IN THE DARK OF NIGHT
The stars. Once they had meant so much, had held so much promise. Now they were just pinpricks of light on the ever-expanding black canvas of space. He could see them, up there, twinkling away, the light of long-dead worlds a million light-years away. Light, fading over a million years; light, fading from tired eyes. He shook his head almost helplessly and stared down at his hands. He flexed them, watched the spots move when his skin shifted. He cocked his head to the right and sighed. Life was what you made of it and he'd made a lot of it lately. Oh yes, he'd made a great deal of it.
He grabbed his right hand in his left and started massaging the palm of it with his thumb, a slow painful procedure he had found to calm his rampaging mind. The golden band glittered around his ring finger and he smiled. He stopped massaging his palm and turned his hand around to eye the glittering crystals embedded in the holders. Ah yes, it was a nice ring and so calming to watch. Light from somewhere reflected off the stones, sending tiny multi-faceted, multi-colored specks of light in all directions.
Yeah, light reflecting off cold diamonds, that was something he could relate to. His gaze snapped to the dark shape on the ground in front of him and he smiled again, half-heartedly. This wasn't such a bad place. There was plenty of room, rolling hills and a black, pin-pricked sky above him. This was a good place, a place where his mind didn't feel nearly as unhinged as it had in over a cycle now.
His smile became a little confused. Had it been a cycle? He flexed his hand again and chuckled at how the dark spots on his skin seemed to shift. He could almost make out shapes. A bunny here, a cloud there. He found the simple joy of a child in staring at his hands for a moment, but that moment was gone far too quickly.
Voices whispered in his head. They always whispered in his head. So many voices, so many of them vicious and dangerous. He'd had to shut some of them up. His hand clenched into a fist. He slowly became aware of the hard rock he was sitting on, of the cold biting through his leathers. The feeling made him grin. It was a tangible feeling, a sensation strong and real.
It was hard to determine what was real now. He chuckled. It was odd, knowing things weren't real and then realizing they were. Or the other way around. When something he thought was real and it turned out to be a wisp of smoke in his mind, it was just as odd.
Sometimes he could take comfort in the lucidity of his mind. Sometimes, figments of his imagination were hard to kill. Sometimes they were easy. Today had been easy. Oh yes, so easy. Just keep hitting until it's gone, until it lies bleeding on the ground and then disappears. He had done it before with great success.
One of the voices was much stronger than the others. It kept whispering to him, kept telling him what to do. He kept telling it to shut up, but it never did. He had killed the wraith in his head, but it kept coming back. Not so strong and yet eternal.
Another chuckle shook him. What was the world coming to? His mom used to say that, all the time. 'What is the world coming to, Johnny?' She would shake her head and say 'tsk' and smile. He grinned at the image in his head. His mother always managed to subdue the other voices for a time when she looked at him and caressed his cheek and smiled and said things like 'I'm so proud of you, my baby-boy' or 'I always knew you'd grow up to be a good man, Johnny'.
He sniffed and rubbed the back of his hand under his nose, smearing the dark spots there. Somehow, it wasn't so nice any more to hear her saying those things. He couldn't immediately decide why and wasn't too sure it mattered anyway.
Something moved to his right and he turned his head and looked up. There she was, Mama Crichton, but she was not smiling and she was not looking at him with that adoring expression. She looked angry, upset. 'What have you done?' she asked, her ghostly voice sounding miles away. She made a sweeping gesture at the ground. 'Who's going to clean all this up?'
A rare patch of mental clarity befell him and he glanced around, at the bodies littering the ground. Swallowing hard, he rose from the rock he'd been sitting on and tried to gather the unraveling threads of his mind to no avail.
His eyes settled on one of the bodies and he let out a half-hearted groan mixed with a whimper. "Oh god," he managed in a cracking voice. "Oh god."
He dropped to his knees beside the prone form and turned it over. Ebony hair, bruised face, big, gaping hole in the chest. The tears began to fall as he cradled her to him, holding his dead lover in his arms, while he tried to remember who had attacked them and why he was still alive.
Then he caught sight of his right hand, meshed into her blood-matted hair, and he saw flashes of weapons fire, saw a fist hitting her face over and over, felt bone breaking beneath his hands.
His sobs became helpless chuckles. He gently lowered her onto the ground, meticulously removed hair and dirt from her face, and then closed her eyelids. His hands were bloodied, dried blood, and his knuckles hurt.
He rose again, glanced around at the others, the Luxan, the Nebari, the Hynerian. He couldn't recall their names. They had come to rescue him. But little had they known that he needed no rescue. Giggling manically, he looked around him. They were all dead, all by his hand. He had killed them, had broken them, and why? Because the voices in his head said so?
No, he had done it because this universe was not good enough for them. They deserved something better and what was better lay beyond life, beyond physical existence. Yes, it was much better if they were dead. They had gone ahead and would be waiting for him once his work here was done.
Nodding to himself, he wiped his hands on his pants and glanced around at them again. "I love you all," he said with a smile. "But I have to go finish that... job. There are a lot of people out there who are too good for this universe and I can help set them free. I can deliver them from evil," he said and chuckled again. His gaze turned back toward the distant building where he was helping bring about the deliverance of people.
He needed to go back there, back to... what was his name?... the wraith in his head who refused to die. Yes, he needed to finish his work and quickly, because he didn't want to linger for much longer. He wanted to rejoin his friends, whoever they were.
Covered in mudd and blood and with a glint of humor in his eyes, he stepped over the bodies and made his way back to the facility. Soon he could go join them. But first he needed to finish what he had begun.
This keeps up and I think I'm going to start getting a reputation for this stuff. *chuckles*