Tuesday, 10 April 2012

~Steele~ The Hollow Man.

Shape without form, Shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion:
Those who have crossed
With direct Eyes, to Death’s other Kingdom
Remember us
if at all
not as lost
Violent souls,
but only


This will be my last post.

I went back to the House. This old, dilapidated mansion in Vermont, surrounded by Trees. In its heyday, I’d return to this place and it’d be bustling with life. Now…it might as well be condemned. Perhaps it already is, really. Condemned to be a place of suffering, rather than what it could have been. It could’ve been a place of safety, a House to live in, not to avoid. It could’ve been converted; maybe it could’ve been a school. Hell, it could even have been a church.

Wouldn’t that have been fun?

I parked out the front this time, I knew I wasn’t staying for long. The garage was no longer my own. It was a graveyard of cars without owners; of cars that will never be used again. The van, August’s pickup…

They led good lives. Maybe I’ll find new owners for them sometime.

I opened the front door and made a beeline for the East Wing.

We all know what I was looking for. And apparently the East Wing did too, as when I opened the door in the kitchen…There he was. In his office. The deep cherrywood of the desk glinting in the soft light, trinkets strewn around the room, Spencer sitting in his chair staring up at the ceiling, and here I was, barging in like I had so many times before, disturbing this anachronism. We were beyond this, years beyond, but there it was.

Like nothing had ever changed.

There, is a Tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant
and more solemn
than a fading star.

We stayed that way for a while. His amber eyes glinting with the smile on his face, my blue-grey eyes glinting with cold fire and determination; the smile on my face holding no substance whatsoever.

Neither of us wanted to break the silence. The illusion of the past was much preferable to the reality of today. The last three years flashed past like lightning, the countless times I’d been in this exact position, complaining, asking for a payrise…or even just joking around. Having fun. God, there’s a thought. Me and Spence weren’t always like this, like now…

But at that moment, we both knew we couldn’t be any other way.

”Spencer…consider this my resignation.”

He nodded, slowly. "The couriers are done as it stands. Hard to do much of anything with just two of us left, and even then, for how long...?” And with that, Spencer laughed. A short, low, barking chuckle, strangely fake; as if he had forgotten true mirth long ago.

”How long is too right. There is of course, the question of my severance package.” I pulled out my gun…not really aiming it or anything. I wanted him to understand. I wanted a sign that he was ready. "August is gone. Lori's gone. Sam's gone, Amanda's gone. Todd and company, they're gone too. All of the couriers, all the kids we’ve seen live, all the kids we’ve saved… It's just you and me. And we've had our differences in the past. And it does appear that there's now nobody to stand in my way."

"... yeah. Yeah, they're all gone." He looked…concerned. Fond, almost. Warmth at a time like this. He just had to make it difficult, didn’t he? "Almost takes me back to when you all first joined, heh, and you, the angry kid who had just about enough..."

”Fuck, you've gone and turned into a brilliant man, Leon. You... grew up, didn't you?"

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer -
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

”I don’t know, mate. Back in the day, I knew exactly what mattered. I'd take care of myself first and foremost, and anyone else? Just a means to an end. I was efficient, and I was a survivor. Didn't need anyone to patch me up after a bad run-in with our mutual Friend. Didn't need a financial benefactor back when I was self-employed." I felt my voice break unwillingly as I continued. “Didn't need anyone to make me pancakes after a bad night.” That hit Spencer too, I could tell, though I certainly wasn’t unaffected. “Dinner’s at 8; don’t be late…” I muttered as an afterthought, almost to myself…my eyes unwillingly becoming moist.

Writer has a lot to answer for.

”Look at both of us.” Spence sighed. “Went and ruined a perfectly good thing, didn’t we…?” He didn’t move from his spot. He barely blinked. The smile on my face was almost genuine at this point. "It was like being able to have my childhood again, almost. People cared about me when I was a kid. And I cared about people."

I raised the gun, levelling it at his head. “But now we’re all grown up again.”

He stays calm. Maddeningly calm. "I..." He swallows, then tries again. "I don't blame you for Lori. For this. You're doing a good thing, Leon. I want you to understand that."

”Don’t need to tell me twice.” I said, flicking the safety off.

Spencer closed his eyes for a moment, reminiscing. “It was good for a while, you know? In the beginning. Those first few runners we helped, god, the looks on their faces, it was like they thought they were witnessing a miracle..."

"It was good. I was in it for the cash at the start, but then like an idiot, I started to give a fuck." I paused. "When did you stop giving one, mate? When did the leader of such a fucking civic project become just as much of an unwelcome sight as the ones who can't know any better? When did you stop fighting?"

He seemed to grin at that. "I haven't stopped, Leon. The fact that I'm still here... says I haven't stopped. But I never was like all of you, and that, that one fact…that was what hurt the most."

"You've always been like us.” I asserted, not entirely sure why I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. “You're mostly human, you've always been compassionate. You know what's right, just like me."

"... even I'm not sure how much of it was fake. How much of it I just... wanted to be. But when August was laying there, dying..." His voice broke. "I wanted to die too. Is that so wrong...?"

Writer has a lot to answer for.

I spoke carefully, trying to avoid too much emotion. "After today, our association will end, and I'll have nothing. Nothing but Life and Death. And what's Life for us, but waiting to die? It’s been that way ever since He entered my life.” Another pause, before changing tune. “Thanks for the extra years, mate...but more than that? Thanks for the purpose. I guess that's why I came back in the first place. Now it's back to living for Life alone. Because fucked if I'm going to let Death get me, He's been waiting long enough: He can wait as long as I damn well please."

I put my finger on the trigger, preparing myself.

"I hope so. You're too good for him, Leon. You were all too good for Him. For this. All of this. None of you... none of you ever deserved this." He held back something; a sob? "I still remember all of their names, y'know. Every single one. They counted on me, and I let them down. I let all of you down." Spence looked up, face contorted in emotion so fast it almost gave me whiplash. "Destroy it all. Don't leave anything behind. We can't... have people trying to be like us. Like me."

The Eyes are not here
There are no Eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley

”…I will…” But before I could…I had to ask him something. Something that had bothered me for a long time…and a plan that had crawled in the back of my mind for a long time.

"You've fucked up, you periodically become this...thing, and when that happens, you cause pain to those who don't deserve it. Who could never deserve it. You enable and spread pain like a virus, like the virus that your fucking Master is…But there’s one thing that doesn’t ring true. You can fight it. You HAVE fought it. For this long. How?”

He recoiled from my harsh words, like I’d slapped him across the face. ".. th-the same way all of you fought it. By... by... not wanting to be alone anymore. By realizing there was a world out there, a world that went just beyond Father and Writer and everyone else, and how goddamn big it all was…”

Here we go round the prickly pear
prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning

I put the gun away. “Good enough for me.” I said, as the plan grew and connected in my mind.

"You're one of Them with the ability to become one of Us. And when you're one of Us, you save lives, you help those who need it, you bring life to those who deserve it, who've had it taken from them. And I have hope that you'll realise that again. And you'll break out of it, save another group of kids, give them food, give them board, save them for as long as you possibly can. 'Cause that's who you are. You're not the man who robotically follows the other Man. You're at your most when you're on the other side. And you've got a long, productive life ahead of you, buddy...Just keep me the fuck away from you while you're figuring that out. I choose Life. Or had it chosen for me. Whichever, whatever...I'm going to survive, and if you come between me and that, then you can have all the potential in the goddamn world, but I will do whatever I can to end you.”

I paused, and launched my gambit.

"...And I hope you remember, my lovely...Just who murdered our dearest August~" I sung, attempting a cackle. "And look at you! Running back to join him merrily! For August was just a kid, right? He couldn't possibly be as important as a Man like that! We care about you, Teller! We're the ones who've brought you happiness, nevermind the trail of loved ones we’ve left behind! just come back to your Master like a good boy, that's right now~"

Spencer looked horrified. “Please, Leon, I don’t want this, please for god’s sake…”

"I know. And who better to take those bastards down then a man with a reason, in their own ranks, who has sins to atone for? You're a special one, Teller. For the reasons I've always held against you. You're dangerous, and you're not always Spencer Fitzgerald. But sometimes, love: You very much are. And...I'm okay letting you back onto the streets, if that means there's even an inkling of a chance for some fucking REVENGE, for August, for Lori...For everyone that red-headed bastard has ever taken, ever Hallowed, ever had work for him...For all of us, and all of you." I felt a ringing in my ears, a metallic hum in the air and something changed in the room; Spencer’s face went dark and calm, and the walls seemed to fade away in patches, revealing only White behind them, no substance, just creation without depth. The light flickered, as I reached into my pocket and pulled out a silver pellet; I had melted it down from a ring Stephan gave me earlier. I had no idea if superstitious nonsense like that would work, but I loaded it into the revolver anyway, letting Spencer see. It was a symbol.

I wasn’t going to back down, no matter what happened.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

"You know I'm right, Spence. You know that if I were to look for revenge, Writer’d toss me aside like a ragdoll. Not to mention what He would do. I need you alive as much as they do...August needs you alive as much as they do. You still need to pay him back.”

”August is DEAD.” He boomed, the room rattling away into nothingness. “Doc is dead, Amanda is dead, Todd is dead, Sam, oh god, Sam is dead..."

"And who did that? Who's done all of this, Spence? Who set this in fucking motion? It wasn't you or me, that's for sure...It's your new employer and his Master." Vengeance is a cruel process, but it was all that remained on my mind as I spoke. "If you can't do it for them...Do it for yourself. Eventually. Give it some time, sure, it'll be like things were before at the start..."

I smiled. A toothy affair, with a murderous glint in my eye.

"But eventually, all that will be left is you, him and Him, and a pain in your heart that just won't quit."

"... I can't." his voice trembled. "Kill me. Just kill me. Put me out of my misery. I can't go on. I can't do this anymore. It just hurts too much."

"...Then make yourself feel better. Because I know for certain something that'll help. Writer will get what he wants...but that smarmy son of a bitch should be careful what he wishes for."

”You promised.” He said, closing his eyes as the piercing hum grew louder and more shrill, and what was left of the room rattled, the white beyond looming ever closer.

"That was before your little buddy gave me a reason to keep you alive. You're not one of the bad guys, Spence. And I know that you know who they are."

For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Something changed. The room was back, and so was Spencer. He opened his eyes, pale lanterns in the darkening room. I felt a wave of nausea flow over me and a prickling watching sensation on the back of my neck…I could feel His presence. Overwhelmingly. As if He were standing in the room…

No, as if He was the room, and everything in it. It was enclosing, intoxicating, as if the air was fear and the colour was pain.

I stood my ground, ready to fire if need be.

Life is very long.

"It's your choice, Spence. It's always your choice. He may try to control you, but He couldn't before, and He can't now. Kill me now if that's what pleases you. God knows I'm ready. But I know that will please you for only so long...There's some blood that might give you a much more static satisfaction, though."

Between the desire
And the spasm

Something was very wrong. He paid attention to my words, only with the sense of polite interest, not the emotional response I was getting before. He stood casually, entirely detached from the Spencer I knew before.

Between the potency
And the existence

"... you just tried to play some sort of game, didn't you?" He walked forward, voice made of honey and cedar, measured, so similar to Spencer's but oh so wrong.

Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

”You just lost. Goodbye, Leon Steele.”

For Thine is the Kingdom

I watched as he walked towards the door. “Goodbye, Spencer Fitzgerald.”

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This…thing…for it was not a man that left that room, but a thing, waved lazily over his shoulder as he replied. “Spencer Fitzgerald is dead. Try to keep that in mind.”

”You too.” I said, as a final act of defiance as His presence left the room and the air lightened…and I was left alone.

I stood there for a moment, before I collapsed to the ground, hyperventilating in fear and horror, bursting into violent tears and praying, I don’t know who to, to anyone who would listen, anyone more powerful than He…holding out hope that something like that actually existed.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang

but a

”…oh, god.”



  1. Oh Steele you dumb son of a bitch, why didn't you just shoot him? WHY didn't you just SHOOT him? How could you make this kind of mistake?!

    How could you do this?

    Damn it all. Burn in hell you idiot. I swear, I will summon your ghost up just to kick your teeth in.

    1. I think the explanation is fairly simple. See, at any given time either Steele or Spencer must be wrong. Spencer is gone. Therefore, this happened.

  2. That was a brilliant game you played, especially for an amateur. Pity you're on your side of line.

    Have fun surviving.

  3. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar.

  4. Heh...
    Magnificent. Bastard.
    What have you done?

  5. ... What did you just do, Steele?

  6. Your timing... is, above all else, excellent.

    Releasing The Devil to destroy a Weasel is a little extreme, but I suppose it's "whatever gets the job done" hm?

    In a way, I owe my life to you, Steele. Thank you. Greatly appreciated.