Last night. I don’t know, 1AM?
I found him. I finally found him. I’ve been joking that I’ve been playing “follow the operator symbols”. This time, it was a game of “follow the bodies”. This only lead so far, but it’s easy to track someone when all you have to do is ask: “did you see a guy wearing a monster mask?”.
When I found him, he was walking through an alley. I slowly caught up to him. I had a nightstick that I acquired from my dealings with Manteo. I crept closer and closer, but he never turned around. I clubbed him over the head with the nighstick and watched him fall to the ground.
He wasn’t out. Not yet. He clutched his head. “What... the fuck man...” I kicked him twice in the ribs.
As I prepared for a third kick, he grabbed my leg and attempted to pull me to the ground. He almost succeeded, but then I brought my other foot down on his arm.
I looked down at him. “There are things that need to be done. I thought you of all people would understand that.”
At these words he punched me in the knee and stumbled to his feet.
“That’s not proxie talk.”
I walked slowly towards him, “Of course it isn’t. I have a feeling they’ve somewhat enjoyed the show you’ve put on for them. I, on the other hand, haven’t. I warned you, Zero.” I began to raise the nightstick, “I’m glad you didn’t listen.”
He smirked. “So you’re someone I’ve wronged then...” He was slowly backing away. “Alright, I knew this’d come, but I still have something to do before I die. You can kill me afterwards.” He put up his fists, “But not yet.”
“Excuse me if I don’t trust you to continue on your merry way. Unfortunately, I’m the only one who wants you dead for the right reasons.”
He sprang forth before I could react, tackling me to the ground. He punched me twice in the face before attempting to wrestle the stick away from me, his knee on my chest. He is a heavy man. I thought I would pass out right then. Coughing and spitting, I managed to raise my fist and punch him in the hip until he fell over. On my knees, I beat him repeatedly over the head with the stick.
I felt disoriented. It took half a minute before I could pull myself to my feet. A cut on his cheek, he managed to make a quiet whine before rolling onto his stomach.
“One parallel between us, Zero, is that neither of us enjoy human suffering.” Two more kicks were all it took to end it.
The garage I brought him to was empty. Alex and I had paid a visit to it earlier in order to assure it. A plethora of tools were scattered over the repair floor, none of which I intended to use. I propped him against a corner and waited, gun trained on his chest.
It was an hour or two until he woke. His eyes instantly gravitated to the barrel of the gun.
“... So this is it then... Well, I had it coming, I guess...” He locked eyes with me. “So who are you, anyway?”
“A half-hallowed with an indignant sense of righteousness.”
“Well that’s cryptic...”
It was my turn to smirk, “Really? I was quoting you.”
Against all expectations, he started laughing, “I barely remember last week, let alone something I must’ve posted on a blog... Heh, so you’re a blogger, and you’re pissed at me. I can get that.” He looked up at me again, “So... watcha waiting for? It’s not like I can wrestle a firearm...”
It finally dawned on him, “Aww shit, okay. I get it now. Glass... that’s who you are, aren’t ya?”
At this point I began to lose my patience, “The reason I haven’t killed you yet is that there are things that need to be said!”
Zero just stared at me, “Then say what you need to say... how you conquered a vile man, how your focus on me helped save you from succumbing to evil... how you’re some big hero for gunning down a rat...”
I contemplated this, “I’ve never taken pride in killing. It needed to be done... I chuckle sometimes at the parallels. You’ve always had your bleeding tree. I’ve had you. We’ve both been willing to go up and beyond to do what we thought needed to be done. Difference is, I was right.”
He looked down for a few seconds, “... And you saw where my obsession led me, to destroy the Bleeding tree... But I’m betting that your fervor to kill me... that’s more of what kept you from succumbing.”
No. This wasn’t where I wanted the conversation to go. I riposted, “The thing is, Zero, nobody really cares about your Bleeding Tree. The only person it’s ever bothered is you... Kay... Yes, and Kay too. I think that she attracted its attention by helping you. Regardless, you’ve killed innocent people in order to save yourself, and then tried to con the rest of us by claiming to work for some greater good.”
He swallowed, refusing to look me in the eye, “Maybe... but it IS an evil, Glass, and maybe, just maybe it’s connected to the other monster... the fact that the Tree was waiting for me, when I wanted to fight It. The bodies the monster hangs upon it.” He looked up again fixating on the gun, “We don’t know how to kill the monster, but I thought maybe we could kill this at least.” He wiped some of the blood from his cheek, “I’m not too sure of anything really, anymore. All I know is that the Tree nearly killed me, Glass.”
I frowned, “You’re somebody who I’ve always thought had a lot of sympathy towards others. What I think you really lack is empathy. I don’t think you really understand pain, Zero. Pain that makes you go mad. Pain that rips your soul from your body and slashes it to bits before ramming it back in. You’re lucky, Zero. You’re really lucky that I’m not going to show you...”
A week smile emerged on his face, “I don’t know pain?” He wiped his face again, “I don’t know the pain of loss, realizing I’ve been tricked into killing a girl... or... seeing people cry out to me, begging me to help the when I’m just as helpless as they are?” A tear snaked down his face, “To be on the run from monsters, to be mindfucked into doing the bidding of a fucking tree? To realize every step of the way what I am doing is pure... unadulterated evil, and...” He stood up, “And I couldn’t stop it? To know that I’ve ruined lives?” He began to shout, “I DON’T KNOW PAIN? FUCK YOU, GLASS! I’VE SUFFERED FOR MONTHS BECAUSE OF THAT FUCKING TITLE!” He raised an accusing finger towards me, “AND JUST BECAUSE ITS NOT THE SAME PAIN YOU FELT, DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY LESS FUCKING REAL TO ME!”
I cocked the gun, “I would like you to know that, though I’ve wanted to kill you for some time now, I personally did not harbor any ill will towards you. Until you suddenly decided to stop. I can understand someone who’s been killing due to a deranged fantasy. But you... you just up and decided to stop! What made them so different, Zero?” My voice raised to a shriek, “What made killing them so goddamn different?”
“They had a child.”
I froze. My arm dropped to my side.
Zero slumped to the floor, “I didn’t see him until I was done, he was down the trail a bit, and the... then I saw him approach. And when I realized... I screamed at him to run away.” He whispered, “I couldn’t bear to have him see what happened... what I did.”
He looked up again, his face a calm mask, “And you tell me, I don’t know pain... I saw it all happen, and I couldn’t stop myself until after it was done.”
A minute passed, and then I said the only thing I could think of:
“... The first thing you notice in the field are the screams. They aren’t the screams of the dying. They’re the screams of people who want to live. When it starts, you feel that you aren’t alone, but it only makes things worse because you will never, ever be able to see the others, or even know if they’re real... Emotions become sick. You feel sadness so deep that it burns. Joy so cold and hollow that you feel you will collapse into yourself. Nothing is pure... You never know anymore if what you feel is genuine. If what you think is real...”
Zero looked up at me, confused.
I continued, my vision beginning to blur, “Brainwashing is an interesting thing, Zero. There is never a feeling that what you’ve done is wrong. You can’t imagine having ever been different. When He changes people, He makes them feel that they’re on his side, that he’s always been their protector and not their doom. He’s a clever bastard. He figured out that it was too easy for people to fight an enemy that declares allegiance to him from the beginning.”
Zero stared at the ground. I stared directly at him, starting to sway, “Zero, it wasn’t you that gave me the strength to resist him... It was him who gave me the will to fight you... fuck!” I couldn’t breathe. I leaned on a tire pump for support.
He stood up, hands raised, “I have it coming more than most... but I need just a little time to decide what I need to do, to make things a little better for the others.” He took a step sideways towards the door, still facing me, “You can kill me, Glass, you can kill me right now, I deserve it, but otherwise, I have to find my place, my balance...” He turned away and began to slowly walk towards the door.
He froze, then looked to the floor, “Go ahead”.
Facing the wall, I took a long pause before speaking “... If you somehow survive this, and you haven’t found your salvation, you never will. Because I will kill you. Painfully. Go.”
I heard him exhale, “Hmm... I’ll be waiting then. Goodbye, Glass.”
And he left.