat and sun itself to gather into his arms. 

With a swift grunt, a glowing yellow-orange laser fired out from his body with the force of a  missile. 

The spaceship was incinerated on impact. No explosion. It was just erased from existence. 

One down. 

A fleet to go. 

Laurence used the wind as a spring and flew towards the prime golden ship, the commander, his target as he stretched one fist out so he could drive through its hull. 

He’d destroy them in one quick–

“I’d watch out.”

Laurence flinched towards the voice to his left but not before firing a premature laser. 

It struck a yellow field that covered the entire ship. The laser light dissipated upon touching the mothership. It’s reflective surface turned a brilliant cerulean and reflected the light back in its own dense laser fire. 

Laurence froze, distracted by the man clad in a tight jacket and hood, who’d appeared at his side. 

“Hey, how ya’ doing?” the man waved while flying beside. “Cross the Styx, and come beyond the edges. Or whatever I said last time.” 

Laurence growled under his breath and was about to bite back with harsh words. 

But he was struck by the bounced beam. 

The explosion rocked the entire canyon. Some structures fell to pieces and buried a saucer in the process. 

Laurence, protected by the wind, was blown backwards through the glass and into the side of a deep ravine. The seemingly vertical wall crumbled to pieces and a landslide buried Laurence in a deep grave. 

A hardy scream shoved aside all the debris. Boulders, trees, and dirt were blown away in a second. 

Laurence, practically cooking from the heat, remained laying on the ground. He never remembered it hurting so bad. 

“Yeah, sorry about that.” 

Laurence jolted up and slapped his legs in an exasperating huff. “Really?” he said. “Now, seriously! I told you last time to leave me the hell alone!”

The man’s face was hidden under a blacker-than-normal hood. He leaned against a nearby stump and laughed out loud.

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” the man said. “Have you had time to think about my proposal?”

“Why would I?” Laurence kept his eye on the spaceship. For now, it wasn’t retaliating, only collecting pieces of the canyon. “The last time you showed up, I couldn’t remember my hallucination for a week. You think–”

“Yeah, yeah,” the man interrupted. “I can’t help that. It’s a side effect.”

Laurence rolled his eyes, and said, “A side effect of what? You getting me killed? I told you I just like enjoying the moments I have.”

“But, you could, you know, not worry about that if you take my deal. I could just ‘boop’ help you deal with it,” he said, snapping his fingers. 

The ships circled like vultures. 

Waiting

The man looked up, but still didn’t show any face somehow, “Might want to decide. They’re ready to dissect the fuck out of you.”

Laurence’s attention was divided. It shifted between the saucers and the man. 

His memory came back in quick pieces. 

The first meeting–the man had shown up just as abruptly, right in the middle of a monster fight when Laurence made the mistake of finding Sydney breathtaking. 

No name. No warning. The hooded man manifested in a flash of light–

“Yeah, blah blah blah, I presented to you a deal,” the man said. “I…modify your neat little problem. You do something for me. Simple, right?”

The same as last time. 

Laurence couldn’t trust the guy. 

Yet–

“Why me?” Laurence said. “At least answer me that. You wouldn’t last time.” 

The aliens couldn’t find them and continued causing devastation above. 

The man said, “Because you’re rich, simple as that. And you seem like you want to help me.”

Laurence was curious. He was tempted. He was–

The mothership echoed a vibrating, metallic noise and started gathering light around its hull. 

“Better decide now,” the man said. “You can actually die, you know.”

The light grew brighter and brighter by the moment. The winds roared into a hurricane that produced multiple tornadoes. 

“Not really giving me much of a choice!” Laurence yelled over the overbearing gusts. 

None of the weather affected the hooded figure. 

He simply chuckled and said, “Is that a yes?”

The ship fired its destructive, world ending–

The hallucination fizzled away as Laurence gave a hardy nod. The hooded man faded away like a ghost, one with two thumbs up and a jeering smirk. 

Everything returned to normal in an instant. Laurence fell backwards into the arms of Henderson, who provided a towel and water for the following seizure. 

Laurence clamored on the glass to his side and rode it out as the crowd gathered in curiosity. 

Henderson held him steady, a worried scrunch of his face. 

Laurence had absorbed the beauty. The image of the Grand Canyon, as he panted and breathed through bared teeth, would remain in his mind forever. It would be added to the notebook, and left for his memories. 

Laurence fell into the spiral. Billions of dollars, a hooded man, Henderson–nothing could stop the violent tremors triggered through his love of beauty. 

Just before passing out, Laurence spotted the hooded figure in the back of the crowd. 

A thumbs up. 

“I’ll be in touch,” he said. 

Lightning–

Laurence passed into the spiral. His hallucinations ended for the moment. And as his friend helped him to the car for aid, Laurence started to regret everything again. 

Not only was he going to never be able to put eyes on the Grand Canyon, now he needed to figure out what he’d agreed to, and what the hooded man had in store.

End of Part 1

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