He opens his eyes slowly. The light of the sun peering through his window heats his chin. He takes in a deep breath and gently lets it out through his nose. His eyes wander around his dimly, sunlit room as he continues to wake. He shifts to his left, moving his comforter off of him and he pushes it to his side. He sits up and drags his feet over the side of his bed and onto the floor. He puts his hands on his knees and as they support his body he peers down to the floor, staring blankly at his feet.
“FUCK!” He screams loudly to no one in particular.
His once calm breaths begin to come out in seemingly uncontrollable spurts. His fingernails dig deeply into his knees and he begins to shake his head. His eyes begin to widen as he becomes more infuriated.
“FUCK!” He yells again. He bites down hard and tightens his jaw. “Mother fuck it all…”
Ernest Macken, called Mac by his close friends, is a thirty-four year old man stuck in the mediocrity of life. He only has time for work, which is as a correctional officer in Susanville, California at High Desert Maximum Security Prison. His wife recently left him suddenly and not only did the loss of her stress him out, but the fact that they could barely keep up with house payments already, he feared he would lose his house.
He wakes up daily to the same routine: Shower, cereal for breakfast, a cup of black coffee and a 20-minute drive to work. As he walks in he is greeted by his co-worker Guillermo, who he sometimes calls ‘Memito’. The skinny, but awkwardly tall man was one that Ernest felt he could talk to.
“Mac!” He yelps happily as Ernest enters the locker room to put his belongings away. He hops up and stands patiently behind him as he finishes putting his things away.
“How’s it going, Memito?” Ernest asks as he turns around and shakes the young man’s hand.
“It’s great! I had to tell you first though, Shields is pissed at you! He’s making you stay another overnight!” Ernest shakes his head and passes up Guillermo to wash his hands in the bathroom. “It’s your third time this week Mac, he’s trying to break you. What will you do?”
“I will bash his fucking skull in, that’s what I’ll do.” Ernest thinks to himself.
He walks to his boss’ office, Warden Kenneth Shields, and lightly knocks on his door. A rustling of papers can be heard before the Warden hollers,
Ernest opens the door and steps into the musty, small office and is greeted by a huge smile that he could only read as meaning, ‘got you cornered’. Ernest sends a polite, ‘eat a dick’, smile back.
“Good morning Ernest, I’m guessing you saw that I have you for an overnight tonight? You’re the best guy for the job. Sorry for the short notice.” Ernest’s slick-haired, smug looking boss says. He begins to turn his chair around and adjusts his thick glasses as if he expected Ernest to accept the duty without question.
“Sir,” Ernest says calmly. “This is my third overnight. I’m not running off much sleep and I need to get home to—“
“To your wife? No. She left you, right? I’m sure you need the money, why complain, Macken?” Shields interrupts.
A spark goes off in Ernest’s brain and he slightly twitches. His face cringes a little, and he forces a smile and a nod. He begins to leave, but Shields calls for him to stop.
“Hey, that behemoth, Khan, needs to be escorted from the hole back into the general population. Handle that. Shut my door behind you, Ermac.”
A cold chill spikes down Ernest’s spine and makes his knees slightly buckle. He squeezes the doorknob tightly and his whole body tenses up uneasily.
“What?” Ernest turns to back to look at his boss. “What did you call me?”
Kenneth looks at Ernest puzzled and scrunches up his face.
“What the fuck do you think I called you, Macken? Get your ass out of my fucking office!” Kenneth bangs a fist on his desk that slides his glasses down his crooked nose and sprawls a few papers onto the floor. Ernest scowls and slams the door behind him.
Ernest walks past Memito’s desk on route to the bathroom.
“Ermac, Ermac. We are Ermac.”
Ernest twitches, again, at the sound of the name and looks furiously at Memito, who is rhythmically nodding his head back and forth, as if he were listening to music.
“Memito, did you say something?” Ernest asks exasperated.
Memito looks up, surprised to see Ernest, and shakes his head slowly as he cocks an eyebrow.
“No, Mac. Are you okay? You’re sweating profusely. Yeich! You look filthy!”
Ernest grabs for his head and wipes sweat away from his hairline. He begins to shake his head, confused that such a word, such a name, could make him react so strangely.
“No…nothing, Memito. I… I think I just need some water.”
Ernest splashes a handful of cold water onto his face from a bathroom sink in an attempt to revitalize his sanity.
“Sheena leaving must have really fucked me up,” Ernest thinks to himself, blaming his estranged wife for his troubles. “There can be no other explanation. None.”
“Ermac. Join us.”
Ernest swing his head to the location of the voice and sees only his reflection in an adjacent mirror.
“We are Many! You are but one!”
He swings his head back to the other side and then behind him. All he can see is himself in the lonely bathroom.
“What the fuck, man!? Who the hell is this Ermac!? I’m Ernest” He yells.
“We are but a Legion without you. Join us! Together we will be strong!”
Ernest’s jaw begins to tremble and slowly drops. He takes in large swallows of air, gasping. He drops to one knee and covers his face with his hand, trying to scramble the nightmare out of his brain. He shuts his eyes closed tightly and looses a muffled scream into his hand.
Ernest slowly stands to his feet after15- minutes down on a knee and listens. No voices. No whispers.
“I need to sleep. This is getting ridiculous.” Ernest thinks as he lets go of his face. He looks toward a mirror and jumps back suddenly. A figure, dressed almost like a mummy in black garb with a green-ish aura around him, reaches towards him. He looks the figure in the eyes and lets out a shriek.
Ernest runs out of the bathroom in sheer terror and runs smack into Kenneth. Both men bounce off each other and onto the ground.
“WHAT THE FUCK!?” Kenneth yells. His glasses fly off his face as he hits the ground. He searches for them blindly. “Macken! You dumb fuck! You know I’m blind without my goddamn glasses! When I find them I am going to put my foot up your fucking ass!”
Ernest gets up, his head pounding from knocking into Kenneth, and he runs downstairs. He gallops past the panicked Memito, away from the stern glance of Sergeant Sonja Blaze as she escorted two new recruits, a blond haired man with a scorpion tattooed down his forearm and a man with a menacingly cold stare, through the facility.
He ran down to the last level which is the dark, damp, and incredibly hot area where the worst offenders are held, away from the general population. Ernest, getting his wits slowly back, passes the cell of a deranged follower of the god of thunder, Thor. He was somehow able to take a transformer down and kill over 30 people at a local pool by electrocution. Ernest walks past probably the most famous, or infamous, rather, prisoner, John Gauge. He is a washed up daytime TV actor that mutilated his director after he found out he was being replaced onscreen by ex Japanese baseball player, Kay Ono. He also bashed in the face of his replacement, leaving the young man permanently paralyzed and blind on one side of his face.
Ernest reaches his destination, the cell of Khan. Khan was the leader of a vigilante group based outside of Houston, Texas. He took the law into his own hand and, because of his charisma and freakishly large stature, his followers were completely loyal. The local law enforcement had no real way of stopping Khan and his army of fugitives, that is, until he suddenly gave himself up.
“K.. Kha..” Ernest coughs out, still reeling from the run in with Shields. “Khan, this is CO Mackens, place your hands on the wall. I will be escorting you back into the general population. Your time in the hole has been served.”
Shuffling is heard inside the pitch black cell and quickly quiets down. Ernest presses a button to illuminate the cell and opens the door.
The 7 foot 3 and a half inch man stares at Ernest, through Ernest, rather. Mackens clears his throat again and takes a step.
“Ermac.” The mountain of a man lets out in a low grumble. “You are the Legion.”
Ernest looks at the man in shock. His mouth slowly opens to retort, but is cut off by Khan.
“Accept your destiny. You are not what you think you are.” Khan says slowly. His hands still placed firmly on the wall. “You are the Bringer of my Army. You are the Harbinger of War. Legion! You are ERMAC!”
The ground seems to shake as Khan says the name again. Ernest’s heart begins to beat rapidly and his palms become sweaty again. A thick pounding of echoes inside of Ernest’s head and whispers begin to arise from all around him. The voices call for ‘unity’, they call for ‘dominance’ and the call the name Ermac. The noise rips through Ernest’s head violently and beats like a tribal drum. What Ernest believes is screaming coming from the voices, is actually coming from his own lungs. He staggers back, away from the cell door and falls to his backside against the adjacent cell. A symphony of voices chanting, ‘We are ONE’, sing around him as he gasps for a breath of air.
Ernest curls into a fetal position and squeezes his head with both hands, his eyes bulging from their sockets. The cacophony of sounds unexpectedly stops. Ernest, shaking uncontrollably, uses his eyes to search the room. An explosion. Then another. And another. Coming towards him. Another.
“No, not explosions. Steps.” He thinks.
Khan crouches down in front of Ernest and stares in his eyes. Khan’s inhumanly pale eyes calm Ernest. A feeling of euphoria passes over him. He believed his death was imminent.
“Accept your destiny, Ermac. Search for me, again.” Khan says commandingly as he lifts his fist. Ernest’s eyes follow the fist high into the air and, as it rapidly descends, he says goodbye to the world he had come to loathe.
Ernest wakes up in a dark room. He blinks, slowly. Pain flushes up and down his seemingly broken body. Whispers are heard swirling around the room. They question their ability to move, how long they had been asleep, where they were. They encourage Ernest to try to move a limb, but he is unable to. They urge him, again, and forcibly lift his arms towards his face. He looks at his arm, which is wrapped up tightly in bandages. His alien attire and location should frighten him, but, surprisingly, they do not. His other arm is lifted and he sees the same tight bandages. He tries to squeeze his fist closed, but pain makes the attempt useless. The voices advise Ernest to let them handle functionality at the moment. Ernest obeys, unquestioningly. Ernest’s hands and fingers move completely by themselves. His legs slide slowly across the gurney. His toes and feet flex and his ankle tweaks itself around.
“What is going on?” Ernest thinks.
“We are one now, Ermac. We, the Legion and yourself are now, US!”
Ernest tries to shrug in disbelief but is unable to.
“We will take care of you until you completely improve. Trust us.”
Ernest is rolled out of bed and is puppeted towards a mirror.
An uneasy feeling drops through his stomach as he peers at the figure before him. He stares into the same eyes he saw in the bathroom that burned themselves into his memory. He peered into his eyes. But, just as it was in the bathroom, his eyes are now their eyes. At this very moment of realization, Ermac, the Legion of Many, is born.