truth

The Historians

The Historian writes in his book with a blood-red pen, etching events that never happened into existence, erasing his many bloody misdeeds from the memory of the world. He stretches to shake away the pain of old age, the weight of many years witnessing the worst come to pass, helpless to prevent it, his only duty to change how those who suffered remember.

"It's cleaner this way," He explains, before dreaming of horrors only he can recall. Of smoke and of blood. At night, he shivers, steeped in the terrors of lives so remote from his own, lives he controls with the deft touch of a surgeon

"There can be forgiveness without forgetting," He says, the mantra meant as much for his apprentice as for himself. The boy watches his mentor scribble a new truth. Choosing what to include, what to change and what to elide entirely. “And that’s where we come in.”

The boy wonders at his own foggy past, what he has been written to forget. He looks around the ascetic room, a mat, a desk bearing parchment, pen ink and paper, a pool of water at its feet which reflected not the ceiling, but the Historian’s world, or star, or void. He struggles to remember, fruitlessly, who he was before this burden was thrust upon him. But there is only emptiness, a hole in his heart hollowed for the pain which will become his burden.

It is the same for all the apprentices. One day they wake in a giant dormitory, sleeping beneath a high glass ceiling, illuminated by permanent starlight. They remember nothing from before, not names, not families. Nothing. They look around, looking at each other in wordless fear, dressed in the robes of the clergy of Historians.

Their stewards, imposing and inaccessible, tell them only: "This is your life now."

Each is led down a long hallway. Each is assigned a historian, an aged man or woman or other, tasked with watching a small corner of the universe. Many spend every day staring onto planets bereft of life. Either unable to bear it, or it has yet to come, or it has already effaced all trace of itself from history. Each morning they wake; they bathe; they struggle through the fog of children robbed of youth and self, and they are forced to watch the watchers. Some are lucky and see only blackness, or the leftovers of violent death; some are cursed to see civilization on its making or its unmaking.

They learn there is only one universal truth: no more violent thing than life exists. In every form it consumes itself to endure, accruing sin after sin. And that the only way life forgives itself is by forgetting. And that no memory can be unmade.

Therefore... the Historians.

"It is our job to remember," They lecture their young charges. "To witness, and to choose."

"Choose what?"

"Choose what memories we think the living can bear, what they cannot. We choose what to erase, to improve. What to take upon ourselves so only our nights are disturbed."

"How long?"

"How long what, my child?"

"How long must we do this?"

Every Historian is asked this question, has asked this question and is ready with the same response.

"Until you are ready to assume our awful responsibility. Until you are ready to keep the universe spinning."

So they watch the watchers, witness their witnessing, absorb their choices, see the universe bend its truth to their pens. And one day, after they internalize the rhythms that keep their corner of existence churning forward without collapse...

...they wake in a Historian's bed.

They look down at their hands, see their decrepitude and wonder if they aged in a night. Or if their mentor's last act was to elide the lives they lived, leaving behind only wisdom.

They look up. A child enters their empty room. Seeing the youths' confusion, they smile:

"It's cleaner this way."

Endless Night -- Chapter Three

Even once he enters the room, even once he chooses the method of punishment, the Inquisitor does not begin right away. Every moment is extended, such torture, such desire. He walks around his bound suspect, teasing. Weapon of choice lingering on his flesh but not biting, not yet.

            “You’ve been a naughty one.” Not a question, but a fact.

            “Yessir.”                         

            “And you want to be punished.” Again, just a fact.

            “Yes-”

            And suddenly the cat o’nine whips out, striking Rodgers on the leg, just his leg. He flinches, but does not scream. It is painful, but not too painful. Pleasure quickly dwarfs the sting. His blood rushes. Endorphins flow. And he leaks even more.

            “Now, now, we’re just getting started. You can’t finish so soon.”

            “Yessir. I’m sorry sir.”

            “You’re going to tell me everything you know. What you want… what you don’t want. You’re going to beg for release"

And if you’re good, I just might give it to you.”

            Rodgers waited. And in the hours that passed he wet himself. He held on for as long as he could, but eventually, despite his best efforts, stinging warmth dampened his legs, his cheeks, his spirits. And yet the torture had not even begun. And yet the sharp, gleaming tools waited in the dim, unused. The depravity they hinted at might have excited him in any other context, but not that night. That night, no consideration would be given to his needs, to further exploration of his dark masochist. They would only be used to take, and take, until nothing endured but what he knew.

Until only a traitor remained.

Eventually the door creaked open, throwing a sliver of light onto the journalist. A young man threw buckets of water over him until Rodgers thought he might drown in the cascading torrent. The Inquisitor would come soon, he knew. They wanted him disoriented and pliable. They wanted him desperate. They wanted him to spill all he knew, before anyone noticed he was missing. Despite his desperation, he had to remember. He too had leverage. A well regarded editor, a popular columnist. His disappearance would be noted before long.

            And perhaps, if I’m lucky, he'll be the one to… he always said he was the best. If they have any inkling of what I know, they’ll want the best.

            And the best, at least a part of him, belongs to me.

            The door opened. The small lithe shadow darted in once more, disappearing in the blackness as the iron door shut behind him. From that blackness, a torrent of water washes away Rodgers sin, the sodding stench of urine.

            "The Inquisitor comes soon, prisoner," A mousy voice chides him, "He wants you ready. Are you ready to be made clean?"

            Rodgers closed his eyes, muttering a silent prayer to the forgotten Gods of this land. The Mistress, the Maiden, the Lord, Gods of chastity and passion who encompassed all of man. Who loved them despite their sins, because of their sins, who existed on the fringes of a monarchy that would deify its line. But men and women die. These Gods endured, even when they were forgotten, they lived. In the throes passion we still called to them. He smiled.

            Lord protect me. Mistress please maiden. Maiden absolve me. I stand before you a chastened man. Let me stand before them, let me be strong, let me say nothing until the time is right.

            "I am already clean, young one."

            Instead of leaving after dousing Rodgers, as he had done the many times before, Parsons, the Inquisitor's apprentice, walked up to the bound suspect. Regarding his naked form in the lowlight, Parson caressed Rodger's thigh. And, despite himself, he swelled at the ministration.

            "I can see your sin traitor," He sniffed, the washings-cum-waterboardings had not fully washed away urine's scent or fear's stench. "I can smell it."

            Parsons tilted Rodger's head upwards until their noses almost touched. "Nothing about you is pure."

And behind the apprentice, the door opened. Into the dark slid a masked, berobed figure. The mask had a long, curved nose, two sunken black eyes that beckoned like bottomless pits. He stood in the doorway, blocking the light like an eclipse. It surrounded the Inquisitor’s dark frame like a halo. Then he entered, approaching the tray of tools. His slinking gait looked so… familiar.

            Could it be? Could it be?

            "Thank you squire." The Inquisitor nodded his head toward the door, indicating that Parsons should leave he and Chuy to the dark. Parsons turned to leave, but before exiting, he leered in the light cast through the open door.

            "He will make you name your sins, traitor. You will cry them out like you cry the name of your favorite whore. You will go to the noose, clean at last."

            The door slammed shut behind him. Like a death knell, like the turned back of God, leaving him in darkness and, so Parsons thought, hopelessness.

            But Rodgers knew. Where there was still breath, there was always another chance.

            The Inquisitor lit a candle, and his shadow flickering behind him made him even more inhuman, his form shifting, growing, shrinking on the wall behind him. Like what Rodgers saw merely hid what truly stood there. A monster in the Wolf's cloth.   

            “Rodgers, Chuy Rodgers, editor of Truth to Power, 'voice' of the people. Here you are in our grasp.” The voice, filtered by the mask, sounded obscured and unnatural. But it was unmistakable. Rodgers smiled, here lay hope. Here lay his escape.

            Leverage. I have leverage. Oh Tomas, it has been too long.

            “Wh-what do you want with me Inquisitor?” He continued to play the fool, and the fear trembling his voice was not all a lie. His life still dangled by a thread, a thread wrapped around his neck. All it would take is the slightest fall. All he had to bet was that… Tomas, yes it was Tomas, was under strict orders not to end him here and now.

            He had to play the game just right. There was enough rope for both their necks.

            What I know is too important. He told himself, with less conviction than before. They will not let him end me. He must make me talk, and what I might

            “It stinks of your piss in here Rodgers. How far are you willing to go to defend the acts of terrorists?”

            “I know no terrorists, Inquisitor.”

            “Freedom fighters then, whatever you call them. We know you know them, and what they’re planning. You've advocated on their behalf for too long. We've heard too many whispers. Make no mistake, we will find out what you know. What you must endure beforehand... well that is up to you.” The rough hands traced the blades, the cudgels, the electric instruments of coaxing. Rodgers struggled mightily to swallow his apprehension.

            “We both know things, Inquisitor. They say knowledge is power, and power… power is dangerous to both the wielded and the weld.”

            This gave the masked man the slightest pause. Does he know? Know who I am? He must be wondering thus, he must. Will he tell?

            But he paused only slightly, and as his hands caressed his toys of the trade, they came to rest on a bronze tipped stick, silver looped handle on the other end.

            "You know what this is, don't know?" Inquisitor Tomas whispered, his own subtle acknowledgement that they knew each other.

            A picana. Oh you bastard.

            "You know I do, you already know… Tomas."

            Rodgers feels spit flecking at the corners of his mouth, though whether it is from the pain, the small welts the cat o'nine tails left behind on his thighs and chest. Or the pleasure, the pain forces him inward, scours his soul. Here he atones. For his sins he is punished, and is cleaned. He throbs, but this masked man, this master, keeps him dancing along the edge, without plummeting over into oblivion.

            "You've done well," Tomas, his guide into this torment, breathing heavily, places the multi-tailed whip back in its place on his tray, and reaches for an unassuming looking stick, tipped in bronze. The Inquisitor hooks his finger through its silver loop, swinging it around as he advances back to the bound journalist. His lover, his co-conspirator in a relationship between two men on opposite sides of the law.

            Pressing the button on its side, the stick crackles, electricity jumping between the small prongs on its tip. Rodgers lets out an involuntary moan, from anticipation? From fear? Not even he can say.

            "How far are you willing to go? What are you able to withstand, my dear? Let's find out together. Are you ready?"

            Rodgers takes a deep breath. He was too far gone to stop now, physically aroused, emotionally engaged. He nods.

            "I can't hear you… boy," The last word, though it diminished Rodgers, calling him a child, is spoken with nothing but love.

            "Yes… yes sir."

Endless Night -- Chapter Two

            He sat in silence, bound and tumescent, waiting. Anticipation was all part of the game. A good dom lets your imagination wander, wonder at what’s coming. He allows you to imagine his touch, gentle at first, and then rougher. He lets you sit in the dark, too dim to see the door, but with just enough light to see the shadows of the tools of his trade. He lets you wonder how they might be used, how your limits might be tested. How far you are willing to go…

            The door opened, and Rodgers, left to his devices for almost too long, nearly spent himself then and there.

 

            Rodgers sat in the dark. His only companion distant, constant dripping. The room was damp, the air foul, like whatever sins committed here again and again could never be completely washed away. They had dragged him into this room, the rough hands, stripped him, bound him to this chair and then left. Left him alone for hours. Anticipation was all part of the game. Most men, he imagined, spilled their secrets into that silence. Most men feared what came. Rodgers was not most men. He had already been tested, and though from the shadows of the tools that lay in the quiet he knew this match would start way past his limits, he would not give up so easily.

            Too much was at risk. The secrets he hid were far too deadly.

 

            As Tomas the Inquisitor marched up the Chapel steps, his mind buzzed with worry over what awaited him. What could be so vital that only he could attend to it? Parson flocked him in respectful silence, aware of his pensiveness and not wishing to interrupt for he knew the rancor it would bring down on his head. The night was still and cold, and only the wind’s soft whispers pierced the stillness. Tomas wrapped the robe of his station tight around him, though it was inlaid with warm fleece, he still felt the chill penetrate.

He wondered if that was the wind’s doing, or if it was fear. Such was the life of an Inquisitor, constantly hoping to inspire a fear in others that might approach his own. Such was the precarious station one held, living in the shadows and hypocrisy.

Charlaine, the Inquisition’s head amanuensis, barely looked up from her ledger as he entered the chapel from the dark, throwing open the wood doors, as if their creaking loudness would chase away his doubts.

“Tomas,” She smiled thinly, though the warmth in her eyes was genuine, “You’re late.”

“Char, dearest, do you ever sleep?”

“Administering Justice is a 24 hour job I’m afraid.” She spoke with her eyes on the screen, notes from the latest confession, leads to be forwarded to the Hermandade, and either confirmed or discarded by their inspectors. “The boss wants you. *He* said to send you up as soon as you arrived.”

Instead of heading up straight away, Tomas lingered. “How was, uh, His mood?”

“All business, even moreso than usual. I wouldn’t keep Him waiting. More likely than not, He already knows you’re here.”

“Okay then. See you on my way out?”

“I doubt it, after I finish here I’m rushing home. I have to at least get a little sleep before morning.” Charlaine looked up from her work briefly and smiled, “Although, if the whispers are correct. You may still be here when I return. They got you a tough nut to crack this time.”

Tomas leaned down and tried his most winning smile. White teeth on a brown face, smooth skin and handsome features beneath hair buzzed close to his skull, framed by a buzz that ran down along his jaw and back up sideburns on both sides. He knew it was a difficult face to deny. “No hints for your favorite Inquisitor?”

“You know better than that. Go ahead now, I’ll buzz you up.”

As Tomas walked down the hall toward the elevator, he could not stop his hands from shaking. Fear gripped him and he knew not why. Though some sixth sense told him it was threats of the past roaring in his ears now, and not the distant wind. The Chapel was at once ornate and austere. From the outside it looked like a normal Church. In the modern day, with proscribed atheism the norm most churches were archaic, they still remained. Now the government’s buildings instead of God’s. Inside was a mix of new and old. The hallway he walked down now lined with stained glass, depicting the Inquisition’s proud history. Yet instead of candles, as was once traditional, fluorescent bulbs provided the hall with low, consistent light.

Where once the Inquisition extracted the confessions of heretics, they now pronounced guilt on dissenters. Where once they fought for the Lord, they now lurked in the shadows, protecting king and country. Some longed for the good old days, but in a secular world, these were necessary changes. And so still they thrived.

As he proceeded down the hall, the images changed. From the past to the present, from foul sinners on the cross, to political prisoners, on their knees in the black, begging the King’s (Or Queen, as it was in this day and age) third, darkest, and most deadly arm for forgiveness. Forgiveness that was nearly never forthcoming. From crucifixions and beheadings to quiet disembowlings and mass graves. Here artists proudly depicted the horrors of the Inquisition, necessary horrors—some might say—that protected the Kingdom from those who would help it consume itself.

The stainless steel elevator doors opened as he approached, no doubt He was watching Tomas approach on the cameras lining the corridor. Tomas entered, and they closed behind him and immediately he was born upwards. There were no buttons, no screen signifying what floor he traveled to. Only one finger controlled this carriage, security necessary for one of the most quietly hated functionaries of the King’s governance. Him, Lord of the Inquisition.

The doors opened in his office, no need for further security. Only those He allowed could get this far. And like most Lords of the Inquisition, this one valued seclusion above all else. All the better for pronouncing treachery, sedition, for issuing edicts of execution, if one renounces all emotional ties. Life was a luxury few in the Inquisition could afford.

“Tomas, sit,” The Lord’s high voice came from His turned chair. Tomas entered the office, and sat in the chair on the opposite side of the Lord’s desk, trying in vain to dispel his worries.

“So,” The chair turned and the Lord, a blonde and gray-haired woman of indeterminate age, could be as low as late-forties and as high as mid-sixties, regarded her most successful Inquisitor. ‘Him’ and ‘He’ we just titles, archaic remains from an age where one’s gender limited how far one could rise. Yet they remained, vague words for a vague position of power in the Monarch’s bureaucracy. Man or Woman ‘He’ was not a person to be trifled with.

“How much do you know about Fifth Column?”

Please, please no.

In a voice belying the fright that built within him, Tomas answered. “Not much more than anyone, half-myth, half-rebellion. Anytime a bomb explodes; bouillon is ‘liberated’; the queen’s stores are pillaged, et cetera, et cetera, their names are whispered. I know we’ve captured several men and women suspected to be operatives for ‘the cause’, but they managed to get themselves killed before they talked. I know some suspect they do not exist at all. That it’s just a name we invented, to keep the populace complacent…”

Tomas trailed off. That was really all he knew. Well, almost all.

“Yes, that’s all any of us know. But we have a break. Recently we heard from numerous reliable sources that Fifth Column was working with the media to spread dissension. One name in particular came up again and again. We didn’t want to move on this info until we had several corroborating sources, but that time has come. We struck before he got wind of our interest and fled the country. A newspaper editor named…” *He* consulted the file open on her desk.

No, please not-

“-Chuy Rodgers.”

And that was it, the terrifying prospect made reality. He became stone, face completely still, hoping nothing betrayed the visions of the noose that danced before him. Visions of his own vain attempts to stuff his insides back where they belong, the hot, white pain of death at the hands of one like him, the Queen’s most deadly tools.

But still he played the fool. “That name sounds familiar. Some sort of newspaper editor?”

“And blogger, yes. Known for saying things that are somewhat insightful of dissension, but nothing that would merit risking his extraction before now. He has a very wide following. Very popular online. And, our whispers say, he is, if not directly involved, aware of what Fifth Column is plotting next. Our whispers say it could be…” And here *He* paused, and for a moment, Tomas saw just how stressed the Him was, how big this was, and in that moment he sniffed hope, opportunity. “…an attempted assassination on Queen Aluecia.”

Tomas allowed himself to balk at that openly. “I see.”

*He* nodded. “So you can see how serious this is. We need our best. That’s you. I’m hoping we can have actionable intel by the morning. I don’t want his fans to grumble, and if they do, I want to give them verifiable proof Rodgers is a traitor. Think you’re up to it.”

Tomas paused a while, pretending to consider the implications here, really considering how he might get through the night without himself becoming target for questioning.

“I can certainly try,” He finally says, “Anything for the Queen.”

 

Rodgers sits in the dark, bound and tumescent, aroused by what awaits him. Beguiled by the smells of old sex, sins that can never be fully washed away. Leather belts strapping his naked, sweating form to a wicker chair that left all exposed. After what could have been minutes, or maybe even hours, the door finally opens. And a robed figure enters. The clothes a mockery of the station its wearer holds by day. Dark face and gleaming smile hidden by a mask, yet he smiles still.

“So,” The masked figure begins, hands tracing and caressing each tool of his trade. Pain and pleasure, confession and discovery, all sides of the same coin. “Tell the truth. You’ve been bad haven’t you?”

“Yessir.”

“And do you know why I’m here?”

“Yessir.” Rodgers answer comes, a quiet moan, leaking from him. He leaks all over.

“You’ve been bad,” The masked man’s rough hand comes to rest on a cat o’nine, and he smiles again sight unseen. “Tonight we’re going to see how bad you really are.”

 

Tomas watched through the door, watched Rodgers quietly whimpering, awaiting an Inquisitor’s wrath. He watches the dark secret of his past, returned to bear on the present. Tomas, remembering their time together, exciting himself despite the fear, pondered how best to escape the vise closing around him.

You can do this Tomas. You can survive. You just have to be smart. You just have to be careful.

Tomas, you can survive… you’ve spilled innocent blood before. You can survive.

The Beast's Truth

                The best lies are not pure lies, but truths masquerading as fiction. Out in the open, the implication of other, larger truths obfuscates the darkest sin. That is why, when inspectors—one young and full of vigor, the other grey-haired and cautious—came to my door, and asked after the whereabouts of my landlady, a zaftig inquisitor, a pennypincher and lout, I told them the truth. I had killed her. She lay in my basement still.

                We shared a laugh at that absurdity, one said with a wink. A funny joke shared between comrades. And they went on their way, in pursuit of a greater and less obvious truth. Though the elder one turned back, if only briefly, as they trudged back up the path through the mud and slush. I returned to my yard, shovel in hand, to the half-dug grave in the frigid ground therein.

                He will see the truth soon enough, I know, they will return with harder questions and faces lined with doubt.

                Why did I kill her? For money? Spite? Lofty ambition? The truth, as per usual, is simplicity itself. I cannot abide rudeness. Hers in particular. Her laugh, her manner, her nosiness. One comes to a point where enough is enough. As it happens, that point was sharp and gouged deep in her neck. Indeed, the truth at its core is even simpler than that:

I killed her to satisfy the beast.

                On the night in question, she stumbled upon the truth, too blatant to be ignored, and named me a butcher, which I am. By trade and as a hobby, but before visions of Sweeney Todd and questionable meat pies dance in your head, know I would never sell flesh as poor quality as hers, or as offered by most men and women. You are what you eat, and what they eat in kind. To eat her was to become twinkie, Burger King, and, as I witnessed once while signing the lease, her own belly-button lint.

                I digress. She named me a butcher as she spied me cleaving the victim prior. Prying through my window, a ‘routine check-up’ of an odd tenant, I suppose. A barely suppressed scream aroused me to her presence. Only the seclusion of my small home and her fingers fumbling in the cold saved me. I left the house in a flash and was upon her, before the scream escaped her throat. Her cell lay in the icy drift, forgotten.

                And so it was I had two bodies, two obvious truths, two victims. Once whole souls, now mere fixed points in time. The thought, the power in taking, exhilarates me. Each morning I look out into my yard and see two mounds of turned Earth, well-hidden by the days of snowfall.

                …and for a while, I am content.

                Who was the other, you ask? Some man of no consequence, a diversion, a brief lover, and then, as they all must become, my sacrifice to the beast. He hungers, my beast, and whispers sweet bloodlust nothings in my ear. He looms, this beast, this obscenity, always in the corner of my eye. Always provoking me to some gross indulgence, my craved sin. Only a kill sates the beast, and even then, not for long. Soon he chitters anew. Soon, he peers through my eyes and seeks fresh meet.

                And… hark! A knock at my door. The inspectors return. Ashen faces reveal they pursued a ring of lies ‘round to the truth at last. The truth staring them in the face the whole while. I grin, wide and hungry. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please come in!”

                They do, shuffling into my kitchen, staring around the room with fresh eyes. I sit at the table and indicate for them to do the same. They decline, still shifting, as if in their skin crawls a secret doubt. “Why would he just admit it outright? How could we not see? How were we so blind? Did she die here, on this floor?” The wonder, so clear in their faces. Well no, not her, I want to demure, but…

                The old one scratches his chin, hesitant to tread down the road lit by truth. “We have more questions, Mr… uh-”

                The beast interrupts. This is no time for equivocation. “You’d like to see them?”

                “Them?” Says the younger. Poor thing. So eager. So clearly out of his depth. But he must bleed all the same. The same as always.

                I proceed as if he hadn’t spoken. “Would you like to see their bodies?”

                “Bodies?” This time I hear the emphasis on the plural. Ah, yes, of course. I realize. They don’t know about the other.

                If the older detective shares his partner’s shock, he hides it well. His hand drifting to his holster, he thinks to keep me occupied. “Is that what you’d like to show us?”

                “Of course, yes of course.” The beast grins. My palm, flat on the table hides the steel that inches from my sleeve. Its cool touch thrills me to no end. “But…”

                They tense.

                “Every truth has a price.”

                The world slows as the beast, tired of waiting, looses himself upon it. Knife in hand, I barrel at the young one, who stares at me mouth agape. Unmoving, unable to believe, even knowing what he knows, that I would act thusly.

                The fool, this is my home. Did he think I would succumb quietly? Go gentle into the good night? Confess and languish, imprisoned and forgotten? No. Once, twice, the blade buries into him hilt deep. He stumbles, sinking to the ground with a sigh, in death he is almost content.

                A retort shatters the quiet, then a second, leaving an acrid taste in the air. And all of a sudden, pain lances through me. My side, my shoulder, sear with it. Not even that, though, stops the beast. I turn to the older one and snarl, taking flight as he prepares to fire once more. Before he can, we collide and fall to the floor, knotted as though lovers.

                The gun skitters from his grasp, my hand shivers loose of the blade, which hangs burrowed in his chest. Its handle, his grip, slick with both our bloods. I grimace, wobbly, blink away the painful fog, and then rise.

                “Death shan’t make me a liar… not yet.”

                I pull him to his feet, eyes fluttering. Fading… we are both fading. We half shuffle, half drag our way to the back door. It seems he too is committed to this course.

                “You… promised.” Warm blood flecks my cheek from his mouth as he speaks.

                “I did,” I grit. Though the agony lessens with each moment, as the world dances away down a long tunnel, away from the both of us. Even as we walk into the light and snow, the bitter cold, the falling flakes, it’s all so very distant.

                “You will… see… the-” I stop. The snow has fallen, and fallen, and fallen, for days since the impromptu burial of my landlady and my lover. The slight mounds are hidden. And as I drift, up , up from the world, I no longer remember… where…

                The inspector falls, pitching face first into the snow. He will not rise again. I sink down beside him.

              “I’m sorry. I’m-I seem to have forgotten-” What was I about to say? Where am I?

The sun shines, but everything is black. So black. And I realize: Even the beast is silenced.