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Does life still make sense when everything has been taken from you? Your brother is dead because you could not save him. Your girlfriend left you because your depression became too much to bear. You have cut off contact with your parents.
In this situation with no way out, John sees no other option than to put an end to his pitiful life. Only by coincidence can his neighbor Peter, a vivacious young man, hinder this tragic act. John is everything but happy about it. But Peter does not give up on him and does everything he can to put life back into him.
But a fateful discovery and the dark power of black magic arise, allowing John to follow a path from which there is no return. A disastrous tragedy takes its course...
... Mercilessly thrilling to the last page!
Darkness and silence were his constant companions. Only when it was absolutely necessary would he subject himself to the noise and garish daylight of the outside world. He had learned to cherish the loneliness that surrounded him inside his four walls in the past few years. Nothing could tarnish his inner peace that he felt in his hours of creativity. His usual and, in the meantime, so trusted environment was screened off from all noise and misery. And yet he always felt as though he had not arrived yet. His desired goal could only be achieved with great patience and endurance. Plus he was a perfectionist and abhorred any failure. His following was growing without doubt month by month, but he was not still far removed from the desired destination. This brutalized planet was just teeming with confused and directionless people who were only waiting to be commanded and instructed by him. They were virtually begging for answers and hung on his virtual lips like moths to a light. He would give them what they wanted and they, sooner or later, would repay him the suitable price for his services.
He opened up his laptop. The screen awoke after a few seemingly endless seconds. The homepage of the social network Fredboard popped up. The interface he almost exclusively used to make contact with the outside world. This unbelievable instrument of manipulation became a very good friend to him ever since he discovered it online by happenstance. Without Fredboard he would certainly not have achieved what he had up to that point with solely the help of this tool. And despite this, he could not give himself a triumphant pat on the back yet. He still had a long way to go. The loud beep that indicated he earned a new follower ripped him from his euphoric thoughts. He smiled. Not a minute later he greeted the new minion personally on his timeline. He desired his advice, as did dozens of others before him. And he would receive it. For free, without any financial compensation. Ever since his first consultation at the beginning of his online activities, he was accommodating and generous. This tactic had proven itself and because of this he continued using it. Only when he was certain that he could be sure of the new follower did he start to require financial compensation for his assistance. Generally not in the form of material support, except he was short on funds which did not often affect his way of life. What was much more crucial to him was challenging the dark souls of his fans. He was obsessed with pushing them to the limits of the imaginable. How far would the individual go to overcome their malcontent and find peace for their soul? The human soul was weak and gruesome, even when many psychiatrists and other alleged professionals tried to convince the world that the opposite was true. They just ignored the many recidivists who hardly reoffended while at large. He would prove to the world that he was right in his assessment of the human character. The art of manipulation was his greatest trump.
He quickly typed a usual and easily applicable answer to the inquiry that had just come in. It was short but precise. If the new protégé had even the slightest bit of intelligence, he would solve the issue without any major problems. If not, then he was not meant for his august circle anyway. How long would it take until the newest member of his fan community would make use of the next and most significant step in his assistance?
John stood at the bridge, bored, and watched the countless fish in the river snapping at bread crumbs as he tossed them in regular intervals. Yet another of those endless, listless Sundays. If only it were Monday, he thought. Then at least he wouldn't have to kill the hours alone just to put his dismal free time behind him. The days in the office were much more preferable to these wretched Sundays. He was probably the only person in this damn world who thought so. Nothing had been the way it once was since Rosie left him. He could so clearly remember how, one year before, her approachable manner allowed him to finally crawl out of his shell. But her efforts didn't last long. She soon grew vapid, bored in his presence. He just did not have the drive or the power to enjoy the beautiful, exciting things in life with her. After everything that had befallen him before they first met, he was content keeping things to himself. He couldn't change his spots, although it did not escape him how much she suffered for it. His constant ill temper and spells of depression exhausted her, and she had explained this to him. She just wanted to live and could no longer bear being dragged down with him. Then what had to happen, happened. One day after another, she packed her things and vanished. She always made it unmistakably clear when she concretely stated that he was not to look for her, to never contact her by phone. She had had enough of him. Maybe it was his lot in life to scrape out his existence as a loner and a pariah.
When all the bread was gone and the fish had swum off every which way, John left the bridge and set off toward his empty, desolate apartment. After he became newly single, he had nothing left in the tiny apartment he furnished with Rosie. He was a second away from going in the wrong direction and taking the bus into a different part of town. Before the automatic doors shut, he managed to step off and go in the right direction. Arriving home, he collapsed onto his threadbare couch, irritated, and turned on the television with the knowledge that the programs airing would not interest him. But better to flip through the different channels than nothing at all. How many hours would he have to carry on like this before he could go to sleep without feeling awful? Five endless hours!
"Well, you loser. Are you lying around like a beaten dog in front of the tube again?" John looked in the direction from which the voice had stemmed. As always it sounded unfriendly, but he expected nothing else.
"Just leave me alone," he tiredly whispered. "Never," the voice breathed directly into his ear. John could actually feel the humid breath. The thrill left him with goose bumps on his arms. He shuddered and began to lightly shiver. The loud, sardonic laughter pierced right through him. He desperately held his hands over his ears and tightly closed his eyes. He didn't want to hear or see any more. When would this nightmare finally end?
"Go away!" he screamed hysterically into the room. John could distinctly remember when he was first harassed by his presence. As now, he was standing casually in the doorframe with his arms folded across his chest. Although John could only make out a blurry image of the figure - like the monochrome picture of a flickering television - he knew immediately that it was his dead brother. Of course it was clear to him that he was hallucinating, but even after trying multiple times to rub his eyes awake, it was always the same. The apparition, unchanging before his eyes, was definitely Christopher, his brother who died tragically three years before.
It happened during a sailing trip in Croatia, an annual tradition they had long carried out together. On the day it happened, a storm was forecast but they still wanted to journey out. It couldn't be that bad. They were both highly seasoned sailors and they loved it when the sea was a bit more raw. Yet the waves broke stronger, the boat was struggling. John took the helm while Christopher overtook the head sail. A gigantic wave slapped over the boat and it was on the verge of tipping over. Only because of the helmsman's quick reaction a capsize could be prevented. However, after the sailboat regained its position on the water, Christopher was gone. John conducted one man-overboard maneuver after another, but his brother was gone without a trace. He was never found. Every day since, John bore the guilt for this tragedy. He was the older of the two and he alone carried the responsibility. Had they heeded the warning from the harbor master's office and not swept it under the rug, his younger brother would still be alive. Since this accident, he lost a lot of sleep and shed over 20 pounds. He could almost be considered gaunt, and his visage was everything but healthy. Not that he looked terrible - he had always been an attractive man - but his joie de vivre had almost entirely been sapped from him. That his parents had completely broken off contact with him was another nail in the coffin. Up until the accident, he had always enjoyed a good relationship with them. Even considering that Christopher had been the favorite since he was born, John could live happily. But after the death of his younger brother, everything changed. His mother could no longer bear to look at him and his father always disappeared into his workshop when he came to visit. After a few months he gave up. He has not tried talking to them since. The Family chapter of his life had definitively ended. Except for his brother of course, who would not let him go.
The first meeting with his deceased brother shook John to the core. Moreso, it unnerved him to the extreme. Was this the first sign of insanity? His intensive Internet research showed that people who have been severely traumatized at a young age sometimes develop so-called dissociative personality disorder. It also said that those affected could thus separate themselves from the horrible occurrences that they need to overcome. Christopher had been visiting him for two years, giving him Hell about having to get his life together again. But how was he to ever live a normal life when two voices in his head were calling the shots?
The loud noise next to Peter's head put an abrupt end to his night's rest. His skull was buzzing. Had too many beers last night, he thought listlessly. He reached for his cell phone to finally silence the irritating ringtone.
"Hey, man. Awake already too?" asked a voice that was very familiar to him.
"What's this now? I would have slept another round if you hadn't ripped me out of it at this ungodly hour with that alarm from hell," Peter growled into the mouthpiece.
"It's already afternoon, you jerk. And in case you've forgotten, we arranged for tennis," Michael - his best friend since childhood - reminded him.
Shit, he completely forgot. With all of his private appointments it was no wonder. It's like he was driven, he hardly spent two hours in his apartment and only felt truly happy in the company of his friends. And he had had enough. Nature meant well with him. Grew up tall and equipped with an athletic body, he was already a beloved playmate in his childhood. Later he turned into a good-looking young man with the girls fawning over him in droves. He always wore his ash blond hair a little too long, which always left him looking rather roguish and unserious. His gentle, symmetrical facial features and flawless skin, with no hints of past pubescent acne, may have looked a little feminine at first glance but did not at all harm his attractiveness. Peter was an exceptionally handsome man and he knew how to take advantage of this. Coupled with that, he used his uncomplicated and open manner in such a way that it was quite easy for him to win people over. Perhaps this is why, four years ago, he decided to study psychology. Even though listening was never one of his strong suits, he was great at motivating a person without manipulating them. Peter saw the goodness in people first and was convinced that only via bad influences could a person commit wrongdoing. He loved working with people and could not imagine a different career path for himself, except perhaps a professional athlete. He was passionate about playing tennis. But in order to really earn his way with athletics, he may have been lacking in ferocity and stamina. In any event, his parents would have never financed such nonsense. They were already unenthused about his field of study and called it a moneyless art. Peter was their only child, but they had their principles and followed clear rules. 'The boy should learn a real trade' being one of them. What was wrong or right was up to them. His parents were invulnerable to his charm. They had shared with him early on that attractiveness alone was not going to get him through life. Hard work and discipline ultimately lead to success. Perhaps because his mother brought him into the world rather late, they were always strict and unyielding with him. But this time Peter asserted himself and decided to either study psychology or travel abroad. After a lot of back and forth, they admitted that they did not want to lose their son in the big wide world. Whether or not he actually would have gone through with this step, he was not really sure.
Although he had no desire whatsoever to exert himself physically in his condition, he promised his long-time friend that they would meet in half an hour at the tennis court. Always better to be athletic with a hangover than to spend the rest of the afternoon hanging around in his apartment. Plus the fresh air would certainly do him good before meeting Rosalie in the evening, with a little something expected at the end of the night. They only got acquainted with each other the previous night and he was enthralled with her from the very start. She radiated such joie de vivre and her flattering, feminine proportions drove him crazy, to be honest. She was funny to boot, and incredibly pretty. With her grey-blue eyes and dark hair, the wild curls tumbling down her back like a cascade, she looked a little immodest. But her delicate facial features dampened this ominousness. He immediately fell for her. Man, the way they laughed. Never before had he crushed on a girl so quickly, and without a second thought. He was no companion to depression, and he knew how to use his magnetism on the finer sex. He was able to engage in sexual activity quite early on. His friends really envied his ability to wrap every girl around his finger. But with time, the One-Night-Stands that ended with him sneaking out of the strange apartment the next morning began to bore him. But with Rosalie, everything seemed completely different. Sex was not the most important thing. On the contrary, he wanted to take it slow and give them both time. But should it come down to it, he would certainly not stop himself. Of course they had not yet spent much time with one another, but he felt changed in her presence. He was not able to bend her ears as he usually could. He listened enthusiastically to her statements and stories, which she weaved together humorously, until he could not stop laughing. If this evening would just go the way it seemed it would, then nothing could stand in the way of a long-term relationship.
Peter left his apartment half an hour later in the best possible mood. His skull was still throbbing, but a cold shower was able to dull the hammering in his head slightly. Still, he was in good spirits and was not going to let a little headache - which he accredited to himself - ruining his fun. After the first few steps outside his door, he heard a loud bang followed by a heavy thud. Peter stopped in his tracks. The unusual sounds seemed to come directly from his floor. Did something explode in his apartment? Certainly he had shut the gas oven off, and even so he was only bustling in the bathroom the whole morning. Nevertheless, these strange noises unsettled him and he had to investigate. He went back and inspected his apartment. A few minutes wouldn't make a difference anyway. But there was nothing there. The loud bang did not come from his apartment after all. Then his neighbor had to have been the source. Peter was not especially close with the young man across the hall; actually they barely knew each other. The gentleman next-door was always fairly reserved and seldom greeted Peter. Whenever he did open his mouth, he did not dare to look Peter in the eyes. A strange guy, but Peter still wanted to be sure that everything was all right. Before knocking, he listened through the door, but everything was as quiet as a church mouse.