|A Shadow on the Wind|
The wind rolled over him, causing him to shiver. Below lay the planet, awash in shadows. I’m back in the universe again, Pikkon reminded himself. I have to be careful. He knew his body could no longer support the same amount of energy he had begun to take for granted in Other World, not now that he was back amongst the living.
But that was no matter. King Yemma had trusted him. Pikkon would not let him down.
He closed his eyes and felt the pulse of the universe. It was an odd sensation, to be back here. He remembered this feeling only vaguely; it was not as it had been in Other World. He remained motionless, even as the wind continued to howl around him. Rivers of thought began to snake through his mind, fervent and short-lived. He used to be able to sense life as easily as he took breaths. Now he was struggling with both reflexes, as if he was a newborn. I’ve been dead too many years. I wasn’t meant to come back.
He was inharmonic with the rest of the universe. Out in the cold of a distant, lifeless planet, that feeling of loneliness alarmed him and weighed down on him from his shoulders and pushed outward from inside his rib cage. It hurt more than he would have expected. The longer he kept his eyes shut, the more he sensed, the more he began to feel. It was a slow awakening. Yet, even as his living abilities were returning to him, none of it felt right to Pikkon. He did not feel at home here; he did not feel like this was where he was meant to be.
And then, in an instant, everything opened back up for him. He felt life. One pulse, not two, he thought. Babidi, and no Buu. That would make things easy.
Pikkon calmed himself, tried to spread his energy across his body to harmonize with himself in this living world again, and then dived down to the dark world awaiting him.
It was the oldest, most real thing in the universe: champion against foe. Which one am I? He didn’t know if he was either, truth be told. He knew little of Babidi or why the wizard had escaped from Hell. Pikkon expected no challenge, or a poor one at best.
Once, though… he had been a hero. That had been so long ago, it strained him just to try to remember it. All he remembered now of what had killed him, what had left him as he was… well, there were flashes, blurred images, the sounds of screams, the smell of blood and ash and sweat. He remembered remembering his memories a thousand times over until all that remained was an echo of an echo of a voice that could no longer speak.
Landing in the dark sands by the beach, Pikkon sensed that Babidi was not far away. I should sneak up on him. That way, he won’t be able to try anything. The beach itself was a desolate place, smelling of decay. Its dunes stretched out behind him endlessly into the night; ahead, he could hear the rustling of waves lapping against the shore. The air smelled faintly of brimstone, and the rhythmic sloshing of the waves provided Pikkon with enough auditory cover for him to run forward towards his quarry.
This place had once been populated, the warrior could see. But was it Babidi or something else that destroyed them? He sensed no one – no sentient being – aside from himself and Babidi on this world. And yet ruins marked the landscape. The beaches were filled with charred, old wooden huts, debris blown across the endless sands, but Pikkon could not tell how old they were. Strange, he thought. Everything looks like it’s been here forever – the ruins, the beaches, the waters. It all seemed to go together to him. Ahead, on a tall cliff-face, Pikkon saw a stone tower crumbling into the sea when green lightning flashed across sky. If it had stood for a thousand years or one, he could not tell. It’s beautiful, Pikkon thought. Beautiful and sad. He shivered again.
His footsteps marked in the sands in a neat trail. It was real – inarguably, he still existed. But soon, the waves will come in and wash the sand away. Pikkon tried to clear his thoughts, to return harmony to his body, but it was no use. He hadn’t expected that returning to the universe would do this to him. Now, looking back, he was a fool to think otherwise.
Once, he’d been a mighty warrior, a hero of his people. Pikkon hadn’t thought about his death in a long time. Just being back in the fresh air of the living universe, however, made something in his brain scream that this was right, that this was where he was supposed to be. He ignored that, and instead tried to remember again. He remembered them cheering his name, though for what, he could not say. He remembered fighting something – or perhaps someone – but his memories offered him nothing more than jagged, impossible shapes drifting from the fog in the back of his mind. So too did the haunting shapes of monsters drift in and out of the darkness around him. Pikkon was sure that they were mere tricks of the eye, for he could sense nothing, but every now and then, he thought he saw a gleam of eyes, or a snout bared, or an angular, tilted face – alien as life was to death – peeking at him from behind the cloudy veil.
The rocks were windswept and grey, many of them poking up from the sands in attempts at monolithism. Some had succeeded – the one that Pikkon believed Babidi was behind stood almost as tall as the cliff with the ruined tower. Others were scattered across the shore, closer to the cliff, in varying heights, making a maze of the land. On them grew white roots, webbed and spread out like sickly blood veins. Why did Babidi come here? What was he hoping to accomplish? Pikkon had never felt the lust to return to the living world, not enough to want to break free. Why Babidi had, he could not guess. Maybe the wizard had simply not been willing to die yet. Pikkon knew that he could find his freedom if he wanted it. If he truly wanted it, he could run off, just like Babidi had. He could betray King Yemma as Babidi had. And there’s no one in Other World strong enough to bring me back. That was the major separator between Babidi and him, the one that Pikkon knew would seal both of their fates.
Another burst of lightning whipped across the sky. Pikkon braced for the inevitable clap of thunder, but it never came. It was then that he realized the previous flashes he had seen had not had any thunder following them, either. That’s weird, he thought. It’s not natural.
Stumbling and feeling his way through the near-darkness, Pikkon navigated through the broken path of rocks to the water’s edge. There, on one side, was the shore: uniform, serene, austere. And on the other side were the waves: bubbling and rocking and racing to meet the shore. A flash of lightning exploded across the sky again, causing Pikkon to duck behind a rock. When he stuck his head out again, the afterglow left enough light for him to see a small figure huddled over something just where the water met the sand. Babidi. What could he be doing?
Pikkon was hopelessly confused. It’s not my place to question things, he reminded himself. I swore to return Babidi to King Yemma. That’s it. Find him, capture him, and return him to Other World. Nothing else. The warrior stepped forward, thrusting his fists out and falling into a fighting pose. He felt his feet sink into the sand. The wind was severe here, perhaps coming in from the sea, or perhaps not. Something was not right; he could feel it in his bones. I’ve been too long here. We need to get back.
His muscles were taut, his fists raised. His weighted clothes billowed around his willowy figure. He was like a coiled spring, loaded with energy and completely at rest. And when the lightning flashed again – this time, he could see that the green bolts seemed to leap up from the water’s edge, where Babidi huddled – Pikkon shouted, “It’s over, Babidi! Give up, or I will have to restrain you.”
The figure across the sands perked up and spun around. Pikkon saw a squat thing, fat and covered in thick robes, which flapped and flailed about it. When it looked at Pikkon, the warrior felt a shot of adrenaline shoot through his chest. He has no eyes, no face, Pikkon saw, horror coming to him. That isn’t Babidi.
“You’re going back to Hell, where you belong.” Pikkon’s voice was wavering a bit now, uncertainty clouding his usual cool demeanor.
But his foe didn’t seem to hear what he said. It cocked its head and then ran off into the far darkness. Pikkon went to pursue him when, from the tall rocks on either side of the path, two creatures jumped down on him. It’s an ambush, he realized too late.
They looked much like the false Babidi. They had skulls for faces, and wide, eyeless holes from which the darkness stared back at him. Pikkon shrugged them off and threw them to the sand. They’re weak. But why can’t I sense them? The two jumped up with uncomfortable speed and then rushed him madly, screaming and frothing at the mouth. The waves went out and came in again. Pikkon fell into his stance, daring his foes to try again. This time, they will not get up.
When emerald shards of electricity once again flung themselves into the sky – this time, farther away than before – the light that briefly filled the beach illuminated his two opponents and shone through them. They’re translucent, like ghosts. That was not all: with the light so clearly on them, Pikkon could see that these robed beings looked quite a bit like Majin Buu – they had head tentacles, pale pink skin, and were slight of frame and short of height, just as he had been. Their faces were bare skulls, but they appeared to have skin otherwise.
I challenged Buu once… when I didn’t know what he was. Pikkon had risked his entire existence by doing so, when Majin Buu had been teleporting through the universe and Other World in search of Goku and Vegeta. When a dead being dies, they are removed, totally, from existence. And yet, even though he knew now that was the case, it didn’t bother him. He would have done the same thing had he known Buu’s power. I guess that’s the hero in me. I can’t remember being a hero, but old habits die hard. I wonder what that would feel like, to be forgotten. He didn’t know if it would be much different than how he felt now. I wonder if anyone still remembers me, from my homeworld. Did they build statues for what I did? Did they write stories? Or did they die out, just like me? Pikkon didn’t know; desperately though he tried, he could not remember the circumstances of his death, if he had sacrificed himself for his species, or if he had died along with them. Maybe I’ll ask West Kai when I get home.
“Thunder Flash Attack!”
A spire of flames greeted the two demons. Pikkon thought he heard them scream. When the smoke cleared, only burn marks remained in an elongated crater of glassed sand, where two living beings had once been. And now they’re in Other World. Just like that; it was so easy, killing. Life was the strangest system of order in the universe. It contradicted the gradual entropic tendencies of all other things in nature – stars, planets, galaxies. It was the only system to do that. Life, thought Pikkon, there’s something unnatural to it. Something alluring. He didn’t know why that allure had died in him. The waves came in and filled the crater, and the burn marks vanished under a torrent of sulfur-smelling waves.
He found the third being not far away and eased its passing with a decapitating beam. But where’s Babidi? I felt him; I know I did. And these sickly creations of his… they don’t have power signatures. Not like his. He’s weak by my standards, but Babidi would give about half of Other World a run for their money. Someone that powerful shouldn’t be able to hide. Pikkon closed his eyes again and tried to focus. When he did, he was greeted by images of streets running with smoke, green-skinned beings running with their hands above their heads, their flesh melting from their bodies, some covered in fire, others lying in the streets moaning and watching their bodies fail them. He had stood amongst them, stood down what was chasing them. He could see it then, clear as water. The creature had poked its head out of the smoke, just a fraction, and then… There!
He felt Babidi, and this time he knew it was truly the wizard. The power signature was unmistakable and it was troubled – evil, some would call it. Such labels didn’t concern him. The power did; it was not even a quarter of his own. This will be over soon.
Out at sea he found the wizard, hovering above the churning midnight waves. Robust tendrils of some species of water tree, or perhaps something else, rose up from the waves, some poking hundreds of feet in the air. Around them, small tree-like saplings flew and bobbed in the wind, their green-yellow pollen spread across the air as far as the eye could see. And amongst all of this was Babidi. In front of him was a dark ball Pikkon knew held the dormant Majin Buu. Babidi was shooting green electricity into it, muttering to himself. His halo burned a bright white-yellow above his head, and Pikkon could see beads of sweat trickling down the wizard’s wrinkled green egg-shaped head.
“Babidi,” Pikkon growled. The wizard looked up, and Pikkon saw fear in his eyes.
“N-no… I need more time! Wait!”
“You must return to Other World with me.”
“I’m not going back! I’m never going back!”
Pikkon hovered steadily, unmoved. The wind tore through his clothes, blowing them about in a maddening display, but otherwise he was at peace. “I wasn’t asking you.”
“If you don’t leave now, I’ll release Majin Buu again! And you know what that means… he’ll destroy the universe!”
King Yemma gave all of Majin Buu’s power to a human child. I am in no danger. “He won’t. And you won’t release him. Now I’m only asking you one more time. Come quietly, or I’ll be forced to–”
“P-p-pleaseeeeee!” Babidi whined. “I can’t go back! I want to live!”
“But you died. These things have already been decided.”
“You don’t understand. I’m not ready, you see! I have so much more I want to do.”
“I’m sure plenty of others thought that too. How about the billions you and your monster killed? How many of them wanted to live? How many of them weren’t ready to leave this realm?”
Babidi’s eyes widened. He looked lost. Then, he spit. “If you let me go, I’ll make you the strongest warrior in the universe!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m a powerful wizard,” Babidi replied. “If you join me, I can help you tap into unimaginable power! All you have to do is join me.”
“Is that what you were trying to do with Buu?” Pikkon nodded to the cocoon. “Doesn’t look like it worked. Otherwise you would have already released him.”
“I can make you into the perfect warrior! Just look at what I did to Vegeta… to Dabura… You would become a god!”
Pikkon shook his head once. “I’m fine with how I am, thanks.”
Babidi went pale. His lip was quivering. The wind sang between the two; the waves crashed against the shore beneath them.
“Come on, why don’t you think about it? Don’t you want to be alive too? You can come with me… you can be free. We can help each other!”
“I don’t need your help.”
“S-so… that’s it, is it? Well, I won’t go down without a fight!”
Babidi shot back into the darkness, warming up fire between his palms. Before he could shoot his attack at Pikkon, the warrior teleported behind Babidi, knocked the energy from his hands with a low kick, and wrapped energy bindings around his arms, legs, and torso. The wizard had been so pathetic, so weak; he had barely put up a struggle at all. Now, he wriggled and writhed, but Pikkon knew there was no getting out of those bindings.
“Before we leave, I want you to answer one thing.”
“Never!” Babidi coughed. “Let me go, let me go, LET ME GO!!”
“Why did you create those other three creatures? Were you trying to create another Majin Buu? One who hadn’t lost his power?”
Babidi stopped fidgeting. He stared at Pikkon, who calmly stared back until the wizard finally averted his eyes.
“Well? I asked you a question.”
Babidi stuck his nose up and looked away, more annoyed than scared. His arrogance… his disobedience. He doesn’t seem to realize that he’s lost.
Pikkon suddenly teleported forward and punched Babidi hard in the stomach. The little green magician squealed and spit up blood. “You know what happens to those who die after they’re dead?” Babidi did; everyone in Other World did. No response came, however. “You really want to live. So, you better start talking. I’m not in the mood for you giving me the silent treatment. Tell me why you created those three monsters or I’ll wipe you out of existence.”
The threat was bold and arrogant in its own right, Pikkon knew. He didn’t care. So much of what we are continues on after death… legacies, philosophies… and no one who ceases to exist will be forgotten. Everyone’s actions influence the universe. What Babidi and Buu did to the universe have shaped it into what it is today. Even if I blast him away, that cannot be undone. But Babidi doesn’t seem to know that… or if he does, he doesn’t care. Every moment Pikkon remained in the universe, he felt a little more alive, a little more in-tune with the harmonies of reality. But no matter how accustomed he got to the old way things worked, where time was not a constant, where death and decay were the driving forces of everything, something still felt off. He didn’t feel right here. There was a piece of him he knew would never readjust. I wonder if it’s like that for Babidi. I wonder if he has realized things will never be the same.
“I wanted to create life,” Babidi explained. “I wanted to make a better universe!”
“You destroyed so much… all those millions of years ago, and when you came to Earth. Those you killed, those planets you destroyed… that will never be the same. Those wrongs will never be righted. The only constant in the universe is that everything dies. Order becomes disorder,” Pikkon said. “And you want to return to that? Why?!”
Babidi frowned. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I was going to change things for the better! I captured Majin Buu. I saved everyone from him! He was going to re-absorb his power from that human boy. But I stopped it! I’m a hero!”
“And then you created three more of his kind out of fear that you couldn’t protect yourself from me… you knew someone was coming for you. Too bad you don’t have the power to stop me.”
The wizard scrunched up his face and looked as if he was about to say something. He opened his mouth and then closed it. “I don’t know what happened to you, but you’re screwed up. We could have done great things, you and I.”
But we won’t. “It’s time I take you back to King Yemma. He’ll be wanting to speak with you.”
Again, a wave of fear shone in Babidi’s face. How could such a pathetic creature have done such terrible things to the universe? It seemed like, to Pikkon, that that was too often the case. His fellow warriors in Other World often talked about the foes who had killed them, and oft as not, the monsters were sickly, vengeful little beasts who wanted to get revenge on the universe for their fates in life. Mine wasn’t, though. He had been a huge monster. Pikkon tried his best to remember its face, to remember how it had killed him. Had he managed to kill it in return? What was it doing on his planet to begin with? Did his people survive, at least? The harder he thought, the less he remembered, until all he could focus on was his heartbeat, ringing loud and true in his ears.
Sighing, Pikkon gathered up his petulant quarry, and sped off. And as he flew, he beheld the light of dawn peaking over the far-off horizon. The sky blossomed pink and orange and spread over the grey-green waters of the ocean like watercolors. Pikkon weaved his way through the tendril-trees spiking up from the water and blinked pollen out of his vision. As he flew, he felt the warmth of the planet’s sun hit his face, and pleasure washed over him. This feeling was that of being alive, he knew. But I’m dead. And I’ve been dead for a long time.
Below him, Pikkon noticed the waves rolling in and falling back, beating endlessly against the beach. The rhythm of the universe, he thought. Whether we live or die, that will never change. At first, he thought that was a hopeless thought, a bleak sentient-less outlook; but the more he reflected on it as he flew off with Babidi, Pikkon began to realize that, perhaps, things were better than they seemed. He didn’t need to be something more than he was; he was perfectly fine being that shadow on the wind, the smallest of things standing in opposition to the decaying order of the rest of the universe. Pikkon had been a mighty hero once, but that had been so long ago – so long ago that he barely remembered it.
A smile crept onto his face as he wondered what his people would think about him now. I’m not the man they think I am anymore. And with that thought came a surge of energy through Pikkon’s body. He felt warm again; he felt a sense of serenity wash over him. Pikkon knew that finally he was in harmony with himself.
|The Heels of the Unknown|
A Shadow on the Wind • I'm a Candy Man