Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 48
Ch.48

Ben walked along the hall with his head down. He was unsure of where he was but every so often, a strong urge guided him through the drove of corridors. The watchful eyes of Baal followed him, his presence practically merging with Ben’s. All he had now was time to think to himself as he made his way to Baal’s room.

I wanted to trust her, but she turned on me. I should have seen this coming.

“Baal was trying to tell me all along.”

I should have listened to him. Ben stopped in the middle of the hall. Vines grew from the walls and twisted to the ceiling, thickening as his eyes passed down the hallway. The lighting turned from bulbs to large cracks in the ceiling that allowed light to shower in. A gust of wind brushed against the back of his neck.

“No turning back now,” Ben heard. Behind him was an empty expanse that fell to an eternal darkness. He stood within the first foothold of a neatly carved square path within the face of a massive concrete wall.

Ben continued into the path and thought more of how he was done wrong. Samael was going to turn on me, no surprise, but…

“What gave him the right to do that?”

Trisha’s smile flashed in his mind like the positive aspect people look for after a thunderstorm struck their closest family member dead. It was all fake. I can’t trust anyone.

The vines now covered the floor and all around him grew dark brown. The cracks in the ceiling were gone. I’d like to think she meant some of it.

A ping of anger flashed in his mind followed by a whisper, “Actually, I don’t.”

It’s not like it matters anymore. The first time he met Lilly came to mind. He laughed at himself in the way he had struggled to talk to her. I should have just ignored her.

The temperature in the room dropped. The path he walked shook and the floor collapsed, falling into darkness. Distortion consumed him as he fell down.

“Get up,” a familiar voice said.

Ben peered around the space he was in, but could not find the origin of the voice.

“You have to get up,” the voice said as it crept from a faraway distance.

“There you are,” Baal said as he emerged from the darkness. An ambient light illuminated around them to show Ben that he had been brought back to the concrete box from their last visit. “I almost lost you there for a second.”

Ben wiped the sweat from his brow and realized just how fast his heart was beating. He picked himself off the ground and looked over Baal. Something’s different about him?

“I’m here. What do you have to tell me?”

“Cutting to the chase so soon? You don’t want to ask any questions while you’re here?” Baal crossed his arms and gave Ben time to think.

Trisha surfaced in his mind.

“She fell out of the Tower, reached the ground floor in record time. Samael tossed her out a window.”

Ben’s teeth clenched.

“Speaking of Samael, he’s sustained pretty serious injuries and he won’t be making it past the next hour. Too bad I guess.” Baal gave him a few more seconds then said, “Lilly’s sitting at the top of the Tower helping Dr. Chen. Anybody else? The Bio-Machina are making their way to the top floor, but once I’m done here I’ll stop all of them. You see how important our meeting is to me?”

“Why? Why do you care so much to tell me these things? What’s your game?”

Baal smiled and said, “It’s like a puzzle. I have to finish it, make sure all the pieces are in place. I’m close to the last piece.”

Ben shook his head.

“Don’t worry I’ll break it down for you soon enough. I just want you to have all of your questions answered. You cared a lot about the people who betrayed you so-”

“No. I don’t care about those people. They just tricked me.”

Baal nodded. He looked at the ring he had on his left hand and cracked another smile. “I’ll show you the truth. Are you ready?”

“Go for it.” Ben crossed his arms. His headache was subsiding, and the soreness his body felt was gone.

“Do you know where you are right now?” Baal waved his arms around. “Take a wild guess.”

“I’m inside my mind.”

“Technically you’re in my room.”

Ben’s eyes narrowed.

“Don’t remember do you? That’s right. Your body is inside my room and your mind, your grave.”

“So you’re going to kill me?” Ben’s fist came up.

Baal laughed at Ben’s attempt of assuming a hostile stance. “What are you going to do, fight back? You have no idea how weak you are compared to me.” Baal snapped his fingers and Ben fell to the ground from an abrasive force above his head. “Don’t even think you have a chance of fighting your way out of this, Benjamin.”

“Just tell me. Say what you have to say and get this over with.” Ben stood again weary of all the games.

“So you give up?”

Ben sighed and pushed his palm out towards Baal. The wave of energy that followed hit Baal with the intensity of a paper bag falling in a puddle of water.

“Pathetic.”

Ben could feel an invisible hand take hold of him, hoist him off the ground, and then slam his body against the back wall. He fell to the floor and glared up at his opponent; he didn’t want to move anymore. Baal walked in front of Ben and sat down on an invisible chair. He leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, and crossed his fingers in front of his mouth.

“We’ll take a look into where you are now and back step from there. Using this approach, I can help you remember what happened. You’re about to remember because secretly you’ve always known what happened to your parents and how you escaped Compound 5. What happened was your brain suppressed all of these memories along with your telekinetic energy.” Baal laughed a little then said, “Years of your mind pushing your telekinesis back only served to give it something to fight, something to grow from.”

Baal’s hands came apart and the red orb appeared in front of them. His ring glistened in the red light for a few seconds then dulled.

“Let’s start with ten minutes ago. You walked your way into my room and sat down.” The memories displayed within the center of the red orb revealing to Ben that it was the truth. “We’re just sitting there staring at each other in the physical world, but this place is what matters. Now wind the clock back a few more minutes.”

Lilly came into view, sitting in the chair that was attached to Chen’s endgame machine, and Chen walked by with a tablet device giving orders to his assistants.

“This is my memory. The machine is going to transfer Lilly’s telekinetic energy into the stagnant vats of Ascension Serum. The stagnant serum can be produced faster and with Lilly’s energy, the real deal serum.”

Ben shook his head. He was done with traveling to the top.

“And here we have our second female.” Trisha was in the orb. It was the last conversation they had between each other. Both of their voices sounded skewed but he remembered the words. “They were talking about turning you in. They were touching each other too. Perhaps they had a rendezvous planned with one another. It’s common for exes to hook up every once in a while.”

Ben lifted his hand slightly and reached for the orb, but he drew his hand back when he saw her face after the conversation. “Maybe I should have just ignored you, standing on that windowsill,” played in his mind like a clear audio file. The images blurred and reverted to when he saw her standing there, before they fell out of the Tower.

“You tapped into a new technique within record time to find this girl,” Baal said. “And then you sort of tackled her out of the window, but you guys recovered and continued on your journey. All of that for nothing.”

The light of the red orb intensified, the images at its center changing faster now.

“Here we have Magnus. You two were actually not too different from each other.” The images displayed their battle in Prof. J’s room. “One of you a samurai and the other a knight, both following silly goals of virtue and truth. He’s still traveling upwards though. He also has more enemies, and I think most of the Bio-Machina and Demon members have forgotten about you.” Baal’s ring shimmered and the red orb expanded, almost touching Ben. “Now do you remember this?”

Nebuchadnezzar’s body was laying right in front of him. His face crushed by the plant and his body still. “He tried to kill you, but accidentally jump started your hyperactive growth within the Tower, which fed into your suppressed power you kept inside over the years. Then you had the honor of killing someone.”

“I didn’t kill him. It was an accident,” Ben objected.

“No?”

“I would have stopped it if I could.”

Baal smiled wide, wider than what his mouth should have allowed, and his ring flickered. “You would have done no such thing, Ben. Stop pretending to invest so much energy into this hero-esque image you want yourself to have. It’s very unbecoming to act so childish. In reality, you did kill him. You two fought each other, and he died, it’s as simple as that.” Baal shook his head and said, “How many times do people have to ask you, “What do you think you are doing here?” Ben. Do you even think these things through?”

The image of the Tower’s front doors appeared in front of Baal, solid and life like.

“This was the last place you could have walked away.” Baal opened the doors and behind him, was the top floor where Lilly sat, the machine hummed behind her. “And this was the last place you wanted to be by the end of the day. It’s too bad really.” The red orb expanded to engulf everything. Baal disappeared along with the door and the image of Lilly. The room he was in vanished as well and Ben now sat alone in darkness.

“Let’s go back,” Baal said, from an undisclosed location. “Let’s go back past high school and past the years running away as a little bastard child. Let’s go back to that night.”

A fire at Ben’s side had lit on the ground. Another fire sprouted from the dark ground a few feet in front of him and then another grew along a horizontal line off to his left.

“That’s a start. Keep trying to remember.”

At the center of his brain, Ben felt a stressed burn flare to his forehead.

“Steady. The hippo in your head is working really hard right now.”

Ben looked down and saw neatly trimmed grass along the ground. The space around him was slightly colder than before and there was wind blowing by his face.

“Look around more. Fill the environment out.”

Buildings constructed themselves before his eyes, but some of the buildings had holes in them and some of the fires were from the burning walls. Beyond the buildings was the mountain that the facility was built into. Ben realized he was in the side yard of Compound 5. As he leaned back, the feel of a chain-link fence pressed against his back. He looked to his right and a section of the fence was cut, large enough for a person to crawl through. Beyond the fence was a black sedan with the passenger door open.

The stress in his mind grew and more mental barriers were buckling. A scream filled his ears and his attention was back at the Compound’s main building. The wall, thirty feet in front of him, was torn from the inside out leaving chunks of metal and ruble all over the yard. Within the tear was a man leading a woman by her hand as she held a child in her arms.

“Hurry,” Ben heard the man say.

The woman was crying. A siren blared from inside the compound as the small family made their escape. From behind them, a child stepped out onto the grass slowly following them. Ben’s attention focused on the kid and time slowed down. “Is that me?” Ben squinted to see the image of the child who took on the same appearance as a younger version of himself.

“This can’t be my memory.”

The child held his hand out and a stick of steel rebar floated off the ground and aimed towards the couple.

“No.”

The rebar flew forward and punched through the man’s chest. The next step he took was his last as he fell his wife screaming beside him. The kid she held fell from her grip and rolled to the ground.

“Richard, oh god no,” the woman said.

Ben’s stomach flipped and his head spun, all images around him became fuzzy and the world he perceived pulsed with the thumping at his temple.

“Don’t lose sight just yet. We’re almost done here,” Baal said.

“Tell me why. Why did you do this?” the woman said.

The child walked closer to the woman and telekinetically grabbed another steel rebar, smiling.

“Stop,” Ben tried to yell, but his voice was small.

The kid she held got to his feet and threw his hands at the murderous child, sending chunks of flaming debris in his face. The child clawed at the fire in his face while still holding on to the rebar with his mind.

“Run, Benjamin.” Was the last two words the woman said, before he watched the thin piece of steel puncture through her brain. Tears ran from Ben’s eyes, both himself and his self in the memory. The child brushed the flames from his now burnt face and reached out with his powers at little Ben.

A cracking sound etched inside of Benjamin’s psyche as he recognized this moment as the moment he had his powers sealed by Baal.

“So you remember?” Baal came into view and did away with the illusion he forced into everyone’s mind. The face Ben stared into was a mirror of his own covered in pink scars.

“What does this mean? Why would you kill my parents you freak?”

“Not just your parents, Benjamin Woulms.”

Ben stood and the world around them disappeared. “What are you trying to say?”

“Do you know what my real name is? Do you really know who I am for that matter?”

“There’s no way.”

“Oh there is a way. I was never spoken of before, was I? At all cost, I was kept secret from you, wasn’t I? The old man never mentioned me once, not even when he told you all about the Compound.”

“I was told it was an accident.” Ben tried to hold back more oncoming tears. “I was told-”

“You were told lies. There was no accident. I did it on purpose. I killed Richard and Marla Woulms. I did it because I deserved their attention, but never got it. Your superior twin, Bradly Woulms, should have been their world, but little Benjamin was always the one that needed more help. Benjamin was the one that required protection. Benjamin was all they ever talked about.” Baal cleared his throat and crossed his arms. “So I decided that I would be the only Woulms. The last one, but for eighteen years you lucked out.”

Baal became transparent and the compound’s yard came back into Ben’s view. Young Baal was on his knees patting at the pain in his face as Grandpa came from the sedan to pick Ben off the ground. The memory disintegrated again and Baal approached Ben.

“The way you feel right now is intoxicating. Your pain is beyond any pleasure I have felt in this world. I’m glad we had this time together Ben. You’re still insignificant to me as you were back then.”

Ben swung for Baal, but he turned to smoke.

“Now sit there. You’ll be dead soon and after that, I’ll go after grandpa.”

The darkness surrounded Ben and he knew he was trapped in his own mind. Ben tried to think of the room, but nothing happened. “Come back here!” He thought of the lights and the bulbs, and the way they complemented each other, but they would not come. Tears still ran down his face. “You killed them.” Ben fell to his knees and hit the ground with both fists. “Why?” His thoughts were slipping from his mind, unable to focus on any given idea or plan of escape.

Ben tried to speak again, but the words had no more surfaces to bounce from so they left him like everything else. He went to stand, but his body was in too much pain, but not even that stayed with him.

“Everything is going away now, Benjamin. Everything you’ve ever known will soon be over. I’m taking apart your mental state layer by layer and you will be no more.”

Ben let himself fall without attempting to protest anymore. He simply hugged his legs and waited.

He stared off into the distance. In all the times that he had pushed on within the Tower, Ben had arrived at a point of pushing no more.

There was only darkness.

“What are you doing?” a small voice asked him.

Ben turned his head and saw the five-year-old version of himself from his memory.

“I’m not doing anything,” he said.

Little Ben examined the empty world they were in, his big eyes taking in the nothingness. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why aren’t you doing anything?”

“Because I’m not strong enough. I failed.”

Little Ben shook his head and placed his hands on Ben’s shoulders. “Why did you fail?”

Ben let his head hang and said, “I failed because of Baal. I failed because of Trisha and Samael. I failed because I can’t do it.”

“You’re better than that, Benjamin,” the familiar voice from before said to him.

Ben picked his head up and saw his grandpa, and could now hear the voice clearly, for who it was. After having his mind filled with so many voices today, he could hardly forgive himself for not recognizing the one that mattered most.

“It’ll all be over soon, Ben,” Baal’s voice said from the darkness.

“Do you really believe that?” Grandpa said. “Do you really think the reason you failed is because of him, because of someone who’s done you wrong?”

“But I can’t go on anymore.”

“Why is that? Why can’t you stand up? Why can’t you fight back? Why can’t you dig deep inside and pick yourself up?”

“There’s nothing inside. It’s all just darkness. Can’t you see?” Ben said, waving his hands around at the darkness. “There’s no one by my side, I’m not the strongest, and there’s a monster outside working his hardest to destroy me. What do I do?”

Grandpa shook his head and said, “Don’t you understand where you are right now?”

Ben clenched his fists. “I’m in the Tower.”

“Not just the Tower.”

“I’m inside myself.”

“Do you know what people see when they look into your eyes, Benjamin?”

He thought about it, the way people could see through his eyes and into his soul.

“It’s the thing that everyone can see inside of you.” Grandpa reached out and rested his hand on Ben’s shoulder. A warmth bloomed inside his chest and when he looked down Ben noticed he was standing. “It’s the light they see, the light inside of you.”

Ben closed his eyes and he could see it; the light that has been, and always will be, there inside of him. A single tear fell from his cheek. “I haven’t failed at anything.”

Ben heard a gasp right in front of him. As he opened his eyes, Ben realized he was standing in Baal’s room. He glanced down at Baal who, slightly hunched over, was looking back up at him.

“So this is what you really look like?”

A ghost image of Baal’s Demon form revealed to Ben. This dark, skinny figure had elongated arms and a twisted posture. His body was hairless and burnt all over. The teeth that hung from his mouth was yellow and decayed. The Demon peered back up at Ben through grey eyes and caved in nose.

“This isn’t possible. You’re weak. You were about to succumb, what did you do?”

Ben only noticed now that a blue flame covered his body. The flame did not burn, but rejuvenated Ben’s determined spirit.

 “You can’t be a Demon. You wouldn’t be able to sustain that kind of power.” Baal said, through his teeth. He quickly reached for his ring and tossed it on the floor, allowing his powers to be detectable throughout the Tower. “That is what power is, Benjamin. Not some false re-” Ben grabbed Baal by the neck with one hand and brought him closer. “Get off me.” A bright light flashed from Ben and time stood still. The flames covering Ben spread to Baal in a painful fusion. “What are you doing to me?”

“I have to stop you.”

“So you’re going to kill me? You’re no better than I am you hypocrite.”

“I’m not going to kill anyone.”

The light disappeared and the flames around Ben flickered out. Baal dropped to the floor and reverted to his human form. The similar features that Baal Shared with Ben still held to this day; aside from the burn scars. Ben took a deep breath and caught a flash from the green ring that Baal discarded. He picked up the ring and looked closer.

“What did you do to my master?”

Ben jumped as the voice alerted him that they were not alone in the room. The girl inside the cage reached between the bars and undid the simple lock that held her captive. She ran over to her master and cradled his head in her arms.

“Speak to me, baby.”

Ben shook his head. “It’s okay. You’re free now.”

The young girl looked up at him with scornful eyes. “You have no authority in freeing me from my master. Bring him back to me.”

Unable to move, unable to use his powers, Ben could hear a faint noise of Baal’s thoughts trying to reach out and destroy him. “He’s not going anywhere. Goodbye, Bradly.” Ben continued to look the ring over as he walked away, but before Ben could reach the door, it opened to a face he thought lost. “Trisha?”

 

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