In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 11, 1993
“Ah, there you are my prodigal one. I’ve waited so long for this moment, as have you I’m sure.” Somewhere very far away Angie was screaming, but John could only stare unblinkingly into the gray tide. His father and master was there, not the emaciated ruin from the Carvale Home but the true Victor Kovach, imperiously handsome with a cool razor-thin smile “No sense trying to struggle, you are quite helpless. As always I have left nothing to chance.”
John tried to look away, tried to force his indolent limbs to move.
“Look at you, old and enfeebled. Was your little insurrection worth it? Is this what you wanted? Dying at the hands of some slack-jawed mongrel? Woe to the mighty Sig! I could not have created a more humiliating punishment myself!”
Among the Vlodek there were prayers that could be spoken at moments like this, when the body lay dying and foul spirits clamored for the unprotected soul; entreaties to Blessed Phelan and to the Moon-Goddess herself. John could think of none of them.
“In reality I do not blame you, I blame myself. I foolishly attempted to take a savage, unfeeling creature of instinct and set it at my right hand.”
You taught me.
My people are noble and swift. We only kill what we need too kill and we do not presume to be more than we already are. If I am a monster than it’s because you taught me how to be one.
“Even at this time you challenge my patience, you addle-minded fool!”
Go on! Stop gloating and finish the job. The worst you can do is kill me. I’m free of you now.
“Free? The level of your naivete is stunning to say the least. You are my creature, you always have been and you always will be- your very soul is malleable to my will.”
You can’t touch my soul, in spite of everything he felt a flush of bliss, at the mere thought of her, it belongs to someone else.
“Oh. You mean your peasant turned courtesan? In case you hadn’t noticed, she’s dying as well.”
I dared, I loved.
“And you failed. Quite miserably in fact.”
“I tried to save the world, look what it got me.”
You sold your soul to the Monarchs!
“Fool! Half-wit! The Monarchs had claim to my soul decades before that night. How do you surmise that I knew that your kith’s fetid little nest was going to be attacked? The Monarchs selected you for me, I daresay you were the pick of the litter.”
“Oh yes. You served me faithfully and in doing so you served the Monarchs.”
“-Is nowhere to be found. Even if your ‘Blessed Phelan’ did exist he would have no use for an apostate like you. You were born a pawn, you lived as a pawn and now you will die as a pawn.”
Had John the strength he would have torn his own throat out rather than listen to any more. But he could only curse and mewl as Victor’s triumphant laughter echoed through the grayness.
“Now finally you understand, and with understanding comes release. You are a traitor to your people, to yourself and, most grievously, to your master. If I am the monster you say then there can be but one punishment for such a transgression.”
Just end it.
That only served to deepen Victor’s razor-thin smile, “However there is one final consideration. What if I’m wasn’t some moustache-twirling villain bent on worldly power? What if I were a messiah thwarted from delivering Rapture? Or what if, just what if, the truth was somewhere in between? What if I am just a man? Just a man betrayed someone he held dear?”
What? Was this some final taunt? A last glimpse of heaven before he was cast down?
“I absolve you Sig.”
Only Phelan can absolve-
“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.”
Even here in the place between his heartbeats, John could feel an ember that had long been dormant within him sputter to life. I don’t understand.
“No, you don’t do you? I doubt you ever will.”
How can I thank you? Do I dare?
“Oh don’t thank me. There’s a cost.”
I can’t- I won’t be a pawn, not for you or the Monarchs, he steeled himself for Victor’s wrath.
“Now what need could I possibly have for a pathetic creature like you? Consider yourself taken off the board so to speak, that is the boon and that is the price.” Victor began to flicker and fade like a photograph left too long in the sun, “Very soon I shall be returning to this world in a much more tangible form, so that I might pick up where I left off. When that momentous time comes to pass I will call upon Phillip and Zara, to settle our accounts so to speak.”
Phil? Zara? How could they hope to stand against him now?
“Yes, Phillip and Zara. Now the price of your freedom is simple- leave.”
You’re asking me to…
“Disappear without a trace, without even so much as a farewell note. Take your diseased little trollop with you if you like but I claim those two Judases for myself.”
I have a code of honor!
“Your vaunted honor means nothing and it is high time you perceived that. It’s high time that you came to understand that you are nothing more than a pathetic old man dying alone and afraid. How does that suit your honor?” Victor’s smile split into a grin, “ Death now or death later, the choice is yours to make. You said so yourself- you’re free.”
In the gray oblivion that filled the void between his heartbeats John Sig wailed.