Benhan, like the good human he was, retained an abject disgust toward other people that had defined him since childhood in the form of a markedly cruel bully. The realization came from somewhere in that vague blending of time when he matured into adulthood.
Cruelty was okay.
That epiphany allowed Benhan to drop all the weight on his conscience that dragged behind him as emotional damage wrought by his two decades of terrorizing his peers. Benhan didn’t like people, and people didn’t like him. There existed a mutual and unspoken understanding between Benhan and the rest of his species.
As a boy Benhan recalled how the local mothers would dote on his handsome and rugged features, saying he would grow up to be a lady killer and joking how they would have to hide their daughters from him.
Benhan loved the attention as a child but never learned the social queues on how to act. He would sit there silently, basking in the praises but as he grew older and when he failed to respond they scorned him and took back their compliments. They asked questions; what could be wrong with him? Is he simple? Why can’t he talk? Doesn’t he have any emotions? I won’t let my kids play with him!
Benhan was not the type of person to think every little childhood mishap internalized into his present self, he did not believe psychology to be that rudimentary. The mind was a delicate system, true, but one filled with complexities and paradoxes.
Perhaps the child Benhan instinctually perceived the fake smiles of the other parents and how quickly they would turn on someone if they didn’t meet whatever social standards were relevant. Benhan turned out to be right, but then again was it a self fulfilling prophecy?
Benhan grew up to be curious of those around him. To his early teenage mind, the mere concept that the other kids existed with their own lives separate from his own perception ate away at his thoughts. What were they doing at home now? How did they feel about their parents, and their friends? Benhan just had to know if the smiles and laughter of the kids around him were real.
So he found out by dissecting his classmates. He studied them, tested them and then beat them. He swore them to secrecy and searched for the core of their personality. During beatings, he’d ask them questions about their life, what it was like growing up, what foods they enjoyed, what they thought of him. For that last answer, they would always lie, so he would hit them more until they told the truth. Benhan you are a monster, they’d scream.
When the first bruised and battered kid said that to him through tears and a bloody lip, Benhan experienced a fog clear over his mind. Only elation followed.
The truth of his identity. Benhan the monster. At that moment Benhan learned only his peers could reveal truths about himself. Benhan could not do it on his own.
If he was a monster then he needed to learn what that meant. So his torturous bullying intensified and from it he learned what his walk looked like to others. What he sounded like. Traits and behaviors of his personality that only another person could pick up on.
By the end of middle school, Benhan was confident beyond his years. He knew himself deeper than most adults. He excelled in class and sports, receiving the highest recommendations and eventually gaining entry into Garghent’s most prestigious military school.
There was another defining source of Benhan’s life. His friendship with Jonatan and Garriot. They were friends from elementary school and over the years formed a small group, just the three of them. Garriot wore every single emotion on the front of his face, he was incapable of lying, likely not even understanding the concept. Loud and rambunctious, Garriot did what pleased him in the moment, a true hedonist. He was also perpetually bigger and stronger than the other kids and most kids in the higher grades for that matter.
Jonatan was the ringleader. Where Benhan’s cruelty existed for his own understanding of life, Jonatan simply derived pleasure in harming others as a source of adrenaline and domination. Jonatan the sadist, Garriot the hedonist and Benhan the monster. The three boys wreaked havoc on countless kids during their years of terror.
No, Benhan concluded, it was not the parents that pushed him to become a monster. Benhan always was a monster, it was his nature, through and through. Benhan realized that his behavior and reaction to those doting, spiteful parents was merely the first of his studies into the realm of others.
And such a fascinating study it proved to be. The unconscious realm, an unknown shadowy world hidden behind the façade of skin and bones, emotions and personality.
Benhan leaned back on his leather chair and stared at the ceiling. His computer in front of him displayed a blank white sheet. He’d gotten caught up in old memories while thinking of what to say and type in this letter.
A voice beckoned Benhan from his desk. Benhan got up and opened the door to Janiform Gemma’s quarters.
“Janiform.” Benhan acknowledged formally, as always.
“I wish to sleep now.” Gemma told him in an almost childish manner.
“At once. Lay back and relax. The pain will recede in a moment’s notice.” Behnan assured his leader.
Gemma suffered from haunting nightmares and skull-splitting migraines on a daily basis. When the Janiform heard about a young Specter capable of inducing pure, uninterrupted sleep he had ordered him immediately to be his personal aide.
Benhan frankly couldn’t believe his luck! Without much effort beyond awakening the Aspect, Benhan became personally acquainted with the most powerful man in all of Garghent.
Gemma receded into his blankets as pain etched itself into his features.
“Lethargy.” Benhan activated his Aspect. He placed his hand on Gemma’s forehead and started to hum. The humming was followed by the ticking of a clock and then the tapping of a drum. Benhan started to whisper even while he was humming as his voice stacked over itself, creating layers which to Gemma was trance inducing. The rhythmic overtures would cause hallucinations to anyone who tried to fight the lulling, tempting sedation. What Benhan came to learn was that the key to the technique was all in the brain chemistry. The ticking, humming and tapping beats produced soundwaves of a certain frequency. The brain, through extended exposure to sound waves entering through the ears, seeks to mimic the vibrational pattern of the sound waves. During wakefulness and sleep, the brain operates at a range of frequencies. The lower frequencies are for sleep and different stages of the REM cycle. This is why if someone were to force themselves awake while their brain was in sleep mode, auditory and visual hallucinations would begin to occur. It was like blending the consciousness of sleeping and waking.
By employing this technique, Benhan could control the exact type, quality and duration of Gemma’s sleep. Benhan’s actual Aspect, Lethargy, involved something far more sinister, of which he maintained the secret and illusion of its innocence as a sleep-inducer to his superiors in the military..
Lethargy was a sleep inducer, not a true lie, and he seemed more adept at luring people to sleep, but what the Aspect actually did best was hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a diverse method of controlled trances. Someone under hypnosis could be suggested to sleep, to wake, to walk around, to act out, to talk. Though hypnosis was not something accepted by everyone as a real ability, the claim was that the receiver of hypnosis had to want to be hypnotized. Controversies aside, Lethargy gave Benhan access to the unconscious mind of his victims through the power of suggestion and lowered inhibitions. Benhan’s studies into brain chemistry only enhances his ability to enslave someone’s mind with principles of hypnosis and sleep patterns as a supplement to his Sage class Aspect.
If the body being asleep while the mind was awake caused dreamlike hallucinations, then what would happen if the mind was asleep while the body was deactivated from sleep?
This unlikely state gave Benhan an entry into a person’s psyche, everything they believed. Even the deepest recesses of the mind could be accessed. The most powerful truth serum was the body’s own chemicals. Manipulate them and a person becomes an open book and a blank slate.
Benhan also believed this unique sleep-wake state was the most honest of all the states of beings and all the emotions or intoxicants a human could experience. When the consciousness and the unconscious switched places.
Benhan induced this state in Gemma hundreds of times over the course of the last two years. From it he learned about Gemma’s lowly upbringing, living in Garghent’s forlorn second city where the homeless and criminals were confined to. His simple education of a man born into a world without law, hope or opportunity. How his life changed when he met a certain runaway architect and builder by the name of Railey. Their conversations and nights spent drinking and Railey’s fantastical tales about his life and the city, which Gemma never believed. In the sleep-wake state, Gemma recalled the last night they spent talking, when the assassin Creeper took Railey’s life and Railey’s final breath, imbuing something of his Aspect into Gemma.
That was when the nightmares began for Gemma. Allotheism was the name of Railey’s Aspect. Strange gods. Railey could imbue into objects these strange gods. As the architect of many of Garghent’s most impressive buildings, Railey secretly put his strange gods into them.
The spirits of the house, the walls and in shadows are where the Allotheism gods dwell.
Railey saved one special god which he gave to the unsuspecting Gemma, the chief of the strange gods. Sechther.
Gemma from that moment and with the help of Sechther, accumulated a horde of wealth in order to buy the spot of Janiform when Amenais retired. Gemma had a singular goal, driven by the mad Sechther to seek a missing piece, a final riddle of Railey’s.
How to activate the Allotheism Aspect, to unleash the strange gods biding their time in the architecture of Garghent. Benhan confirmed that each building constructed by Railey resembled a form of some monstrous thing. These would be the body’s of the strange gods whenever the catalyst was found.
From Gemma, Benhan learned that the trigger was an Aspect, unknown to anyone save Railey who had been dead for over a decade now. Gemma did not impede Amenais’ efforts of training Specters.
Benhan himself and the rest of his class are a result of that same concerted effort of seeking the sole Aspect that pairs and synergizes with Railey’s Allotheism.
Whoever finds that Specter and rules them, commands Allotheism and the living city.
With Amenais now dead, and Gemma mind controlled, Benhan found himself suddenly at the top of a very precarious pyramid. Balancing his work with Gemma, ensuring the mind control remained in place while reassuring his superiors that his status as an agent was secure turned his life into a tightrope. Upon his own Aspect’s awakening, Master Klyle, Janiform Amenais and several others trained and employed him to be Gemma’s aide in secret. To control and report back anything he learned from Gemma.
Benhan lived a double life. From the beginning he had the prescience of establishing a false narrative and fake name for Gemma. Benhan hated the idea of being a double agent to serve Garghent. The Espionage division of spies kept tabs on him and even tried their own methods of mind control by using Sages to keep him loyal.
The whole ordeal from the moment Gemma requested he be used as a sleep aid, became a path of nails and eggshells. Benhan thanked his lifetime of escaping trouble and intimately knowing his own unconsciousness for his ability to fake out the spies and Sages that believed he was theirs. He knew his own ticks, his own tells and could mimic entire personalities to suit his needs, to fool whoever that believed owned him. Only someone fully grounded in themselves would be capable of such chameleon behavior.
Benhan would never be owned by anyone but himself. And he would build up his mind slave army. So far, the leader of Garghent was a good start.
Benhan had conversed with Sechther through Gemma’s half-conscious sleeping body on a few occasions. Benhan connected with the strange god as he viewed the creature as a monster, much like he was.
Recently, Gemma had been sleep-talking, going on and on about the need to find the catalyst. It was the reasoning behind creating the Specter faction. Gemma was becoming desperate because Sechther grew eager and impatient.
With Gemma sound asleep, Benhan returned to his study and suddenly the words came to him in a flow. An hour later, he concluded his letter and printed out the paper, deleting the file from his computer immediately thereafter.
He prepared an envelope and the official seal of the Janiform. He would interact with Gemma in his Lethargy state and give orders for the letter to be delivered without fail to the recipient.
Benhan read through the letter one last time.
Garriot Hasley, I hope this letter reaches you in fair health. We never spoke much after Jonatan’s death which is unfortunate as I counted you both among my only two friends and equals. You may find it as some comfort that Jonatan’s younger brother is training hard to become a Specter of his own. He worshiped Jonatan and wants to follow in his footsteps.
Pleasantries out of the way, I am writing to you with a proposal and a sermon, based on the goodwill of our childhood friendship and because I have no one else to turn to. I am jealous of your occupation as a general of Ophir but am glad to hear you keep good company.
As for me, I managed to weasel my way into the most powerful position in Garghent, but it is isolating and supported by a house of cards which may fall at any time. There is a lot I can tell you as the Janiform’s personal aide but I must remain prudent in my explanations until I hear back from you. All I need is your word and I will trust you, that is how much I value you and our past friendship.
The Janiform is under my direct control, though the military believes I am their asset and I have downplayed the severity of the Janiform’s mind control. You can see how easily this could all spiral out of control. That is partly why I am writing to you, because I need someone in a position I can rely on as well as a fallback should I need to escape this city.
I value only what is true in this world. I am tapping into the unconscious, the real final frontier of man, and discovering the truth of many things. My research will ultimately lead into the unconscious of the very planet. The results are promising and world-altering. I am alone at the forefront of this study. Should my mind be broken by Garghent’s efforts and my work spilled, Garghent will be unstoppable.
Only you will read this letter, and I ask that you keep it that way. Secrets should only be shared among trusted friends. Do you still count me as a friend?
So that this is all worth your time, I will reveal one part of my plan and work. A great Aspect remains vacant within Garghent. The elite of Garghent is seeking the trigger for this power, another unknown Aspect. I refuse to be a drudge in Garghent’s schemes. I want the power for myself and I want us to join together. I heard the Throne is seeking the wicked hearted and those that reject the order of this world. You have joined and I cannot stand Garghent’s way of doing things, full of deceit and fallacy.
Write back to me if this intrigues you.
With an ink pen he signed his name at the bottom.
The Lethargy Aspect sealed the letter in the envelope and approached Gemma’s sleeping form.
“Sechther,” Benhan summoned, “tell Gemma to send this letter covertly. It must reach its destination. I am asking an old friend for help. With him, we will be in a better position to unleash you and your kin into the world, without vile Garghent restraining you as a slave. You will be free soon to massacre the weak.”
The voice that replied from Gemma’s sleeping body was deeper than Gemma’s voice was physically able to produce. The voice of Sechther.
“You do good work, Lethargy. Railey only ever wanted revenge, I owe him that much for building the bridge between your world and the void.”