Mourning (freewrite fiction #13)
The man of lights stood, alone once more, watching the bonfire with one eyebrow raised , measuring the night. It seemed it had been dark out for far too long and at times, he wondered if he’d truly left the House of Shadows after all. But no, his friend, as much as Noah Mermont could be called that, was dead. He had felt his presence leave the car as swiftly as he had entered it, leaving behind only a corpse.
He stood off the path until a sudden gust of wind wore down the weltering fire and then walked his way back to the car, waiting for him as it always had.
‘Was it you?’ the man of lights wondered out loud, sitting down heavily in his worn-out seat. ‘Did you drive that poor girl to madness?’
Into the night, he asked many questions he would come to regret in the morning light, and the car listened to them all, without so much as a tire screech. They’d both grown accustomed to him being the clever one, the one who never faltered, but even clever men have their lesser moments, even the greatest fall, and in the night, after he’d buried his only friend, the man of lights tumbled into the far below.
He cursed and he wished someone would tell him the answer to Cami’s riddle already, for in the dark, it seemed he no longer knew where to look. The queen of lies had been of little help and now, he’d managed to disaffect her from him, also, so that he was utterly alone, with no guide, no one to keep his council. In the morning, he would have to become strong once more, but now, he could afford to shed a tear of weakness, just to keep himself sane.
For the longest time, he sat unblinking and unthinking, letting all his sinners’ lives waft past him, like an irksome draft, like the coming storm. All the good he’d done, all that he and his car had worked for, it would all be in vain if even one soul was let slip and it was too late already, for the girl had died, fallen prey to some vile monsters that should’ve never had her. Each one gets the memories they deserve, the queen of lies had always taught him, but it was a concept that the man of lights had never quite mastered. The queen, she had her own reasons to absolve them. After all, she had her hoard of spiders to think about, but him, he’d always thought it strange and perhaps unfair. Always thought that one should be allowed to right their wrongs or at least, escape them.
‘No one deserves to live entombed in a past they’ve already committed,’ said he, to no one in particular. And the car countered, the same litany over and again.
They’ve set their beds and now, they must lie in them. Nobody forced their hand, otherwise their crimes would not hang above their heads, but those of their abusers. It is what we do that falls unnatural, setting them free, allowing them to forget that which should never be forgotten.
The man of lights found himself in such a state but rarely and, as was his habit, he simply nodded his head, eager to numb the words into oblivion. None of it mattered now, what mattered was that he find out what happened to Cami Mermont, this woman that haunted his dreams, and that he keep it from happening again, if it hadn’t already, though judging by the queen’s words, it already had.
She spoke of a weakness clouding her house, but that wouldn’t be just from one girl, or if it would, surely it would be temporary, a passing lightheadedness for the hungry spiders, nothing more.
‘She looked pale,’ he murmured, running his hand over the dashboard, like seeing it for the first time. ‘She looked sick, her whole damned house did. There have been others, after Cami Mermont and perhaps also before. We must go back.’
‘But what if they are still alive? What if some are still trapped in their torment, like Cami? We could save them.’
It is not our purpose to save. The car did not have a voice, in itself, but it had thought and intent and when it wished, it had the means to express them, in such a way that the sentences weren’t so much as heard, but rather manifested themselves inside his mind.
‘It is our purpose to do good, to set these people free and if they’re still plagued by these visions, by these lives they might’ve had, then we’re not doing our job correctly.’
The car allowed a moment of silence to pass, enough for him to understand his mistake, but when the man of lights continued to say nothing, it had no choice but to reprimand him.
Our job is to feed the queen. Our job is to ensure peace and order, not to care for the souls of sinners, and in this moment, our duty is to find the problem and fix it.
‘At the risk of allowing others to die.’ His hand tensed over the dashboard, his fingers curling ever closer to a fist.
They would die anyway, with or without their memories. Our freeing them of their past mistakes only allows them to go forth and commit new ones. Humans do not change and they shouldn’t. The world thrives on their continuity.
The man of lights closed his eyes, released his fingers before they had the chance to close forever. He’d been the master of this car for far too long and hitting it, in anger or in jest, would only hurt him in the end.
Besides, if you follow the past, you risk becoming entombed in it, like your sinners. You will never save them all and even if you do manage it, by then, countless others would have died. We must find the root of the problem in order to fix the sinners’ lives.
‘And those who might die?’
They’ve died already, in their own minds.
When he opened his eyes again, it was light outside and the tempest in his mind had cleared. He spared one last look toward the darkened pebbles of the path, where Noah’s body had burned, but saw nothing. No trace left of Good Eye Mermont, as if he never had been. It was no more and no less than anyone could hope for.
He yawned, more for effect than necessity. He hadn’t actually slept, he’d just fallen into deep thought, the closest he could come to sleep, and he’d seen in his mind where they had to go next. He pressed the pedal down and grinned into the breaking dawn, the mirthless smile of the damned.
When they’d left the witch’s house, he hadn’t stopped to think where they were going. It hadn’t much mattered, for he’d always been aware of this final journey, the seemingly unplanned stop, the bonfire. They hadn’t been going somewhere, but rather running from someplace else. And while that had been good in the moment, the time for running was over and he turned his car once more towards earth.
He would go. He would summon the Others.
to be continued