I went to "Joseph" in the middle of a raging storm... that fit all too well the turmoil I felt inside. Part of me wanted to hate him... and the other part only hated myself. One part wanted to make him suffer for betraying me... the other part wanted to make certain he knew I still thought of him as a friend. A conflict that he saw without even sparing me a single glance. But, of course, he would know. He was always gifted when it came to reading people...
Or perhaps that would be "cursed".
He was always a smart man. Too smart for his own good. Too prideful.
When he Fell, he Fell bone-crushingly hard.
And it was the remains of him that I found nursing a drink in the middle of that storm. A man who had come to fully accept that he was finished... and seemed content in the silence that surrounded him. That seemed to have become part of him. Even as he spoke to me, it seemed like a chore for him. Tiring. As if the sound of his own voice was unpleasant for him. As if he preferred the Silence.
"Cheers, Sam... to me regaining my humanity.
I was played,
then ran away like a coward.
Self-preservation and pity at its finest."
I hadn't intended to tell him everything, but I did.
I told him everything.
I even told him... what my Plan was. Or what it had been, for that matter. I told it to him... despite the fact that the chances of me surviving long enough to pull it off the shelf again were beyond nil...
But you still don't get to hear about that.
It's still my Plan. Mostly intact. I never spoke of it to anyone... pardoning Winston on October 5th in a little no-name town about a fifteen minutes drive from the State line. He was an exception. You, my friends, are not. Not even close.
As I went through one event after another, I found myself speaking to the floor. To the windows. Down to my gauntlet which I had clutched close to my body. Some things were easier to speak of than others. Once or twice, my mind would spiral ahead of my tongue and I'd need a moment to bring it back. To refocus and continue. Winston seemed to be struck speechless for the most part. Probably for the first time in his life. He never interrupted. Never asked a single question. But he was listening. I could tell that. He was listening acutely. Taking in all that I offered, and, for the first time since I arrived, there was almost - almost - a flicker of the man I first met in the Cafe when I'd just started being Hunted by the Plague Doctor. Almost a hint of Life. Almost a hint of... interest. Of... want.
Winston and I had a lot in common.
One of which was our drumming desire to Understand.
On that afternoon, I gave him every piece he'd been missing. Every piece he had once wanted to finish his opinion of me. To finally Understand me. Or stand the best chance to. I gave him that. More because I wanted him to Understand, than that he really wanted to know still. I don't even know if he cared anymore... but I felt that I owed that much to him...
For a good while after I was done, there was only silence. Long, undisturbed silence. We listened to the rain. The wind. The growling of thunder in the clouds - not yet thundering. Then, finally, Winston had his choice of words.
"With all that you've suffered through, Sam... I wonder if you'd be better off dead."
I finally looked up to him again. The tone had been deadpan, but... he was finally looking me in the eyes. Perhaps... that was the real reason I went there. What it was all about. No more lies, no more talks of the "Game" that we both used to love so much... just two figures standing in the still darkness, with nothing but their shadows for company. Aside from each other, in any case...
I told him I was tired. That I've wanted rest for so long now...
It got so much worse after I "escaped" the Plague Doctor. He never really let me go. Not in my head. And He only plays a part. There are so many other faces. And One with no face at all. Sleep is no refuge. It never is. Trying to separate the nightmares from reality is near impossible when everything is painted with blood. When all you hear is screaming and pleads for life and death. I told him that, even if I do manage the impossible - and I hold no delusion of what kind of undertaking I've put on myself - I doubted that I'd finish what I started. That I'd put my Plan back into motion.
Because I want to die.
I want my End.
I've seen enough. I've done enough. I'm just... done.
I'm Living for the Chance to Die now.
I deserve it, don't I...?
But... I can't let that happen. Not yet. I can't die. I have to live... because I have to kill Valtiel. I have to find someway to protect Leo. Or, at least, find some way to get close enough to... murder him. Just like I... like I murdered his sister. I could do it. If I just had the chance again, I... I have to do it. If given the chance again...
If I don't find a way, Valtiel will poison him. Take him as a new Toy once he's old enough... and shove him forward to walk the same path I did. To become me. Until he, too, is reduced to Nothing. Until he Falls. And when he does... the cycle would probably be repeated onto... any children that Leo had by then.
I can't let that happen.
I can't be the cause of that.
I told that to Winston... and his expression hardened as he watched me.
"You can only do so much, Sam.
Talking about yourself like you have the power to be some kind of savior...
telling me what you 'have to do'...
Stop treating your life as if it's a means to an end.
Maybe I can't...
exactly comprehend the type of connections you have,
the type of love you possess...
but if you're going to do something, you should do it for yourself,
instead of making excuses about what you need to do.
Maybe... you give up the fight.
See where the other road goes."
Because I wasn't him.
Because I could never just run away. Hide and wait for karma to catch up with me.
I could never just let myself rot while I still had a heartbeat. While I had two legs that work.
My cause may be irrational. Reckless. Moronic.
But I still don't have an excuse not to try anyway.
I'm not a Savior.
I'm a Killer.
And this is my son's future.
I don't need another reason more than that to try for the impossible.
I guess that makes me the stupid one, after all.
Winston was no fool. He may have given up... but he still could read nearly anyone like a book.
"You told me all this... because you really are going to kill me.
Despite the rage of the element, the rain felt... good. Numbing.
Even towards the headache that pounded on my skull.
In that moment... walking the deserted streets... replaying years of events over and over in my head... the world never seemed so empty. So damaged. So... alien to me.
What happened in those fifteen minutes... is not for your entertainment.
Winston may have betrayed me... but he was still a friend.
And he may have been a friend... but he still betrayed me.
And betrayal has consequences.
He deserves both better and worse than anything I could write here.
I hate him for what he did.
But I will miss him.
We were friends.
In this life, that simply doesn't exist.
We were... an impossibility.
And I hope to God to see him again one day.
Maybe after I find my End, I'll be able to.
Just... not yet.