7 Silent struggle
Carlos was again sweating trying to suppress the huge waves of emotions he felt. He was once again sitting down in the middle of the tents trying to gather the energy from the environment. He did the breathing technique just as he had been taught by Enrique since 5:00 a.m. just like he had been doing every day from the moment he had been taught. He had been doing it non stop for the last two hours. He could easily feel an enormous and vast quantity of energy going into his body with each inhale and then the majority of it staying after the exhale, losing only a small quantity. However, even if he felt the amazing quantity staying inside his body it seemed not to have any special effect on his body. What was more, after a few moments the energy would disperse inside him leaving a painful feeling of emptiness.
- This is absolutely stupid and illogical- he said totally frustrated- I can clearly feel the energy being absorbed inside me. If so, then why I see any changes?
He understood the notion of the energy Enrique had mentioned very easily and after some minutes he could clearly feel it. It was like the "Spirit" or "Mana" that appeared in the games he had played. It was all around and they needed to absorb it to use it later in "skills" or "powers" that the others were using.
- The more one absorbs the more one has at his disposition- he said thinking about all the novels and games he had read and played- if that's how it is, then… why?
After talking to the rest, they had told him that they only felt a little part of the energy from the air staying in their bodies and they didn't believe the claim of Carlos of feeling huge amounts staying in his body.
- It must be just an illusion- had said Cynthia who looked at Carlos apologetically- maybe since you don't feel any changes, your mind is making you believe otherwise.
However, Carlos could clearly feel the energy staying in his body just as he could feel the water he drank going to his stomach. However, he also had the feeling that all that energy just dispersed inside him after a while, but he somehow knew that the energy was still inside him. The problem was that he didn't know how to access and use it in any way and it hasn't affected his body as it had done in the case of his friends. Even Veronica that didn't have any special powers had experimented an increase in strength, stamina and speed.
- This is so unfair- he said clenching his fists and feeling his blood boil.
His mood once again changed to the worst and he tried to breathe once again. This time it wasn't for gathering energy but for calming down. He tried to change his ideas to positive ones. Lately he had been suffering from unexplained changes of mood and attacks of anger and jealousy that previously didn't have. He supposed it was due to the stress and frustration he had been suffering but again he had the feeling that it was something else.
- Maybe I'm turning crazy- he finally said.
From a while, he had had the feeling that something else was sharing his body and mind. He couldn't explained it with other words than an existence or presence who was inside him and who provoked these annoying changes of mood and attacks of jealousy. At the beginning it was just a feeling so weak that he just ignored but day after day, he felt that presence growing stronger and more noticeable. The feeling transformed into a certainty like when you know someone is behind you even if you don't see it. Later, it was a constant presence that was like a shadow following him everywhere.
And lately he sometimes he could hear whispers and words coming from that presence. Carlos felt he was losing his personality and the control of his actions and he had the disturbing idea that this "presence" was trying to take control of his mind and body. He trembled to the idea of disappearing and be replaced by that presence who would do things in his name. He was fighting of course but it was a horrible and stressing conflict in which slowly but steady he felt he was losing every day that passed.
- "Just give up..."
He would wake up sweating many nights with the voices and strange nightmares of condors flying above battlefield full of corpses and people fighting and calling him to join them. He couldn't sleep afterwards and the only thing that could calm him down would be the breathing techniques. Some days he wouldn't sleep at all, which would worsen the situation since he was tired and in bad mood the next day when he had to gather wood. And he knew this was also part of that presence plan to weaken him mentally and break him so "he" could take over more easily.
- I just want to go home and forget this nightmare, please someone… help me...
The only light in this dark situation was Veronica whose the presence was an anchor stopping him from falling into craziness. It is proved that in a very dangerous situation the members of a group create supportive links where each of them depending on another member to maintain their sanity. If that member were to disappear or die, the link that depended on him/her would fall into a state of desperation and depression that could lead to serious consequences.
- "Don't be silly..."
Carlos knew his supportive link was Veronica and not only now but from a long time before. He had fallen in love with her since the school and now under this dire situation that necessity to be with her and receive her acceptance and praise had increased to a level where it could be considered sick and obsessive. The worst thing was that he knew that it was not normal or correct but he was unable to stop himself. He couldn't just let her go for if he did… if she were to disappear or reject him, he would break and he would be lost.
- "You are the worst…"
Maybe knowing this was his only light in the chaotic state his mind was, that presence would constantly whisper horrible and stupid ideas when she was nearby.
- "Take her… by force if necessary… she should be yours… hug her… be funny… pretend to be important… women like that…"
Carlos would obviously fight against these ideas but it would provoke stupid and even pervert reactions that the others would find horrible to see and bear. And so, he preferred to close his eyes and trying to calm down the frustration and fury he felt. He couldn't say this to anyone, of course. They would think he'd lost his mind and he didn't want to imagine their reactions, especially from Veronica.
- They have no idea- Carlos thought feeling the necessity to cry and punch something- they can't even imagine how much I have to struggle every day.
When Cynthia had told him that he should take distance with Veronica, he could only smile. He knew that very well and it wasn't the first time he had thought so. However, after seeing how Veronica and Enrique seemed to be close, he finally found the strength to put an end to this obsessive desire. He started to ignore her completely. It was hard and many times he felt a horrible emptiness and loneliness that ripped apart his heart. He persevered though, and after a while he felt his desire decreasing and felt he was retaking the control. The presence also seemed to have left him and his "attacks" didn't have the same effect and more importantly, he could sleep quietly once again. After a long time, he felt himself again.
- Emh, Carlos?... can you help me to collect wood?
That day, Veronica had approached in a timid way. He knew perfectly why she was there since he had anticipated the move. She would like to apologize to him for how he had treated him lately. He was very tempted to say no and let the distance remain, but he knew he couldn't ignore her all the time and as a group they had to be united. Also, he had regained the control so he wanted to see how much. He was glad to notice he could act and talk normally with her once again. He didn't feel as desperate as before and he knew it was a good advance All was according to plan until that moment in which she looked at him with curious eyes.
- That look could kill anyone…- he had thought and his desire returned with an incredible force. She noticed this of course and pressed on wanting to know what it was. Just when he was about to excuse and go… he felt something strange and for a reason he didn't know, he ended up confessing his feelings. All the advance he felt he had done shattered into pieces in that moment. He felt lost and confused again and the necessity to possess her was even worse than before. He noticed Veronica had started to avoid him and the desperation drown him once more, he didn't want that and he desperately tried to mend things up and only when she said all was fine he could calm down again.
- "Back to the beginning…"- whispered the presence who had returned stronger.
The days of desperation returned but then he noticed Veronica had started to pass more time with him. They talked and laughed of many things and like an addict, Carlos felt very good once again and felt that the calm had returned to him. The pinnacle of this "happiness" had been when Carlos had been surprised by Veronica when she said she wanted to go with him to the mountain to collect fruits and wood. He could have danced from happiness and he didn't even think about. It was the best day he could remember after arriving to this place. They had a lot of fun together. They laughed, chased each other, climbed and play with each other while doing their job. However, in some moments she looked sad and with the mind in other place. She seemed to be angry at Enrique for some reason. Carlos tried to cheer her up and he could make her smile many times.
- Enrique is a great boy- he said in a moment trying to comfort her so she could smile and have fun with him- even when he doesn't speak a lot he's always ready to help and when he finally has confidence he's really funny.
These words seemed to improve Veronica's mood. While they were going down they played more and they laughed hard all the time. However, they were received by the worried expressions of Cynthia and Yeny who had told them that Enrique had been attacked by goblins and he had returned with his clothes in tatters and bleeding.
- Where's he?- shouted Veronica- how's he?
- I already healed him- said Cynthia a little scared for the effusiveness of Veronica- he ate and after a small rest he went out to do the watch. I tried to stop him but…
Veronica didn't even wait to hear the rest and she ran into the forest to where she knew Enrique was. Carlos felt a pang of jealousy for this show of concern but he understood how worried she was especially if she had fought with him lately. He talked a little more Cynthia and Yeny to make sure Enrique was totally fine but having seen how effective Cynthia's healing was, he knew all was alright. He went to his tent and smiled remembering the magnificent day he had passed.
- Definitely this has been a great advance- he said jumping for the happiness – woot!!! If this goes on like this soon I could be with her.
- "As it must be… she's mine..."
He left his imagination fly in dreams in which they walked together holding hands and kissing each other sweetly. The tent was empty since Enrique hadn't returned and he hadn't returned by the time Carlos fell asleep.
- And to think I was about to give up- he thought with a smile feeling the comfort that the sleeping bag gave him- and to think I had the stupid idea that Veronica was attracted to Enrique… hahaha.
And he fell asleep with that thought and a smile. He dreamed with Veronica and all the future possibilities resting very happily after a long time.
- I'd better think in the next steps I have to take with Veronica… I can do it… I can definitely do it.
The next morning Carlos woke up really happy and energetic. He dismantled the camp running from side to side. He was like a tornado and in no time they were on road again. Many times, Carlos tried to help Veronica who had to tell him many times that she was fine. All the time Carlos watched Veronica waiting for an opportunity to help.
- Do you need help? Want me to take that for you? You need a hand? Do you want a part of my food?
He was so focused in this that he didn't realized that his attitude was sometimes ridiculous and the others would see this as desperate attempts to attract attention. He also didn't notice that those all "attentions" were causing great stress in Veronica who looked to be annoyed.
- I must be a gentleman- Carlos thought lost in his delusions- I'm sure she's impressed.
However, the effect was the opposite since she started to avoid Carlos who thought he had to put more effort and in a moment he was practically chasing her around the camp. It was like in a cartoon program when the cat chased the mouse no matter where it goes. This went on until noon when Veronica felt it was enough and called Carlos to talk in private. He, of course, thought he was about to receive the proper reward for all his "fine attentions" and followed her with a big smile and a rising expectation.
- Listen Carlos- she said after a long sigh and he thought his time had finally come but he wondered why she wasn't looking at him- I'm really grateful for your show of interest and help, but please…-she looked serious and Carlos felt an aggressive aura that made him step back- I need SPACE. Don't take it personal but I feel you're stalking me and it's kind of creepy…
- Oh…- said Carlos who felt like someone had hit him with a hammer.
- Don't take this wrong…- continued Veronica who still didn't look at Carlos- I really appreciate you but I need my personal space and sometimes I need to be alone, please. You understand what I'm trying to say, right?
- "Hahaha…"- Carlos could listen the laugh of the "presence" mocking at him- "in other words… I want you to leave me alone, you creepy bastard… I think she couldn't be clearer."
- Mmm…sure-said Carlos feeling about to break and noticing how stupid he had been until now- I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.
- Don't worry about it- said Veronica smiling- now let's return.
Carlos felt terrible. He only wanted to help her but she just wanted him to be far. A great outrage appeared inside along with the desperation he knew so well.
- "Way to go, prince charming"- whispered the annoying presence who had become really impossible to bear- "go after that bitch and smack her for good. I'm sure she prefers that... stop being Mr. White Knight..."
- Shut up- said Carlos trying to control even though the idea didn't sound so bad- K then, Veronica. If you don't want anything… I'll do nothing.
The rest of the day Carlos isolated himself. He said nothing and the rest of the group knew he was having a tantrum so they left him be. Veronica talked to the other girls very animatedly and they found a clearance with a pristine lake. They took the opportunity to wash and play in the water. They built the camp and sat in the shores. Enrique lied in the grass. Veronica got near and started to play placing leaves and small branches in him face.
- So sweet…-he heard Yenny and Cynthia- cute couple…
A painful eagerness ran through Carlos' chest. He lied on grass and looked at the sky. He would kill anyone to be Enrique in that moment. He closed his eyes to avoid visual contact but he had the hope that Veronica's watching him lying she would also play with him.
- "But you know this won't happen"- whispered the presence torturing him again from inside his head- "she's more interested in Enrique and you know it."
- Shut up- said Carlos feeling the anger rise in his chest- I have to calm down….
He felt that uncontrollable emotion that normally would be put under control but with the scene happening in front of him it was only growing bigger and powerful.
- I said NO!- Carlos said with fury- you won't win, you hear me?
He sat down and started to practice the breathing techniques to calm down by focusing in the energy around him. As usual he felt a vast and huge quantity of energy staying while just losing a small quantity of energy. As usual he felt the energy dispersing inside his body. He really felt like feeding a voracious monster who gave nothing in exchange.
- Hahahahahaha!! Enrique!!!
Just when he thought he had moved his thoughts to a safe area, a big laughter made him open his eyes and return his concentration to the lake.
- What are you doing? - In a kind of playful shout while Enrique lifted her in his arms going to the lake. She tried to free herself but at the same time she held Enrique for not to fall- NO NO WAIT!!!
Enrique let him felt to the water along with Veronica. They stood up and they played throwing water at each other and chasing each other. Carlos' emotions fell to a chaotic state and it was just too much for him to deal with. The vortex of infinite emotions and thoughts filled his head and chest until the only clear emotion he could clearly feel was "pain." A deep pain cutting his chest all down to his belly. He couldn't think and the fury he was feeling was getting bigger and bigger and he knew it was going to explode in any moment.
- Calm down… calm down…- he told to himself. But it was just too much for him and his 14 years of existance. He didn't want to lose control in front of Veronica so he stood up and dashed into the forest to escape. Yenny and Cynthia looked at each other between nervous and curious.
- You think he'll be fine?- asked Cynthia
- Dunno. But he has to accept it- said Yenny- the best is to leave him alone.
- But… what if he gets lost…-said Cynthia but she didn't want to end the sentence.
- Nah!!- said Yenny discarding the idea without stopping to watch Enrique and Veronica as if she were watching an interesting TV program- He's not so stupid to go too deep into the forest without the rest of us.
Carlos was certainly not stupid, but in this moment he couldn't think clearly. He walked and walked without direction. He was trying to control the fury and pain he was feeling but every second the effect was the opposite. His mind was assaulted by crazy and even dangerous ideas. After watching them in the lake, he knew Enrique and Veronica were going out.
- No… no… it's impossible- he said breathing heavily- it's illogical.
- "Or maybe it's just you're trying to deny the obvious"- said the presence and Carlos could imagine a smile along with his voice- "you don't want to believe it. But the more you think about it, the more you know it's true."
- NO NO NOOOO!!!- he shouted with fury. He couldn't control this and he started to go in circles feeling out of breath.
- What if it were true?- said to himself trying to be reasonable- Veronica is free to love whoever she wants. I can't force her to love me.
He was trying to assimilate that idea but the tsunami of emotions inside him started to block his reason. Rebellion, discord and pride furiously filled his mind. That "presence" was continuously opposing his attempts to resign. The voice in his mind complained and resisted to accept defeat.
- "There should be a way to force her…"-said the voice of the presence which sounded really familiar. Much hatred was put in each word- she should be mine and nobody else's. Especially…especially not him… What's so incredible in Enrique?? WHAT DOES HE HAVE THAT I DON'T??? IF WE COMPARE IT OBVIOUS I'M MUCH BETTER!!!
He then noticed that the voice of the presence was not other than his own and it had been he and not the presence who had said the last sentences.
- What do hell am I saying?
- "Are you really better than Enrique?"- asked the malicious presence inside him without giving him time to think- "since the moment you were teleported here I would say he was the one who was doing it better…"
- Shut up…
- "Who organized the camp?" - continued the voice without any mercy- "who was the one who could start a fire? Who got the food and guide all in surviving? Was it you?"
- I said to shut up!!!
- "Then why do you look surprised?- went on the voice sounding even more excited- "is it really surprising that Veronica chose him over you?"
- VERONICA IS NOT LIKE THAT….
- "Are you sure?"- said the voice mockingly- "women prefer the strongest… it's their nature… he has surviving skills. He can be useful and he got powers that can be used to defend others… now tell me what do you have?"
- THEN I'LL GET POWERS!!!- shouted Carlos with fury- I'LL GET POWERS AND I'LL SHOW EVERYONE THAT I'M BETTER THAN ENRIQUE!!!
- "Hooo! now you're showing some spirit"- said the voice- "I can help, you know? I can give you power but you have to go to the end… cause you know the only way to have Veronica is making Enrique disappear…"
- Yes… it's true- accepted Carlos feeling how the pain lessened with this suggestion- if Enrique disappeared Veronica would then had to rely on him to survive. A grin appeared in his lips- That way I'll get her…
But then a huge feeling of guilt appeared and made him react. He had just thought about killing his friend… what kind of monster would think in that? His desire and his ethics clashed in an internal conflict that was making him dizzy.
- CALM DOWN DAMN IT!!- he said trying to clear up his mind- you're just speaking non sense.
- "I see…"- said the voice in his soul with a sigh that indicated his dissapointment- "you're not ready yet… you're still so pathetic and weak… but I know someday you'll realize how useless is to hold yourself under those so called ethics especially in this world…"
Again a huge anger took him over and he wanted to hit something. Suddenly a mental image of Enrique and Veronica kissing appeared in his head… this was too much. The pain increased. It was too much… he wanted to stop it… he hit a tree which bruised under his hand but he didn't realize.
- I'M FED UP WITH ALL OF THIS!!!- he wanted to return home and go away from all. He wanted to "disappear."
In the next second, Carlos had vanished in the air, leaving behind just tattered pieces of clothing and his right shoe.