Sunday, December 2, 2012

Goodbye To A Good Friend. Part 10.

I breezed straight past him without sparing him a glance. Strides now taking me down the alleyway and, soon, onto the street. By then, the school staff would only be just starting to realize that something had gone horribly wrong. What exactly had gone wrong, however, they would have had to wait to find out until they could to get anything intelligible from Leo. Probably a few hours from then. After his new parents were called in. After the pain numbed out and he felt like talking again...

Though I doubted even then that they'd get much from him.

As I retraced my steps back to where I hid my things... I was suddenly conscious of steps falling in step beside me. Valtiel matching me stride for stride. His presence Seen only to me. The Norms unconsciously giving way to open his path...

"You really do care about Leo, don't you, Sam?

You really do love him. 

 I have to admit, a part of me wondered...
how much of this was merely you going through the motions. 

But now I see that you still are capable of love and caring..."

I glanced to the figure of the corpse out of the corner of my eye... but I had nothing to say to him. I wanted to be left alone for a while. To have a chance to sort things out in my head. But it was plainly obvious that I wasn't going to be granted that. Not right away. But that didn't mean I had to encourage it.

So I turned down the alley I'd stashed my things in. Leaving Valtiel to follow.

"You know... Love is something that... 
 Does not come naturally to things like me, Sam.

Oh, sure I can... Mimic it. But I can't experience it. 
 At least. I don't think so... but I like to experiment with things, Sam.

So... You've inspired me.

I intend to adopt. Raise a child myself. See what happens. 
I even have one picked out. 

His parents wouldn't care... I mean. One is regrettably no longer among us. 
The other... Well. The other walked away in their last meeting. 
Broke the poor tyke's heart.
He won't even be able to focus in class anymore. 

But that's fine. 

I have been speaking to the Proper People about... Adopting this child. 

Isn't that nice of me, Sam?"

My steps froze. Bolting me in place. A chill creeping its fingers up my spine and turning my stomach against itself as my stare snap onto Amber. A boil beginning deep down in my core and quickly spreading out as pieces clicked into place. Growling at the thing in the image of a corpse. Telling him to stay the HELL away from my son. That, if he wanted to embrace the idea of family life and raise another bloody Morningstar, then to go pick from the damned litter at the Orphanage. That Leo was off limits. Point black. I told him to not even joke...

"Well, Sam... I did promise he would be safe, didn't I? 
 Where is safer than under my protection?

Of course... I'll ensure Leo receives a proper education... 

Some self-defense lessons. 

Perhaps a pet Raven or two to call his own. 

Maybe, eventually... a Gauntlet?"

Realization dawned in that moment.

And, from it, horror rose.


You... planned this. All of this. You...


I lunged. Hands gripping Alex's shirt and slamming the corpse back against the wall of the alley in much the same way I'd later do to "Joseph". A comparison that didn't escape me on the later date... only, when I did it then, I only had hollow eyes stare back at my passively. Accepting. Allowing.

With Alex... the force of the movement tore what little there was left holding the head on. Splitting it from the remains of the spine as it snapped back against the wall - parting it from the body and falling to the ground. Rolling just enough to let me watch Amber Eyes return to blue. Staring up at me. Just like at the mental hospital. The image of that Knowing stare was back on me in full force. Those dead eyes staring up at me with the rest of the corpse still held in my shaking hands against the brick wall. Clotted blood making its mark, as though complimenting the horrific scene as a second realization came to me.

It hadn't been one of Valtiel's little illusions to disturb me.

It was Alex.

Or, rather, the body.

"That's the second time you've taken your spouse's head off, Sam.

Ever thought of having a divorce instead of resorting to violence?"

I felt a burn inside.

Not of loss.

Not of guilt.

Not even of anger.

It was Hate.

True Hate.

There was no comparison to it.

Not to what I felt for David when he tried to rape me.

Not even to what I felt for Dimme while under her foot.

It was beyond the Hate that cared for one's self.

It was a Hate that only a parent could give birth to.

A Hate reserved only for those who dare to intrude between them and their young. Raw and brutal. Dragging its nails through my entire system. My body. My mind. Filling me like I used to imagine those slithering snakes filled the human-shaped bag that was Valtiel. Everything in me bound so tight it ached with the effort. A coil fit to explode. Jaw clenched, I slowly pried my grip open on the corpse in front of me... and I watched it slip sideways. Dragging a smear of clotted blood along the bricks as it scraped down the wall and fell to the ground with a dull THUD. Joining its head.

I watched it.

Body trembling with a pain and rage that spread like a virus through my system. A cancer that infected every inch of me. One hand braced on that brick wall just to keep myself upright. Strained fingers dragging down that rough surface - threatening to peel back fingernails - as my other nails cut into my palm. A trickle of blood earned within the fist.

I couldn't even tear my glare from the body. I didn't trust my self-control enough to not just shatter if I saw those Amber Eyes above that familiar, glued-in-place, unpleasantly pleasant smile. I knew where he was. In my mind's eye, I could see him. Standing on the opposite end of the alley. Beneath a scrawny looking tree along a chain-link fence. Not far from the corner of the building itself. Wearing that same damn suit. That same red scarf. Nothing ever changed with him. Nothing.

I didn't give a shit for the corpse. Alex was already dead. Desecration hardly made a difference. Dead was dead. End of Story. Or, at least, End of THAT Story.

I demanded... to know when it started. When Valtiel had set his eye on my boy. When it had all become one big fucking JOKE with my son as the goddamn punch-line.

That smile slithered into a grin.

Two years.

Two. Fucking. YEARS!

He claimed to be working on a "Project" to create the ideal Proxy. Ideal Soldiers. He said too many were "maddogs needing choke collars". Too many required a System - like the Organization - holding their leash. It was a mistake. Just like he said he'd make a mistake with the Original Morningstar. That he had overestimated the level of cruelty needed to "perfect the formula." To creating Soldiers who were not only loyal and competent... but also independent. Functional. To a point, rational.

Like me.

He said I should be proud.

That I started out as a Nothing. A No One. The long-shot bet.

But, over the years, I had proved myself. Again and again and again. I became a valuable piece that even the Highers were hesitant to get rid of, despite the attitude problem. Despite killing my own Handler and flipping them off at every opportunity. I'd been "worth the headache" to keep around. Until I threw in alliances with Redlight, in any case.

My "forumla" was more or less correct.

One that Father had done Himself.

Valtiel went on. Going on about how... now that I was older and nearly worn-through, all there was left to do... was copy the Formula. And who better to copy it to than my very own bloodline. A brand new generation of "Home Brewed Proxies" all growing from the same family tree.

"He really is growing up fast, you know. 
Smart, Athletic, Sociable..."

Another lifetime ago, Alex and I had been dating for two years. We both had careers that had to come first, so other things got pushed to the back-burner. On the second Anniversary of our first date, we went out looking our best. Money was starting to come a bit easier, so we thought we'd have a romantic dinner to celebrate the occasion. After waiting for an hour and getting a meal that was cold and, yet, somehow still burnt... we opted out. Went to a Taco Bell just down the road. 

We sat on the hood of Alex's old junker. Decked out in the finest clothes we owned... and ate Taco Bell under the lamplight which hid most of the stars. It had started to rain a little and I'd suggested we finished inside the car... to which Alex only grinned at me. Asking what it was like being made of sugar. That hygiene must be a real pain to maintain. Teasing. Always teasing. We always did. Back and forth...

That light mist managed to drown us as good as any downpour.

And, under it, a gold ring was offered. 

Crowned only with the tiniest chip of a diamond.

The rain made it gleam like it was the finest thing on the face of the Earth.

"He has the makings of Greatness, just like his parents. 
 All he needs is a few more years of... Preparation. Then he needs Tragedy. 

And he'll spiral down to our level."

Almost six months later, we received a phone call from Alex's brother. He needed a helping hand and was wondering if Alex still had "that old junker" or not. And, if so, if Alex would mind if he borrowed it for a few days. The old junker wasn't even a car we took far out of town, leave alone across the State line, so Alex asked if I'd mind him taking my car instead. It was old, but not yet run into the ground.

I said it was fine, but Alex made sure he realized that we needed it back by the end of the week. But, of course, he would know that. He had been sent an Invite just like all of our other family and close friends. He confirmed he was still coming. Had the card stuck on his fridge.

We were getting married on Friday. Our mutual favorite day of the week.


Thursday, Alex answered the phone. It was for me. I took it, and learned that Alex's brother had been caught smuggling drugs and they had impounded a car that was licensed to me. The fee and transport to go get it was going to cost more than the car was worth.

I told the Nice Man on the phone to keep the damn thing.

My Spouse-To-Be-In-Under-Twenty-Four-Hours hugged me from behind. Apologizing. Reminding me that we still had the Junker, if nothing else.

We'd make do. We had no choice.

Little Leo was only JUST starting to let the whole world know of his existence.

"Just like Morningstar, 
but perhaps a bit less impulsive when the time comes."

On a dreary day a flood of memories later, short arms extended up to me as Alex and I gaze through the Used Car Lot on the corner of Second and Wooddrift. The Car Salesman's name was Adam. Adam Pettinicchio. He had a Canadian accent, which he seemed happy to amuse us with. It was the kind of day that made it hard to pry yourself out of bed... but Alex and I both had the day off and had already decided to use it to check something off that ever-growing To Do list. Alex's old junker had probably stopping being road legal in the spring, and Adam had been showing us options. One of which was the car that would come to break down in a couple years time - a month before Leo's birthday. 

The overcast made our Little Man tired. Cranky. After Alex had picked him up and put him down about four times on his demand, Leo eventually came to tug on my jeans before stretching those short arms over his head to me. Chin quivering and eyes seconds from tears.


Like Alex, my back was sore from all the painting we'd been doing in our first house.

And, like Alex, I picked him up anyway.

He was asleep in five minutes.

"This time I intend to see to it that the Tragedy comes at a critical point,
instead of all of his life. 
Morningstar was a failure for that reason.

I do not intend to make the same mistake with Leo."

About a month and a half later, we had the second worst fight of our entire relationship.

Accusations were thrown like seeds on a field. Threatening to grow hate and resentment where love and understanding had flourished for so long. Past issues were dug up. Not just from when we'd known each other, but before that. A small disagreement building into a near yelling match...

And, from underneath it, a sound began to grow that stopped us dead where we stood. A sound that plagued us both with regret and shame. A sound that tore right through the paper-thin walls of our first house...

Leo was crying in his room. 

We went to see him. Reassured him like a couple would until he had calmed down. Put him back to bed, and then slipped out once we were sure he was asleep. Vowing to ourselves that our children - for there seemed no question to either of us that there would be more - would never hear that again. That arguments would never rise to that level ever again. That we'd talk things out maturely. Respectfully. 

We finished the evening routine while barely speaking to each other, and retired to bed...

We made love that night.

In the morning, we woke wrapped up in each others' arms.

Before we even so much as shifted, we agreed on what we had started arguing about before: We were going to move out of that house. A house that had only been one headache after another... and, as luck would have it, we found Home only two weeks later.

We were happy.

Our lives were far from perfect... but we were happy.

It took our lives getting torn apart by Slender Man... before we broke the Vow we made that evening.

We shattered it to a million pieces a few days before The Accident.

 "You should be thanking me, Sam. 
I will ensure he is nice and safe. Happy even. 

Until he is capable of defending himself. 

I can't have him turn out like my Morningstar did."

And, as everything fell into its place from there... I came to stand with Alex decapitated at my feet... and Leo's soul - his entire life - sold to a Snake because I was too cowardly to kill him. He'd been right in my arms... and I'd been too much of an idealist COWARD to spare my son the misery. The agony. The loss. If I truly loved him like I claimed, I would have killed him. I should have.

Just like I should have ended Alex's misery the same night I ended Laura's.

But I was a coward.

I am a coward.

A goddamn, good for nothing, hypocritical coward...

And it was in that moment in the alley... listening to Vivi explain his little plan... that something in my trembling being SNAPPED. I felt it. I nearly heard it. Everything spinning and shifting and moving until I realized it wasn't the world that was moving. It was me. I know I used The Path to close the distance in but a fraction of a second, and then I was slashing with the knife I had stashed in my pocket. My instincts - deeply engrained from Dimme's teachings - told my legs where to go as my single blade sought its victim... and only found air. Time and time again. The heat practically radiated off of him. Prickling my skin. But Dimme's voice snapped in my head. Ordering me faster. Faster. FASTER.

"You useless, little fuck. Do you WANT to go back on The Table? FASTER, SHITSTAIN!"

A dark chuckle broke through my thoughts... and searing-hot, line-less hands snapped closed around my wrists. Yanking me close - pulling my arms wide so our chests nearly touched. The sheer HEAT of that inner furnace seemed hotter still. Flashing across my skin in disorienting waves as his grip turned painfully hot against my skin. That searing hold nearly lifting me right off my feet as he smiled into my snarl. Ignoring me even as I thrashed to pull free

He tisk-tasked me. 

Not for attacking.

But for my weapon.

As if to put a period at the end of his sentence to show his own displeasure over it, he cranked my arm sharply - pain splitting up my limb as the slim switchblade fell from my grip to the ground at my feet. The fire that he carried within him - that radiated FROM him - rose even hotter until it began to suck the air right out of my lungs. The intensity of it coiling around me like a boa. Stealing breath. Stealing thought. Making my throat scratch and my eyes water...

He spoke slowly. Purposely. Taking his time. Making sure I received a full appreciation for the inferno barely contained behind that human appearance. That damn smile of his only growing as a strange weight spread out from his grip on my left arm. Enveloping it. Settling into a form so very familiar. That voice telling me how I really shouldn't mess with a good thing. How my gauntlet suited me so much better than any knife could. That It was Me. And I was It. One in the same...

How The Job doesn't come off just because I want it to.

Even as I bore down to stand the waves of heat... metal was suddenly buckling together up to my elbow and my fingers became blades once more. Everything fitting as it should. There was no questioning it had become my signature weapon over the years... but, in that moment... I didn't want to wear it. I wanted it OFF. As if rejecting IT was as logical a way as any to reject the Snake...

It felt too heavy.

Too tight.

Too HOT.

And it only grew hotter still. The flesh sizzling beneath the metal like bacon in a frying pan. I thrashing to pull out of that grip... but I might as well have been pulling against a damn wall. Nothing budged... it only got tighter. The presence hotter. Until I could smell burnt flesh. Until my knees threatened to buckle from the pain as the newly-arrived gauntlet amplified the heat even more. The metal melting from it. Caressing my flesh. Searing it. Fusing it. My arm - my body - trembling against the pain as I continued to struggle in vain. Eyes screwed shut. Teeth biting down on my tongue - tasting blood. I wouldn't scream. I. Wouldn't. Scream. Not for this. Not for this FUCKING---

I cursed him.

I cursed him to Hell and back again a million times over. Spitting on his ego and grinding my heel into his superiority complex. Snarling that he was but a MAGGOT amongst the ants on the corpse of the planet. Father's Planet. Snarling that he wasn't even a Snake. Not even a Weasel. Just a cockroach riding on Dearest Daddy's coattails. That he was a joke. An insult to the only Gods that matter in this Game. That it wasn't his world. His Game. That he was just another pawn on the board... one that could be removed just like any other.

I swore a hand in his demise.

Through teeth clenched so tight that my jaw ached... I swore I'd kill him.

He looked about ready to start laughing.

He questioned how. Claiming that killing him would be like attempting to kill the weather. Kill the heat of a summer's day. Suggesting that I needed to rethink my approach.  

"Even Father bleeds, you... arrogant little FUCK. 
Or are... you claiming to be above even Him? 
That's blasphemy, you know...
Might have to... wash your mouth out with soap. 
Or maybe throw you into a... Freezer for a while. 
Let you cool off
Don't mistake me as one of your... shallow-minded Bitches, Valtiel.
Everything has a weakness. 
You found mine.
It's only fair... that I return the favor."

Dear, sweet Sam.
Father does not Bleed. 
He cannot be hurt. 
I am cut from the same... Cloth. 
I don't bleed. I don't draw breath... 
I am not as fragile as you pieces of barely sentient dirt are. 
All things beneath the realm of Gods have a weakness. 
Expect no such thing from truly perfect beings like myself."

I told him... to speak as divinely as he wanted. To set himself up on a throne of blood and gold for all I cared. That it would be that much sweeter when I RIP him from it. When I see the fear stir in Amber Eyes as control is torn from his hands. That everything DID have a weakness, and he was no goddamn exception. That words spoken with a forked-tongue tend to lose their charm.

I snarled that that he couldn't have him. WOULDN'T have him. That Leo wouldn't follow me. That I wouldn't allow it. That there are many things worse than death... and this life was one of them. Whether that life was the "Chosen" life of a Proxy... or the Haunted life of a Runner... it didn't matter. It all came to the same thing. Either which way, you fall apart. Piece by piece. Bit by bit. Until you're not but a shadow of who you once were.

Be The Nightmare.

Or Live It.

In the end, we suffer the same.

But Leo will never know it.

I promised Valtiel that.

I promised... that, if it was the last godforsaken thing I did, Leo would stay Out.

Valtiel's unpleasantly pleasant smile grew to a grin... wishing me luck with that... and the scorching heat of my gauntlet suddenly tripled. Completely fusing it to my arm as a scream tore through my clenched teeth... and I was dropped to the ground. Leaving me gasping in pain at his feet before he turned and walked away. Telling me how I had always been an amusing little Toy. Telling me to make sure that I... put on a Good Show... before he disappeared behind the single tree. Leaving me alone in the burning agony that still scorched up my arm...

Alone except for Alex's corpse.

I got rid of it.

Buried it.

I refused to burn it, considering the circumstances.

It took me nearly a day to dig the hole... but at least it was a grave.

Unmarked, but a grave, nevertheless.

One loose end cut off.

All that was left to do... was cut off the other one.


  1. Valtiel was to make the perfect Proxy? Such a pity that I beat him to it.

    1. ...Did you?

      That's quite interesting. What was your... "formula" to use his own term?

      I must admit, you've been on my mind of late. From what I've seen of your comments around, you seem to compare yourself with Valtiel quite often. I'm curious, darling... are you human? How old are you? What exactly do you know?

    2. Yes,I believe that I have made what you can call the "perfect Proxy".

      My formula stems from Valtiel's. You need someone who can be loyal and obedient, yet independent. Someone who is capable of having rational thought.

      But, you need someone who has lost everything. And lost them in a way in which the Boss was not affiliated. And once they have lost everything, you need to give them something worth fighting for. A family. People who care for you and support you. You need to have someone who can function as a member of a team and on their own. Someone who has something to fight for. Something they can come back to.

      You need someone who can avoid unnecessary collateral damage. Someone who can kill quietly.

      But most importantly, you need to remove the flaw that affects all of us, myself included.

      It is our fear of the Boss.

      That fear is what keeps us from achieve our full potential. That underlying fear of "What will happen if I fail?" or "What if I make Him angry?" is what keeps us from achieving that perfection. My Eyes are a different story. They have never seen the Boss. They do not possess that fear. They can function without being inhibited.

      That is what makes them perfect.

      As for you other questions; yes, I am very much human. I would rather not give away my actual age, but I will say that I am probably old enough to be your father. As for what I know, well that all depends on what you want know.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Yes, let us all remember that time when our Brothers and Sisters got shot in the face because they remembered they were afraid of Father.

      Teasing aside, I had my own run at 'a' perfect proxy. Loveless ruined that one for me. Really took my heart out of the project.