In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 9, 1993
Magwier sat on the back steps, a half-finished menthol cigarette in his hands, a dozen butts at his feet. Exhaling smoke he stared raptly up at the stars, “He’ll live, how are you?”
“I’ve had worse.”
“And how is your new houseguest?”
“I-I don’t know, I don’t know anything anymore.” John gingerly lowered himself down on the steps beside Magwier.
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
He eyed the Salem between his fingers, “I only started smoking recently, by the time you first meet me I’ll already have quit.”
“Why do you have to be so goddamn cryptic?”
“It’s not easy to explain.”
“I’d love for you to try.”
They sat there in the dark, watching the stars. Lucifer moved through the tall grass, stalking mice. The smell of cigarette smoke made John feel nostalgic, everyone had smoked back in the old days- Phil, Lionel, Victor, Margaret, George, Dorothy… He’d even smoked a little, just to fit in but he’d never really enjoyed the taste. Magwier didn’t speak again until he’d finished his cigarette and lit up another, “What do you think it’s like to know the future?”
John shrugged, “It must be a very safe existence, you can see danger coming, know who your true friends and enemies are.”
“It’s like being trapped in a car with no brakes and faulty steering that’s heading towards a cliff.”
“If you can see the future you can avoid it.”
“Yes,” he turned to look at John, a smile playing across his young-old face, “but who’s to say that this new future you’ve created is any better? What if you’ve only made things worse?”
Unable to suppress a prefatory squeal, Lucifer pounced and bounded after his prey.
“Then you change the future again.”
“But what if you only make it worse?”
“Then you keep trying.”
Magwier turned his attention back to the stars, “What if the only way to positively change the future costs you someone you love?”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” John shook his head.
“Everything costs something, stopping Victor cost you the Metastasis.”
“Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it.”
“We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if you hadn’t taken him down.” Magwier exhaled smoke, “And the survivors… the survivors would have been reduced to animals… scrabbling in the dust...”
Stomach growling, John wrapped his arms around his middle and rocked. “Are our prospects so much better now?”
“…yes and no.”
“Every future I have ever experienced ends with the death of the world, sometimes it’s consumed in a great apocalypse, other times it dwindles and dies by degrees.” Lucifer strode triumphantly out of the long grass, a struggling mouse between his teeth. At the sight of John he let out a meow, the rodent fell from his mouth and scurried away, “But this time, this time things are different, none of this has ever happened before. I don’t know what’s coming next and it’s wonderful.”
For a time they watched the cat sniffle around in confusion, then John spoke again “Do you…”
“Know what’s going to happen with you and Angie?” Magwier crushed the cigarette butt under his heel and stood, “I haven’t the slightest. Your futures are your own. Are you coming inside?”
“Not for a while.”
Alone in his back yard, John tried clear the thoughts from his head, tried to relax but they raged at him.
What now you old fool? What now?
Do you honestly think that the police won’t put two and two together and find you?
She’ll never love you, she could never love you.
His gaze wandered up to the sky Magwier had found so intriguing. Was he right? Were there as many futures as there were stars? Was there a future were he could find peace or was he trapped in the destiny Victor had damned him with?