Henry Mars is a nonbinary author living in Florida, living with their fiancé and a rambunctious cat named Arcadia. Born in the hallowed year of 1998, they grew up playing video games, watching movies, and reading books, absorbed in the various ways stories are told throughout different types of media. Wanting to create impactful stories like the ones they grew up with, they started out writing fanfiction and gradually progressed towards writing their own stories. They adore anything fantasy, supernatural, macabre, strange, and unusual, and incorporate those elements in nearly anything they write to create a world all their own.
All That Ends Will Begin
The ancient stone cathedral stands alone in the center of the ghost town, with gargoyles perched on each corner of the roof. They glower over the ghosts of what used to be Foreset with eyes hollow and stony; grizzly visages to either ward off evil or invite it with their gaping maws stuffed with stony fangs and lolling twisting tongues. Hunched carved statues with claws and fangs bared, as if they may spot their prey at any moment and take off to hunt them down, their spiny tails mid-lash. Despite their ghastly appearances, however, the nesting of birds in their crevices soften their look, and the cobwebs stringing across their faces show the signs of their age. The many steeples of the church reach into the sky, but they don’t end in the traditional spires or crosses. Instead, they branch out, resembling the antlers of a buck, or sinister claws trying to rake the heavens and drag the stars or clouds down to earth with it. Dilapidated houses radiate from this great hallowed epicenter, in various states of ruin brought on by time. Some thatched roofs are missing, while entire stone walls have been eroded. Climbing ivy cloaks them all, many-leafed arms trying to drag the skeletal remains of a once-booming town into the earth and creating the graveyard it has always been destined to be.
The sun is beginning its descent into the afternoon, and although the shadow the cathedral casts is slight, it is still eerily dark as it overtakes some nearby abandoned houses. No land fauna stir; it’s disturbingly quiet. Even the trees seem to be holding their breath despite the breeze winding its way through the valley.
Hamil stands at the edge of the Goritha Valley. At this height, he could make eye-contact with the southmost gargoyle, though from a great distance. He pulls out his compass, cross-references this with his map, but there is no need. The air hums with energy, the ground trying to pull him down into the valley. He knows this is the place. Sheathing his things, he begins his climb down into the old ghost town of Foreset, where Yyndir sleeps.
Hamilton “Hamil” Freyer wasn’t a bookworm. He wasn’t smart, nor an adventurer. He wasn’t a chaser of Old Gods or other mythological things.
No, Hamil used to be a clerk at a thrift store in Aspirations, California, a highway-side town with little visitors and quiet culture. Sure, there was the odd kid here and there, and family drama occasionally with gossip that spreads like wildfire, but for the most part, it was peaceful. Aspirations was the kind of town where you could easily know everybody there and immediately recognize who was lost on a road trip, who was just passing through, or who wanted to cause trouble. Hamil’s life was simple: wake up, eat breakfast, drink some coffee, go to work at the thrift shop, come home, watch TV, go to bed. Rinse and repeat for days, weeks, months, and years.
However, on a single, innocuous Tuesday, the world blindsided him spectacularly.
Around noontime, a tall man cloaked in black walked into the Opportune Moment Thrift Shop and immediately up to Hamil. He seemed suspicious, but it did nothing to deter the clerk’s friendly mood towards any customer. Treat others as you would like to be treated, and the like.
“Hi, welcome to the Opportune Moment,” Hamil said immediately, reciting the same greeting for everyone who wanted to take advantage of the saying, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” “How may I help you today?”
The man — or was it a woman? It was hard to tell — held out their hand, and inside their black-gloved palm was a golden coin, the size of a half-dollar. Hamil peered over the counter and took in the antiquity of it. It looked almost like a prop in a pirate movie, decorated with weaving patterns encircling a crest that looked quite akin to the branching antlers of a buck. Upon closer inspection, the weaving patterns seemed to wiggle into words reading, “Vita generat mortem. Vita mortem generat. Omnia est exolvuntur.” Hamil didn’t know Latin at the time, but the sight of the coin and the words perturbed him.
“Uh — hm, sir?” Hamil began nervously. “I believe you may find more luck for this at a pawn shop, o-or, perhaps, a museum? Perhaps Stanford would gratefully take this, um…coin?”
The voice coming from the person sounded like it came from a vocoder, or some voice-scrambling device; the tone was hard to discern, but it sort of sounded insistent, almost demanding. They lifted their hand up slightly, indicating for Hamil to take it. He hesitated, however.
“Yyndir quaerere,” came the distorted voice again from beneath the strange shadow of the low-brimmed hat, gesturing once more for him to take the coin. “Non elegit te.”
Hamil looked at the figure. “I-I’m sorry, I, um, don’t understand what you’re saying. Uh…language? Parlez-vous francais? Habla espanol? I-I can get you a translator if you’d like–”
“Accipere: et intelligere.”
They seemed…desperate? The vocoder disrupting their speech made it hard to tell. Hamil cautiously reached out and took the coin. As soon as his fingers touched the engraved golden surface, he felt an electric shock run from the point of contact, up his arm, through his back, and straight into his brain. In a rush that made him wobble in place, the world weaved in and out in strange bleeding colors too vivid to properly describe without some sort of color wheel to compare it to; like taking acid, something he hasn’t done since his delinquent juvenile days. He felt the whole universe linked, the energy of every living being pulsating and breathing as one, then two, the four…on and on until it was too loud, all those wheezing lungs an eternal fog clouding his mind. Whispering indiscernible secrets, words overlapping into nothing but the wind, tidal waves crashing endlessly on the shore of his consciousness, a roaring, thunderous tide–
“Find me. Wake me.”
It lasted an eternity, it felt, but when Hamil finally blinked, the world was set back to normal. The clock on the wall read 12:07. He looked up at the stranger.
“Wh…” He tried to speak, but his tongue felt like cotton.
“Sic factum est,” said the stranger, but Hamil this time could understand what they were saying. It has been done. WIthout a further word, the stranger turned and walked out of the store, leaving a dumbfounded clerk behind, holding a golden coin that — somehow — he knew held the secrets of the cosmos; a burden pressing on his shoulders as the sole person responsible for turning the key and unlocking them.
Find me. Wake me.
At first, Hamil thought he had been dreaming, somehow dozing at his post in the sleepy town’s equally sleepy thrift store. But the coin…an overbearing presence in his palm, the metal always cool no matter how much he held it or spent time thumbing it over and over in his pocket. The weight of the pure gold, nothing compared to the secrets it contained, the words etched into it barely scratching the surface of its enigmatic origins: Life begets death. Death begets life. All is a cycle. The barely-there whispers, crooning in languages long-since dead, almost unintelligible in how distant and quiet they sounded, but Hamil knew all the same what it was doing; it beseeched to be found and awoken, to fulfill a purpose.
Find me. Wake me.
This wasn’t a dream. Far from it. This was a new reality being created.
Hamil was never a bookish man, but after that day, he resigned from his job as a clerk and traveled from library to library to search for this…Yyndir, the stranger spoke of. The one who wanted to wake up. The one who broke through the ocean of noise and begged to be awoken.
It proved to not be an easy task. Stanford’s library was vast, but nothing about this Yyndir could be found. Same with the Geisel Library at San Diego, the Boston College Bapst Library, the Chicago University Library…and Hamil was hopeless with technology as well; his phone almost decorative in utility, he could barely figure out how to answer it half the time (not many people called him; he was old enough to have lost all but a few distant relatives and their children and children’s children). Computers became more commonplace when he was in his mid-twenties, and cellphones not long after, but in his college days he was more social in-person, a bit of a party guy. A Bs and Cs student with the occasional A if he liked the class enough. And he never took any classes on mythology. In his old age, he knew there was no shame in asking for help, yet he still felt embarrassed when he asked a much younger student in the library for assistance with the computers and researching. There were no results for Yyndir, but looking up professors in mythology, he found one: Thomass Scotty, an expert on Norse and Greek Mythology, living in rural Montana.
When he met Thomass, Hamil was surprised at his youth. There had been no picture of him online, only a number, email, and address for his office on the campus of Vara University. He looked to be in his forties, if not younger, his glasses thin-rimmed and enunciating the crow’s feet gained from many years of reading. His temples had wisps of grey, contrasting the balding cotton-white Hamil still retained. Thomass greeted him warmly and invited him to a drink of bourbon while they discussed the matters at hand.
Hamil pulled out the coin to let Thomass inspect it, reluctantly handing it over to him. Something inside of Hamil didn’t want to let the coin out of his range of touch. Find me. Wake me. The voice was still audible; it seems as if only Hamil could hear it. The expert on mythology didn’t appear to be affected like Hamil had been when he first touched it, which struck him as odd. Does the coin only feel so heavy with me? Can only I hear it? Pulling out a magnifying glass, he appraised the coin all over.
“Hmm…a curious artifact indeed,” he rumbled. “And you say this is Yyndir?”
Getting up from the desk, Thomass walked to a shelf and pulled out a thin, weathered leather journal. He sat back down across Hamil and opened it.
“Yyndir is The One Who Sleeps,” he explained, thumbing through the fragile yellowed pages. They smelled old and musty as he turned each one. “But she is also known by another name: The One Who Ends All. She is the daughter of Eikthyrnir, a daughter lost to much of recorded history. There is a brief mention of her in this journal by Freydis Eriksdottir, claiming to have witnessed her birth. Deer, as well as goats, were much revered by the Nordic Vikings, as they were hunted for food and nourishment, which is why their mythic figures took the forms of worshipped wildlife. It was even said from Eikthyrnir’s horns flowed water which blessed the world with life. Yyndir, however, was rumored to be jealous, because she didn’t get the same love and recognition her father did. There is a good reason why: when she roamed the forests, instead of life, she brought death. Every patch of grass where her hoof fell died instantly, withering to ash. Every squirrel that dashed across her path instantly fell over and shriveled up as if having been dead for a thousand years. This caused her to be reviled by the vikings.” He stopped on a page and paused to read it.
“Hm, it says here Yyndir was put to rest by her father. The two clashed in a mighty battle, and Yyndir was speared through her heart by her father’s life-giving antlers. However, instead of dying, her soul was sealed away. It is said her soul will be restored when…’It is time to reset the throne of reality; Overturn the crown of life, weave a new tapestry of destruction; Rulers with pearls instead of diamonds; Peons with gold instead of dirt; Reset, rebirth, the cycle forevermore.’”
Hamil’s eyes flitted to the coin. It was motionless on the table, yet the whispers still plagued this mind.
Find me. Wake me.
“…So…if she were to wake up…?”
Thomass closed the book. “It would be like pushing a reset button, I believe,” he told him. “But of course, this is just mythology. This is what they believed in.”
“Does it say where she sleeps?”
“The vikings believed the battle happened in Valhalla, around the roots of the Tree of Life. It was thought her death at the roots of Yggdrasil would cleanse her of her death-bringing divinity, and when she was reborn, or re-awoken, she would be pure again. However, there used to be a town, Foreset. The entirety of the town worshipped Yyndir, and believed she slept beneath their cathedral, the Church of the Forgotten. This town actually wanted to revive Yyndir and reset the world, but their malpractices of death slowly ate away at the occupants of Foreset until everyone either died or moved away. In plain terms: the residents of Foreset were a town-wide cult, heavily misguided, and in my eyes, they got what they deserved. The remains of this town rest in the Goritha Valley, untouched for over a century.” There was a pause, and Thomass asked, “Mr. Freyer, while I am happy to educate anyone on my profession, why are you asking this?”
Hamil fingered his glass of bourbon, contemplating the golden liquid, then finished it in one gulp.
“Mr. Scotty, sir…,” he began hesitantly, “…I don’t think I’d be able to tell you even if I tried.”
The town of Foreset had looked creepy from on top of the valley, but down here, it’s even worse. The cobblestone paths connecting the town have all but been taken over by loose yellow sand and sparse, dead weeds. The houses loom over him, and they seem claustrophobic up close. Their wooden frames have been warped with age, and the ivy menacingly overtakes them all. The garden plots framing some houses have been reduced to nothing but rigid stalks stripped of leaves. Everything is quiet as a cemetery. Hamil’s footsteps dip into the sand with each step; the ground seemingly trying to steal him too.
Find me. Wake me. The church. Go to it.
He makes his way towards the church. In his hand, he holds the coin. For so long, it has been consistently cold, but as he grows nearer and nearer to the cathedral, it warms, even vibrating slightly in an incomprehensible excitement. When Hamil reaches the doors, the sun is kissing the horizon, casting the whole valley in darkness. A crisp, dry wind blows through the ghost town, making a hollow noise as it blows through the empty windows and broken walls of Foreset. Hamil shudders and takes a brief moment to pull out and turn on his flashlight before yanking the heavy oak door open. Even with all his strength, the door opens slowly, scraping against the stone and creating a dull, harsh sound that echoes throughout the cathedral.
The cathedral is enormous inside, but impossibly dark. If not for the flashlight, Hamil could have believed he’d had his eyes closed while walking in. The narrow beam of golden light catches the disturbed dust as he swings it around to capture broken-down pews, a rotted altar, and torn tapestries depicting a black deer with golden antlers branching out to the heavens. With no windows, the claustrophobic feeling worsens despite the grand interior.
Find me. Wake me. Forward, to the altar.
Hamil walks inside cautiously, holding the coin out like a compass. It gets warmer steadily the further he goes, down the center of the broken pews and ragged carpeting until he reaches the pulpit, where the minister must have stood to deliver their teachings to the followers. A podium made of rotted wood stands there, embedded with the multi-branching symbol of Yyndir. Papers are scattered about; ramblings of sermons are scribbled on them, brittle with age and indecipherable with time. They crackle as Hamil steps over them, towards the back of the chancel where the altar sits atop what looks to be a casket, an inexplicable magnet to him.
Bones are strewn about it, mostly of vermin. Sacrifices, assumedly. Yyndir’s symbol decorates it, this time made of actual deer antlers. Dead flowers, a breath away from dust, wreathe the altar as it sits on the polished, somehow unrotted casket. The coin burns hot now, and seems to be pulling Hamil’s hand towards the center of it, where a circular indent lies in the chestnut wood. Cautiously, he puts the coin into the indent. It fits perfectly, and the cathedral rattles. The air feels like weights in his lungs, suddenly toxic and heavy. Some force paralyzes his limbs, keeping him from running no matter how hard he tries to will his limbs to move. He hears whisperings, moanings, the walls pulsating around him like heartbeats or breathing.
Suddenly, darkness surrounds him, truly and utterly, and with it a silence deeper than any Hamil has ever known. The air, cold and null, invades him, filling him with the same feeling of non-existence. He realizes then his eyes are closed. With the difficulty of opening his eyes underwater, he peels them open.
And comes face-to-face with Yyndir.
The void around them, this dimension, is black, but her lithe body is even blacker, distinctly so. She stands as tall as the cathedral itself, so much so that to hold her in his sights is impossible; she has her head lowered to meet him. Her antlers, golden and extending higher than Hamil can see, shine brilliantly into this nonexistent space. Try as he might, though, he can’t crane his neck to try and see their tips. He can’t move anything. He is stuck staring into her emerald-green eyes, clear as water and mesmerizing.
“Hamilton Freyer,” she greets, her voice emotionless, her mouth unmoving. “Descended from Freydis Eriksdottir, the one who witnessed my birth and reported my death. You have returned my soul to me. I thank you, for now I can restore my purpose to this world.”
Hamil finds himself helpless to do anything but stare. This feels like an acid trip. The memory crashes into him unbidden: a waterfall of woozy booze and bitter tabs dissolving on his tongue, but he knows this is no trip.
“By awakening me from my sordid slumber, this reality will be reborn. And as so many times before, it is the one who awakens who becomes the next One Who Sleeps.”
Hamil can feel something spark within his body. An ember, or maybe a small fragment of electricity. It starts spreading within him, zaps of pain, happiness, anger, sorrow, lust…every emotion anyone has ever experienced in the history of time starts coursing through him. It threatens to burst within him. He tries doubling over, but all he can do is stand there and feel everything.
Until his body implodes.
Hymyr stands at the Tree of Life in this new reality, staring across the world impassively. His pelt, black as night, but his antlers, golden and shimmer like silk. He remembers his past incarnation — how trivial life had been back before in that other reality — and he knows what must be done now.
His mother, Yyndir, steps around the tree, her antlers arching and brilliantly shining a life-blessing green. She looks at him with disappointment at what he became, lowers her head, and begins to charge. Hymyr rears up and kicks his hooves in the air to deflect, but it isn’t of any use. Her antlers spear him through the heart, and he can feel his soul drifting away into the Fated Coin; the coin had been bound to his mother in the previous life, and is now bound to him. He can hear the vessel calling in many voices, residue of the souls of past incarnations, and knows it is now his turn to rejoin this hellish but necessary cycle.
And as he floats, he sees a woman, watching from the shadows, a journal open in hand.
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
The idea for this magazine stems from a simple conversation regarding the aforementioned question, which drew out the need to identify our generation’s place in literary history.
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