Timeline: November 8th, 2007 — evening.

The impact was sudden. Searing pain engulfed his body and then darkness consumed him, yet Daniel found he was strangely calm.

The jeep had impacted a tree, and Daniel had been thrown from the car, through the windshield, and then hit the same tree the Jeep was wrapped around. His body slid limp, to the ground.

As Ramiel drug himself from the wreckage, he screamed from the pain in his arm. It was broken, and obviously so. He made his way to Daniel, and even with one arm, loosing blood, he started to check him for life signs. “ JOHN!” he called as he started to compress Daniel’s chest with one hand.

John was a little woozy, but everything seemed in tact as he made his way to his friends. His forehead was busted up, but seeing Daniel it didn’t matter. He quickly tore his shirt and wrapped his head to keep the blood from his eyes, moved Ramiel out of the way and took over CPR.

Michael was there before long, coming down the road, he had been chasing the car, but stopped pursuit to help out at the accident. The car, though heavily damaged, got away and faded into the night.

The scene before Daniel seemed to slow down, as though lifetimes were passing. These people were trying to save him, with little regard to their own injuries. But even while watching himself die, he was calm. It was quite now, though he knew there should be sound, there should be something he thought.

He was staring at his body, when he noticed the images in the trees behind them. Looking at them was like looking through an opening in space, each one had a different scene playing out in it; some he recognized as events from his own life and others were not from his life but familiar all the same.

As he moved closer to the images his eyes caught the outline of a woman standing nearby, watching him. She was tall and slender, though curved in all the right ways. Her hair was like snow, and her eyes were white with a ring of brown around the iris. She wore an expensive, tailored suit. The jacket was long, stopping at her knees, and the pants fell nicely over her boots. Both were white, like her hair. The top was black, and was a bodice style, fitted to her body; it overlapped her pants, stopping at the hips.

“Hello Daniel.” Her voice was medium, tranquil and very pleasant.

“Why, hello? Have we met?”

She smiled, ” I think you would remember if we had Daniel.” She moved closer to him, stopping and looking at his body lying on the ground. “Did you have a good life Daniel?”

Daniel looked down at his body beneath him, “Oh…”. He instinctively moved to straighten his tie. “Well, I suppose it was, until recently that is. I guess I must have not survived the crash?”

“At the moment it would seem ‘no’ is the appropriate response.” She knelt down next to the body with effortless, graceful movements. She looked at each of Ramiel, John, Michael, and Daniel’s body at the scene in turn, and though she was very close to the others, they did not seem to notice her, or Daniel for that matter. They continued to administer CPR to the body.

“Who are you?” asked Daniel. “I’ve never been very religious, but then again the last year has thrown all of my beliefs to the wind, why not eternity? I thought I would simply wink out. Are you Death? Is this it?”

She stood, ” Do you want it to be? Have you not craved for just that, death? As for who am I, you made a wish, and I answered. If your mind finds peace in names, you can call me Hope.”

“Hope. A nice name, nice enough. As far as my mind finding peace, I don’t know. I know I’m less scared now than I was, though I’m not sure why. I should be panicking, begging to live, or such. I’m not. I don’t want to die, but I was not very happy in life, at least in the last few years. I used to be confident, strong, loved by women, feared by my opponents. Now, I just don’t know anymore. Ever since the visions… but I suppose you already know this?”

“Knowing and experiencing are two different things. Tell me then how is it your visions took away all those things you mentioned.” She started walking slowly away from the group of men, leading Daniel closer to the tree line. “How could they have such power over you?”

Daniel followed. “I suppose it doesn’t matter now, though I wish the girl could have been saved. The visions have always disappointed me, cursed me, led me to dark places that I never wanted to go, but like a fool I tried to change the future and often things went worse than I had seen. Early on, these accursed visions led me to know for a fact that a client was guilty or innocent, but legal ethics drove me to get fair justice for child molesters, murderers, embezzlers, and the like. Most of the time, I got them off. You see I wouldn’t know that they were guilty until it was too late and I had already accepted the case. Ethics demanded that I keep the case and do my best. Legal ethics and morality rarely mix, so if you are death, I’m sure I have a one-way ticket to hell for the people I got off. But that is how the system works, and I tried to put it out of my mind.”

He drew closer to the tree line. “Then the murders started happening and I was tapped to save the innocent; the truly innocent whose only crime was to be at the wrong place to be used by this Dark Man. Now dozens are dead, innocents are framed for it and I KNOW the truth and I can’t do anything about it. I want him to be punished, but it seems that he is punishing me. These visions of mine are a torture being done to me by this being for some crime of my past or for some sick amusement. He pretty much told me so. In my own house no less. This ‘curse’ drives me to solve crimes that pile up more bodies and more death and no one really understood. And the funny thing is, two years ago I couldn’t have cared. I don’t want to care. I want to be the elitist shark from Yale and Harvard with the expense account. I worked hard for that. I bled for that. Now, due to these visions my career was on hold, innocents are dead or condemned to death, my true happiness gone, and all for what? A fight against something that I can’t get justice against, even if could stop it. I believe in the ethics of law, but more than anything I believe in justice, but not revenge. How can I do that outside the law? How could I violate my ethics at the cost of my soul. I felt trapped, I suppose in a moral conundrum. Not to mention being afraid of those whom I believed were to help me.”

Hope spoke. “Was there nothing you could do then, once you found out the truth behind your clients? Was it not within your power to find evidence to get a retrial? Ethics of is yes a moral guideline on how to think and behave, something that is clung to when it is too difficult to stand on you own. Those who have no faith in themselves finds such codes most liberating.

“Visions of death and horrible events are difficult to deal with and I can see why you cling to your old life, but I cannot see why you followed them if you did not want to. You don’t really believe you were forced into it, really? You made the choice to follow to help if you could. You chose to stand apart from those ethics you held so dear, but now there is a darkness that has settled into your heart. The darkness of fear and self-loathing, one that will eat away at you, one that will indeed provide the hell you speak of.

“I am going to give you a gift Daniel, a chance to make a different choice.” She lead him to one of the portal windows. As he peered into it, he could see an upscale New York Apartment, with all his belongings in it. “Have fun.” She smiled as she pushed him through the portal.

It was morning and Daniel was eating a quick breakfast, or rather drinking it. Soy shakes were a bit of habit for him now. Being one of the top lawyers in New York kept him busy and left him little free time. The paper told of his triumph in court the day before and how it was one of the most amazing victories in years. As he turned the pages of the paper, his cuff slid back to reveal a leather band with intricate markings on it, his lucky charm he had called it. In reality, he knew it was what kept the visions away.

Days passed and Daniel found he was living the life he has always dreamt of; he even had a wife and a child. No visions terrorized his nights, or cursed him to delve deeper into the darker side of things. Every now and then when meeting with clients, or passing someone on the street he felt the pull of a vision, but then it went away thanks to his charm. After a month had gone by, Daniel had a new neighbor. Passing in the hall he felt something, but it too passed over.

The morning paper told of a terrible massacre in the town of Jay Maine, the entire town went mad and killed each other. Investigators believed it was something in the water that caused a psychotic break in the citizens of the town. The situation was under control.

Another month passed and Daniel continued to ignore the pull around his neighbor. He was working on a case that has national coverage and if he could win this one he would be set for life. His job was important because he was making a difference. He knews that the ethics of his job sometimes meant he was defending guilty parties, but he put his faith in his job and did what he is supposed to; after all there was never any proof other wise.

After work he was having a couple drinks with his friends and coworkers, celebrating his victory that day. Everything was going perfect for him. The news was on the T.V at the bar when a breaking newscast came on. “Tyler Grimsen has been taken into custody today after allegations lead to a search of his home. Investigators uncovered evidence that Grimsen, 40, had been molesting the children in his neighborhood. Grimsen had been tried for similar convictions in his previous home in New York, Daniel James one of New York’s top defenders had all charges dismissed…….”

Daniel felt betrayed. He had believed this bastard and did his best to help him. He was supposed to get help, to get treatment. He was sure Grimsen would be calling soon. He called the office and jotted down a few notes.

The next story on the news told of how the tragedy of Jay Maine spread to two neighboring towns and in but the channel was changed before what actions were being taken could be described. Daniel was feeling a little ill. One of his last visions had held a sign for Jay Maine in it, he wanted to go home now. He parted ways with his friends. Thoughts consuming him, he had suspicions about Grimsen, and Jay, could he have made a difference in it.

The door to his apartment was standing slightly open when he got home. A rancid smell filled his nostrils. Cautiously, he proceeded into the apartment. The hallway opened up into the living room and there he saw his neighbor standing over his wife and child, blood dripped from his hands, their entrails were pulled from their bodies, arranged to make a dream catcher. It struck Daniel then; ten years ago he had defended a young boy who was being tried for murdering neighborhood animals. He was also suspect in the disappearance of a neighborhood girl, but there was no evidence. Daniel knew for a fact the boy had killed the animals, but since there was no evidence and such a petty thing was a waste of his time, he had the charges dismissed. Later he had a vision of the girl, and what he had done to her. The same pattern was staring him in the face now.

Daniel fell to his knees screaming, and the scene froze.

“Would you like to see what your visions would have shown you? I think we should take a look.” Hope had reappeared, and she touched his shoulder. Time seemed to rewind to the day his neighbor moved in. His head pounded, but this time the vision made it through. Daniel saw his neighbor standing over his family, arranging the dream catcher as they bled to death. It then flashed to that case so many years ago, and the young girl he had done this to, then the one that was never found.

“You should know the plague that started in Jay, spread to ten more towns. Thousands die from it before it can be contained. This man who is bout to kill you has killed forty women and children, well forty three.” She helped Daniel stand. “Is this the life you wanted?”

“No,” Daniel composed himself, “it isn’t. But what is happening to me? Why was I chosen to see these… prophesies and echoes of the past. I wanted to understand. I suppose it doesn’t make a difference now. A life I could have had that will go to hell because of a life I refused and didn’t want which was sending me to a different hell. What a catch 22? I hate this. I hate not controlling my destiny. All my life I controlled everything. Now that was gone. Did I get evil off, yes I admit that. I did my job because I was good at it, and everyone… everyone deserves a fair trial. It was my job to give it to them. It is better that 10 evils go free than one innocent be convicted. But before these abilities I couldn’t know for sure. It cut both ways. I saw innocents destroyed because of the Dark Man, and evil freed… by me… though on the outside — and by the evidence — they were seemingly innocent themselves.”

“Did I do things that were immoral? Yes, because legal ethics and morality rarely coincide. I believe in that. But how can one give a fair trial to inhuman monsters, or represent those you know to be guilty but the only evidence you have is a ‘feeling’? I would be disbarred. Would have been disbarred. And what do you do when your compatriots become like the very monsters you fight? My life went to hell over the last year, and yes this is selfish, but damn it I don’t want to be the unemployed madman warning of the Ides of March. I want to deliver justice to those wrongly accused. To free them from overzealous police and if they are bad, get them treatment, not some cold stone prison, which neither deters nor helps.”

“I lost myself in the visions and let them drive me to madness. And even if I controlled them, I would suffer the after effects, taunted by them though they do not touch me. I’m relieved I’m dead. But will they save the girl? I hope they do.”

“Does it matter why? Some would say it is human evolution, others a divine blessing. I believe those who will make a difference are given the gifts to achieve it, be it for good or evil. Gift or curse; only you can choose that. Here maybe this will help.” She took his hand and walked through the wall, leaving behind the carnage of that life. The world shifted to an office, not as nice as the previous one, but Daniel could see that it was not bad either. The walls were filled with framed pictures, not of a wife and child, but a family of friends and achievements.

There were framed articles of innocent men and women who were wrongly accused freed from prison after Daniel James refused to give up hope on them. Other articles showed how the daring lawyer took a stand for his beliefs, after successfully defending an accused murder, he had his doubts, and petitioned the case, new evidence was found and the man was convicted on three counts of murder. There was a note from Ramiel with it, you owe me for this one. Daniel could see that all of them were together, working together to help those who needed it. He had his visions, there was a journal he kept, writing down what he saw and applying it to life. They all were. In this life he had accepted his visions and learned to use them. He did not have the wealth he dreamt of, but was rich beyond all measure when he looked at all the families and people he had helped and the full life he had with his friends.

Again a month passed in this life and Daniel lived every one of those days full of pride in himself, knowing he was making a difference, no matter how small it was. Then it too froze. His friends were having dinner, all of them together happy, and She walked out of the wall again the same as before.

“There is no catch 22 here, your life was in turmoil, because you were in turmoil with it. The money and rich life the profession offered overrode your own personal values Daniel. There is guilt in that. Ask yourself; was it your pursuit of justice that made you chase your visions or guilt of knowing you were not helping justice but your own pocket book. When you did leave did you try to understand your visions, or were you confident of their meaning?“

“I took them at face value. I was no poet I’m afraid.”

“Sometimes our choices are not what we would want them to be. I have a story for you now.” She waved her arm and the scene changed. A woman stood over her baby in its crib, tears are streaming from her eyes. “I can’t, I won’t let it happen.” The words were German, but Daniel understood them with ease.

“She is crying because she had a vision of this child’s future.” Hope touched Daniels forehead, and he saw a war torn earth, everything lying in ruin, people hiding from soldiers as they marched down the street. They are tall, blonde, and nearly perfect. Camps are set up around the world to hold those different, and kill them. Billions of lives are lost, all under the command of this child, Hitler.

“What would you do knowing that this child will cause the death of billions of people, human or not? What do you think this vision is telling her?”

“Her visions tell her that her child is the instigator of death and violence in the future. But, isn’t the future unwritten until we live it? I couldn’t kill anyone without trying to change that future. Educate the child. Do something other than violence. Lead him in a different way. Else, are we all just victims of fate. I felt I was being drug along by fate, but I wanted to change it. I tried to change it. If we are fated, then what is the point of existence?”

“So you believe then the vision is telling her to avoid what she saw, that she needed to kill the child, but you would not do that. You would not take the life of one, to save countless others then?”

“Not if that person hasn’t done anything yet. But one can’t know for certain. At least that is what I had hoped.”

“Niether did she, though she thought the message was telling her to end his life. Who is to say really? I can tell you this though, once it was evident that all the love she gave her child made no difference, that he was still on the path to fulfill a future very similair to the one she was shown, another choice had to be made, but this time not by her.”

He is shown a scene between two men, from the look of it brothers, they were arguing. “You know we have to. They won’t stop untill they succeed, if he comes to power slowly you know the outcome.” The other nods his head. “We have to choose between thousands, and billions. We can not save those here and now, not all of them, but we can save countless others. Okay, we do it.” They turn to a woman kneeling near them, “You have your orders, make sure he succeeds in this. Through his quick rise to power, the world will take notice and stop him. We are counting on you to make sure this happens, watch your back.” The woman leaves, and the scene fades, Leaving them standing back in the woods, the others still trying to save Daniel.

“What happened there Daniel?”

He responded, “It looks as if they mitigated the disaster, but doing what they could, they minimized it, millions instead of billions. I understand, I believe. At least I have an idea.”

She smiled. “Yes everything, including visions, is what you make of them. You can see how you made them a curse, and your guilt drove you to follow without analyzing what you were seeing. Flying off half cocked so to speak.

“You have told me how you wished justice, but I have not seen it. I see how you turned you back on the pursuit of justice to fill your pocket book, hiding behind the ‘I did my job, it is the best I can do’ attitude. But then it consumed you as you focused on the darkest aspect of your visions. Did you ever once stop to see how could this help? To see what it was showing you that could be used to help others? Or was it always that it was ridiculous, worthless all just showing you death and that there was nothing you could do about it?

“Some things are fated, made concrete by our choices. But it is always the individual who has control of their own life. Like you Daniel, do you continue down the path of self pity and fear, viewing your visions as a curse, hating those who are your friends because they are different? Do hundreds or thousands loose thier lives because you were consumed by Why instead of Why not?”

She looked at him for a moment. “I have more to show you, so you can see how sometimes the right choice could be the wrong one.”

Again she took him through a portal, this time he saw Ramiel with a girl. She had long blonde hair and he was younger, so this was from his past. He saw how Ramiel looked into her eyes and there was love there in his own eyes, real love. The scene flashed and he saw Lyla read the girl, and knew that she is lying to Ramiel and that there was a group that intended him harm.

Again the scene changed. Ramiel was bound to a table. Another woman with dark hair told Ramiel how Julia had tricked him, seduced him as she had others so that he could be sacrificed to their godess.

It shifted again to Lyla busting him out, and the fight that ensued. There was a man there who wieled power like Ramiel now commanded, but at this point all Ramiel had were his fists and guns. Lyla was wounded and Ramiel had to save her in turn.

Daniel saw Ramiel repeatedly shoot to wound, slow down and scare away the others, doing nothing lethal. The fight ends with Ramiel standing over the leader of the cult, a gun to his head, knowing that if he did not kill him now he would most likely keep doing this. But he did not, could not.

“Now see what has become of those who tried to kill him.” Daniel sees that many others were in fact taken by the cult, the blonde Julia has gained in power, and seduced many men, luring them to their deaths. The dark haired women worked with her. They joined a Brotherhood, a bigger cult, along with the mage that was left alive. “Because he did not do what he knew he should, many others died, still die. You see Daniel there are those in this world who do not answer to human standards,because they are not just human, you know this. Not all are good, not all are monsters. But for all those who would do evil things, there are those who would stand against them and fight for those who cannot.”

“I have seen normal humans who were more a monster than any werewolf or vampire. It is not what one is that makes them a monster, but their actions. You say you fear your friends. Have you finally decided they are friends? What have they done to make you fear them? Is it because they could kill you? Could they not before?

“Tell me Daniel, how do you feel about things now? How do you see your life, after seeing it from more than one view?”

“I had many choices, and I may have let my pride get in the way of thinking clearly about these visions. Nothing I ever was taught set me up for what to do. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I couldn’t come to grip with it. I wanted fame, respect, and yes, wealth and I saw everything slipping away. I wanted that more than happiness. But the world isn’t a world of logic and law any more than it is one of fate or free will. It is shades of gray. All my life I lived in the shadows of this world, not realizing the horrors (and perhaps joys) of what it really is. If I had lived, now I have no idea what I would want. To help, for sure; but I’m no fighter, I’m a liberal. I hated guns though I reluctantly got one for my protection. If I could start again, I think I would have an open mind and not let my visions, my friends or my career define me. I would choose to define myself.

“I feared what I could not control, I feared what I did not know. My associates had changed, and their morals seemed to slip. I guess, I took out my frustrations on them to a degree. I will never accept that just because they are different that they should be judged by different standards. Murder is murder (whether it is a vampire, mage, human or werewolf). But, perhaps I can help them see that, or learn to see things from their point of view. If they would listen to me. But it is much too late for that. Even if I had lived, I pretty much told them that they are not my friends. I never had room in my life for friends. Perhaps they could have been. Some I liked. I thought John was kind, too kind perhaps. Michael I hardly know. Ramiel really annoys me. Lyla, I did like her before, but her change was so bestial and dramatic I had a hard time accepting it. Lastly Chaska, I found fairly nice, though his bestial nature set me on edge. They have the potential to be good people, people who change things for the better; they equally have the potential to become the thing they fight. That is what I fear. I just didn’t understand them. But, it is too late anyway.”

“You see the knowledge you need is inside you, just don’t be so stubborn no to listen. The world is shades of grey, an equally so are the players on that stage. There are those who will do what needs to be done to make things right, even if it means taking the life of those that can not be judged by human law. Not every player in the grand scheme is a fighter, like you Daniel, you do not have to be a fighter to fight the good fight.

“Apocalyptic battles are not fought or won by man alone. In fact, normal men rarely know what is happening about them. It is people like you and your friends who take up the fight willingly that will stand for the innocent, stand against the darkness, the brotherhood, the apocalypse, because you can and will do what no others can.

“Don’t fear who and what you are, accept it. Don’t fear your friends, they are no more monster than you, sure Chaska and Lyla may have different values than most, but what two people hold the same values? The important thing is to accept them, and respect their values. When you disagree or have an argument, talk it out, be calm, apologize when you are wrong. The hardest thing in the world is to be a good friend. It is far easier to shut out everyone and everything.

“You put too much stock in outside forces like the Darkman, what do you really know about him anyway? How do you know he is evil? Do not be so quick to judge things, and others. It is difficult I know.”

She showed him an array of images in which he saw hundreds of scenes of werewolves fighting to save humans, to protect their homes against intruders, to protect the world from things in the shadow realm. He saw Mages doing the same, all working to defend this world, or going about normal lives — only they have to keep their identity secret. He saw some of the nicest law abiding people be hunted by humans and killed or driven off because they found out what they were. Then he saw the Pure, the Dark Mages, and he saw others of their kind fighting them off to save others.

“One can not be judged simply on what they are. Just like they can not be fought or held accountable by those who are not equipped for it.”

She looked at his inert form. “It seems they have not given up, even the one you don’t care for. What is it that you want now Daniel?”

He replied, “Perhaps I can begin a new journey. As hard as I studied the law, I can study the laws and traditions that bind everyone together, be perhaps a person who can bridge the differences between each of them. That’s what a lawyer is supposed to be; an advisor and advocate. Perhaps with enough knowledge I may even someday learn to understand myself and my gift. I don’t have to give up my dreams, instead perhaps all of my studies have led me here. My choices. If I had a choice, I think I’d like to live. But, I’m dead, am I not?”

“Your heart stopped three minutes ago.” She looked form his body to him. ” Perhaps you could find a new path, let go of all your fears and hatred. Apologize to those you have injured and insulted, forgive, and move on. Become more than you have let yourself be, find a new dream — one that all of man will benefit from and not just yourself. Find the knowledge and capabilities, work with your friends, accept them, respect them and their differences. If you want to make a difference do so, and if you want to live, then live.”

The last thing he heard as his vision blurred was, “I will be watching.”

Then everything hurt, as his lungs tried to gulp in as much air as they could, the world returned in a blast of sound and light. It was painful and he had no idea what would happen next, but he was alive.

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