BY AL BRUNO III
Friday November 15th 1996
Sig was back an hour or so after sunset, it was the last of the new moon and his only companions for the last leg of his journey had been the stars. His back was aching, his old wounds were playing up but pain, like the stars and the moon had been a constant in his life. Sig’s knapsack full of things from the town- a sword and sorcery novel for Warren, periodicals and ammunition for Zeth, doll clothes for Hao and of course Angie’s medicines. He had to pay the pharmacist hundreds of dollars a month for piddling amounts of efavirenz, zidovudine and emtricitabine. The money didn’t matter to him, the worry was that he couldn’t even be sure if it was doing any good. It was all just guesses and prayers.
But what else could he do? Angie couldn’t risk a doctor, not when every hospital in the country had computer systems and equipment tainted by the Monarchs. Sometimes it filled with Sig with a hopless rage- he loved Angie and he had sworn to protect her with his last breath.
But how could he protect her from a virus?
Sometimes Sig wondered if he had this virus… this HIV himself. After all he and Angie had been sharing a bed for almost three years now, they rarely made love; it was more a matter of comfort. The feel of skin on skin- his rough and hers tender, it made for the most peaceful sleep he had ever known.
And those moments when a deeper need brought them together? Sometimes he wept from the joy of it, she stirred in him a gentleness he had never known.
At those times he never took a single precaution, telling Angie that his blood was different enough from hers to keep him safe.
It was a lie, the only one he’d told her.
As he drew closer to Laurel House the plant life grew more lush and healthy, the sounds of night creatures pricked at his hears- raccoons and foxes, mice and owls, squirrels and winter birds. Sig thought of going hunting but he was too slow now and the Metastasis- the metastasis hurt so much. A parting gift from Victor he supposed.
“I absolve you Sig …I return the Metastasis in all its primitive grandeur to you. It will prolong your squalid little existence. Long enough for you to see me ascendant, so that you might understand what it was that you betrayed. What it is that you lost …consider yourself taken off the board so to speak, that is the boon and that is the price…”
Galen was waiting for him at the edge of the woods, in slacks and a t-shirt. He hailed Sig in the manner of the High Born, Sig responded as was appropriate to his station; posture rigid, throat bared. These were the rituals of a nearly dead culture, and Sig had lived as a man for so long that they almost seemed almost quaint.
“Any news?” Galen asked.
Sig cocked his head, “News? You mean of you? Nothing.”
“Is there anything suspicious? Anything at all?”
“In Windham? No.” Sig thought to himself that if the High Born had wanted reconnaissance he should have asked for it, “If there were agents of the Monarchs there I would know.”
“No necessarily.” Galen cautioned. Their breaths came in white puffs. The air tasted eager for snow but the sky was empty, “The newer models are very subtle.”
Sig shrugged, he knew the High Born’s kind of desperation when he saw it, “Then who knows? We’re safe enough here.”
“You believe that?” Galen tried to draw closer but the Sig circled around him, keeping them a few arm lengths apart. The High Born that made him uncomfortable and he had no interest in the troubles of the DelaWorg clan.
Sig said, “Tell me are you thinking of moving on? Leaving Isobel and her brother behind?”
“I don’t know.” Galen looked back to the house.
“I have no right to tell you what to do.” Sig frowned, despite everything the old fealties and instincts were restless in his gut, “But I know your crimes as you know mine. We’re both damned.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“You don’t?” Sig was eager for the conversation to be over now, he wanted to see Angie and sit down in a soft chair.
Oh how domesticated I’ve become. He thought.
“I did what I felt I had to do.” Galen explained, “I know it was a mistake but I think now it was a mistake that would have come even if it hadn’t been mine. It was inevitable.”
Sig nodded, “As you will, but this place may be our one chance to live out our lives in peace. Don’t turn away from it so easily and don’t let the Hanged Man draw you into his games.”
“What do you know of the Hanged Man?”
“I know he makes promises to suit his Cause. I know he’s made deals with other… stranger powers so that he might cheat death.”
I killed him once I watched him die with an open throat and a mouthful of blood. Sig thought, but he kept that to himself, he was done talking now.
“I appreciate your bluntness.” Galen said as Sig walked past him, “But I still don’t understand. How can we be safe here? What protects us?”
“Jack says it’s love that protects us here.” Sig replied but his laughter was cold.