I’m not Atlas Vantoft.
I’m not really Jack Valentino either.
The monster that I had long feared lived inside me stands revealed and it’s name is Atlas.
It has been a long time since I’d felt compelled to write my thoughts down and with everything that is going on and what is still to come, I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again. I had better explain everything while I can.
For the past four years, I’d felt like there was a large part of me that was hidden from me. I was unable to remember anything before that night that I awoke in New York. In a way, it made me a capable person. I wasn’t bound by the histories that bind everyone else. I had no family, no past and didn’t even have a name. I was given the name Jack. It was near Valentine’s day so, I was told to call myself Valentino. That became who I was. I put on the name and identity like someone would put on a pair of shoes.
But, it wasn’t real enough.
I found a connection to books about history. Lost empires, fallen kingdoms and battles fought over dust. The weight of their history contrasted the lightness of my own lack. The long and winding history of the Roman empire held triumphs and setbacks that weaved together into a tapestry that ultimately defined Rome. Though I loved the story and learning, I would reflect on my own life and realize that I was a loose and unattached thread flapping in the wind.
Things changed when I met Michael. I was picked up and given purpose by the Secret Service but, it was Michael who fought for my spirit. I’d had employers, targets, associates, go-betweens and more but, I’d never had a friend before. Even as I pushed him away, he reached out and became my friend.
Working missions with him opened up a whole new world. Together, we were better than I ever was alone. He would argue on the ethical validity of some of my choices. Slowly, I found myself wondering how Michael would react to any particular decision of mine. Gradually, I realized that “The greatest good” must be tempered with what “feels right.” I’m not going to apologize for some of my actions but, I didn’t always do what was right. Often, I’d simply felt that even when unpleasant, certain things just “had to be done.”
It was that justification the would have Michael and I clash the most. Then, Victoria joined us and brought with her a sort of idealism and optimistic outlook that neatly combined with Michael. Victoria and Michael continually chose to walk the path of light while I advocated the shadows. Slowly, a strange thing happened. Less and less, I found myself thinking what would Victoria or Michael want me to do while more often, I would think about what was the “right thing” to do.
It was a gradual change on my outlook but, it was dramatic at the same time. Killing was an absolute last resort. Violence was to be applied carefully. I honed the other tools in my toolkit. Strategy, deception and manipulation could supply solutions when violence was off the table. My vision cleared in a way. Things became more complicated.
We saved a world, watched one die and learned so much.
We followed the Elohim of Zyphr back to their world, intent on stopping them from ever attacking another world again. There, instead of monstrous aggressors, we found desperate scavengers attempting to provide and pamper their own people no matter what. The people of Zyphr were human. The problem was that their world was dying yet they never learned how to live within their means. They were never forced to grow up and take responsibility for their own world.
With Zenisha Kapoor, we waged a war of ideas. We battled a culture completely soaked in denial and with minimal losses, we won. Eventually, it became clear to the Elohim that the people that they strove to protect, wanted to have their own chance. They wanted to stand for themselves. We found a new world for them to start over and they called it New Zyphr. This time, the Elohim and the humans could work side by side for the betterment of all. Rather than be treated like children.
There, Zenisha offered me a gift.
She had concocted a potion that she said should open my mind in such a way that my memories should be able to return. Though I was afraid at what I might find in the hidden corners of my mind, I drank the potion because I had to know. I had to learn who I was. I wanted my past to define me like it had in the books that I’d read.
Slowly, I began having memory flashbacks. These would leave me defenseless while my mind drifted back in time and I explored history. I saw a baby. Atlas. I saw the child grow up. I saw his flaws and triumphs. Through it all however, something bothered me. I saw these things. I didn’t experience them.
My memories weren’t in my own eyes. It was as if I were there while Baby Atlas nursed from his mother. I was just a bystander when Saga was born. I spoke with others about how they remembered things. Did they see themselves? Were they observers in their own lives? Again and again, I was baffled. Then I had other, more visceral and darker memories. These, I did experience. I was in a glass container. I was locked in a room. I was in the dark.
It took being in a mental asylum and cut off for me to learn the terrible truth.
No matter how much I wanted to be. No matter how much I wanted to please everyone. I was not Atlas Vantoft. No, I was a shiftless spirit that he encountered in the void between worlds. He took me back with him. Taught me to take his place. He trained me to be him so that he could leave his world and explore the worlds beyond. It wasn’t to be, however. When he activated the machine that would act as a gateway to the void, a much more powerful and malevolent thing was waiting for him.
Out of loyalty to the only other person I really knew, I tried to save him. In doing so, I allowed the malevolent creature to take his body while I must have absorbed his mind. That night that I arrived in Manhattan, it was because of Atlas. I carried him within me as an unknown observer. It was only after he was discovered that I realized that he’d been manipulating events from the start.
He seems to have a measure of control of the creature. He had it turn it’s gaze to earth. When the time was right, the creature was once again waiting. What he didn’t count on was that I would become attached to Michael and Victoria. That would would become friends.
Now, I’ve discovered him. So he has become far more bold. He takes control of my body some times. Forcing me to be in the dark, watching, fighting for the chance to regain ownership of what is mine. He wants to destroy my connections to my friends. He wants to kill what I’ve nourished. He believes that if he can break me and have me truly alone, I would be able to be bent to his will.
He may be right about that.
He plans on merging with the malevolent thing in the void. He plans on using it’s power to consume world after world. In his plan, he would take the minds of the inhabitants and add their knowledge to his own. I can see the burning, empty husks that he would leave behind. Twisted experiments done on innocents just to learn something new. He has no limits. He has nothing to lose. Worst of all, he lives in my mind.
I don’t know if we can beat him. All I know is that where he is alone, I have the support of Michael, Victoria, Zenisha, his father Lord Asmund, His brother Viktor and so many more. His family have accepted me even knowing what I actually am and they are now my family. So, the monster stands revealed but in the light, Atlas just seems like a petty and selfish child. I know that he is dangerous, yet I do pity him. He will never really understand what it’s like to feel love. I don’t think that he is capable.
I am not Atlas Vantoft.
Jack Valentino is a person that I made up.
Even if it only was for your own, twisted reasons, you gave me so much. I thank you for that. All you know is fear and rage. I’ve grown so beyond that. I know what pain and doubt, loss and redemption feel like. Most of all, I know what family and love feel like. To you, they are words and weakness. To me, they are strength. The strength that I will use to destroy you.
I am Jack Vantoft. I created myself and I refuse to let you stop me.