Posted by Douglas, Nov 25, 2008. 1984 views. ID = 2050
This post was written in 87 minutes.
|Please note that I wrote this one back-to-back with the previous chapter, so make sure you read that one first!|
|This post has been awarded 14 stars by 3 readers.|
|This post is Part 15 of a writing series titled Kindle.|
It seemed that Duncan's concerns were unwarranted. He saw neither Herald nor any other Kindle hanging about as they planned their wedding. Not that this meant anything; as a newly become human, Duncan would be as oblivious to the Kindle as everyone else in his adopted race. He found himself looking over his shoulder, or studying the shadows that played across the floors and walls, wondering if one of his former co-laborers might be hiding within those shadows. But if the Kindle were about, they were silent and unobtrusive; there was no disruption to the wedding, or to the honeymoon, or to the beginning of their married life together.
They purchased a modest home outside the city; Becca said that she had lost interest in urban subjects and wanted to be closer to the natural world. Duncan had no objection to that. She got a job teaching art at a local elementary school, and he got a job working as a clerk in a law office. That, too, was a first. In all his years of working for the Muses, he had received a weekly living allowance from his Masters, and he had carefully saved and invested those human funds - as though he somehow knew he would one day need them. Every penny of his investments was used in the purchase of the home he now shared with his wife, and the bills needed to be paid.
And then Becca was pregnant. This news filled Duncan with joy and excitement, and not a small amount of surprise; he had often wondered if, considering what he was, he might be sterile. It seemed that even the joy of fatherhood was not to be denied him.
One evening in the winter of that year, when Becca was six months pregnant, they were sitting together on the sofa, cuddled close together, and sharing mundane stories of their days, as they did every evening. Duncan thought he would never tire of the sight, the sound, the smell, and the feel of her resting in the crook of his arm on these quiet evenings. Outside snow was falling in great sweeping sheets that blew silently against the windows and fell into drifts about their home. It was a perfect evening - a perfect evening that was marred by a knocking at the door.
Outside, bundled up in layer upon layer of warm clothing, so he looked more like a snowman than a real
man, stood a stranded traveler. Through a carefully wrapped scarf his muffled voice explained that his car had gone off the road a couple hundred yards down the road.
Duncan invited him in to use the phone and call a tow truck. The man unwrapped his layers of clothing and hung them carefully on a hook near the door. Underneath the layers was a well dressed and genteel old fellow with a pleasant smile, and friendly eyes. He apologized for the dripping mess on the floor. Duncan shrugged, as if to say, "No matter," and led him to the phone.
After he made his call, the old man sat with them in the living room to wait for the tow truck's arrival. Becca said, "Would you like some coffee?"
He smiled gratefully and nodded. Becca excused herself to the kitchen to start the water boiling.
As soon as she was gone the old man leaned forward and said, softly, "Are you out of your freaking mind, Pyre?"
Duncan froze, and all the terrors that had remained hidden in the back of his mind for the past year came rushing to the foreground. He had never before known the power of human terror. It was a terror that was worse than anything he had ever experienced as a Kindle. The feeling overwhelmed him, debilitated him. He couldn't speak.
Herald smiled. "You thought we'd forgotten you, didn't you? You thought we'd forgotten your sweet little bride, too." He paused, and his genteel smile curled into a far less pleasant smirk. "The Pierides forget nothing, my friend. They don't forget genius. They don't forget their own. And they certainly...don't forget betrayal."
They sat in silence for a few moments; Herald waited for Duncan to speak, to defend himself, or at least to argue with him. The former Kindle had nothing to say - nor could he have said anything if he wanted, the fear had firmly clenched his jaw, making speech impossible.
Finally, Herald spoke again. "Let me tell you how this will play out, Pyre. That wife of yours, she will
be kindled. She's no longer your project. She's mine. And unlike you, I will succeed."
Duncan unclenched his jaw and found his voice. "You don't even know her. You don't know what is holding her back."
Herald laughed, but quietly so Becca would not hear in the next room. "Stupid, stupid human. Of course
I know. I've known from the very beginning. I've known from the first moment I saw her, standing behind that easel of hers. You want to know what is holding her back, Pyre? The death of her gift, Pyre, is you
Duncan shook his head. "Not possible. Something was holding her back even before she met me."
"Irrelevant. More accurately, I should say, it was the idea
of you that held her back. That desperate longing for love and belonging, for someone to share her sad little life, to sit on the sofa and tell pathetic little stories of daily life while they cuddled in front of a fire on a cold, snowy evening.
"That longing overshadowed everything she did. It colored everything she saw, and it made her brush tremble with uncertainty against the canvas. It was like a creeping, insidious mold that touched everything she did and defiled it."
Duncan considered this, then said angrily, "If you knew all this from the beginning, why didn't you tell me?"
Herald leaned even closer and whispered, "Because I needed you, Pyre."
The pieces suddenly began to fall into place. Herald's evasive answer when asked if he was "on project." His outrageous suggestion that Pyre should manifest to Becca. His willingness to give Pyre another week, and the most extraordinary thing of all - that Pyre hadn't been yanked from the project the moment he manifested to Becca.
"She was your project all along." Duncan's voice was flat, unemotional, but there was seething rage hiding beneath the surface.
Herald shrugged. "Yes, and no. In a way, she's just a means to an end for me. But yes, you could think of it that way. And if she wasn't my project then, she certainly is now."
"So what happens now?" Duncan asked, recalling the poet on the Mediterranean whose wife had taken a tragic fall to her death. "Will you kill me?"
Herald shook his head. "Pyre, Pyre, you haven't been listening. It's not you
that stands in the way, but the idea
of you. If I kill you, I haven't destroyed the idea, have I? She'll just go out and find someone else to fulfill her dreams."
The idea of Becca with someone else pained Duncan too much to put into words. "So, what, then?"
"To kill the idea, the dream, you must do one simple thing. You must betray that dream. You must betray her. Tomorrow, after she leaves for school, pack your bags and leave. Leave nothing behind, except one thing. A note, explaining you've realized you don't love her any more, and you feel suffocated by the marriage. Something like that - you can figure out the exact wording, I'm sure. No forwarding address. Nothing."
Duncan looked as though he had been slapped. "What?"
"It's amazingly simple, Pyre. Even your sad little human brain ought to be able to comprehend this. Your betrayal kills her dream. Your cruel abandonment leaves her nothing but her craft."
"I would never, will never do any such thing," Duncan hissed angrily.
"You will. If you do not, I will
"What happened to killing me won't destroy the dream
"It's all in the execution, my friend," Herald said calmly. "If you'll pardon the pun. If I have to kill you, your body will be so thoroughly destroyed that no one will ever recover even a scrap of it. I know how to pack your belongings, and - in case you were wondering - I can forge your handwriting, too."
Duncan stared with loathing at his former co-worker. In his panicked mind he tried to work out a solution, a way out, a course of action that would not leave Becca widowed and bitter and dreamless. He saw nothing.
"Come with me, Pyre, I want to show you something." Herald stood. "When was the last time you looked in your wife's studio, Pyre?"
Duncan shrugged. He hadn't really thought about it; when they were first married, Becca was constantly saying to him, "Come see what I'm working on." That hadn't happened in months. Duncan followed Herald across the living room and into his wife's studio. All the paints lay in straight lines on shelves, with the brushes in a cup, carefully stood upright with the bristles pointing toward the ceiling. Across the room a few half-finished paintings were stacked against the walls, and the canvas on the easel was completely empty of color. Duncan felt as though his heart would break, and as though to add insult to his injury, a tiny spider had spun a web from the unused easel to the blank canvas.
"This, my human friend, is your
Duncan stared helplessly at a fly which was struggling against the spider's web. He put his hands to his face, and wept.Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. FifteenMinutesOfFiction.com has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.
|This post has been awarded 14 stars by 3 readers.|
|This post is Part 15 of a writing series titled Kindle. The next part of this series can be found here: Back to the City.|
|This is a revised version of a post. Click here to view the original version
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