Dyllan stared in silence at the photograph for a while – a good two minutes passing before he snapped out of his trance and turned the page.
The third page of his father’s sketchbook contained the first actual sketch. It was a monstrous thing, spread out across two pages and drawn with charcoal and pencil. An amorphous blob, its texture jagged and tar-like. It was covered in patches of black flame, and dozens of crumbling ashen depictions of human limbs stuck out of it. At the center of the blob were two jagged, hollow eyes and a wicked grin filled with saw-like teeth.
It was unmistakably a Nightmare, that much was obvious. Then, Dyllan noticed a small photo clipped to the corner of the page. A photo of a five-year-old, middle-eastern girl caught in an uneasy slumber on a pile of rags, burn marks covering her shoulder.
The next few dozen pages were more of the same, horrific depictions of Nightmares with pictures of people attached. Some were local to the middle-east, some were US soldiers.
Finally, there came the forty-ninth page. Instead of a murderous beast, a sketch of Axel was featured. He was drawn with ink and colored pencil, and had a shield on his arm. The shield wasn’t drawn in much detail in the sketch itself, but an expanded diagram of it was drawn out next to him. It was small and sleek, painted with a blazing flame pattern, and had a hidden blade underneath it. It was labeled “Axel’s Passion.” Underneath the whole drawing was a note. “Axel, a loyal friend and soldier through and through. Stands up for what he believes in and stands tall. Nobody knows when he’ll die, but we all know how – by taking a bullet meant for someone else.”
On the next page was another drawing of Axel, this one monochrome. His body done in pencil, and a pair of wolf ears with a tail done in charcoal. He held a makeshift automatic rifle, made from scrap wood, duct tape, metal piping, and malice. Like the shield, it was drawn in more detail off to the side, and labeled “Axel’s Insubordination.” Once more, there was a note. “Axel, a stubborn fool that hates taking orders. Stands in defiance of anything and everyone. Paints himself a rebel without a cause, but is more of a violent insurgent without a reason. Nobody knows when he’ll leave the military, but we all know how – by court martial.”
With a twinge of hesitation, Dyllan turned the page. To his surprise, Axel was drawn there for a third time, in color once more. For the most part he was colored gently with pencil, but on his head were a pair of pitbull ears intensely stained with watercolor – a fearsome reddish-orange that seemed to almost bleed into the page. Beside him was the diagram of a guitar with bladed edges, labeled “Axel’s Bull-headedness.” Beneath it all was a note, this one much shorter than the two that came before it. “Axel, my best friend.”
A note from the
It is often said you can’t have light without dark, that they are two sides of the same coin.
Few stop to think about why this is, and what this really means.