The same way we ALL live our lives:
Fracture and I took the bastard in bounds - sword still driven through - right into the heart of that Cult Town. Once again, I got to see the dimensions bleeding into each other. Once again, I watched the shadows move as Nightlanders followed our route. Once again... I had to remind myself to just get it done. Forget the details of it and just focus on the END of it all. The final play. The Plan. God fucking forgive if we steered away from the goddamn PLAN...
I wasn't exactly feeling up to my best, what with having that sword first driven through ME. Fracture patched me up, but it wasn't exactly a papercut, you know? I was practically DRAGGING myself through the motions. Just to get it done. It didn't matter what happened after that, just so long as I got it DONE...
And Redlight just kept talking.
And really the only thing I wanted to do... was slit his damn throat.
It would have been so much easier if I could have just... kept shit simple. None of this crap of "trying to fix crap before the world got turned to ash" just... vengeance. Redlight destroyed Sam. So I get to destroy him. That is as complicated as things SHOULD have got.
I had to try for the fucking impossible. Like the moron I am.
We had a Plan.
But Fracture... quite the soft tart, once you get to know him... he tried to spare me the worst of it. The one part that I never spent long EXPLAINING to him or you or anyone because I didn't even want to THINK of what I would have to do... and had done... in the past. The things that I'd willingly... taken on. To punish myself. For letting Morningstar and his group to continue as they were, unchallenged. As an Agent of the FBI, even an ex-one, I took an oath to stop the kind of people that did the things they were doing on a daily basis. The murders. The tortures. They always seemed to have... SOMEONE they were trying to get information from. And how the screams would ECHO down the halls...
At the beginning, I ran from it like a coward. Held up in my room. Tried to ignore it.
Eventually, I grew sick of my own spinelessness.
When they had someone, I started standing out in the hall. Listening. To every single... reaction.... they got. Every scream. Plea. Curse. Insistence of ignorance or whatever. I heard it all. And it made me SICK to listen. The others barely looked at me, or bothered to question my presence... though, sometimes, Mumbles came and stood with me. Looking concerned. Scribbling notes on his dry erase board, to which I usually gave one or two word responses. And then would cringe, pressing my eyes shut, as another scream tore out. Clawing right down to my core. I could FEEL it, I could...
But even that became not enough to torture myself with. Moving from out in the hall... to inside the same room. That change earned me some glares from the others. I guess they were expecting me to start... intervening at some point. Breaking up their little Sharp Object Party. Preaching good will and rightousness and all that crap.
But the truth is that... I'd grown up around these same kinds of people. I knew the mindset, and I wasn't there to save any one of them. I knew I was the third wheel, the tag-along, so I had no right to stick my nose in where it didn't belong.... but... at the same time... the tortures got to me most of all. I'd hear them echoing in my head for DAYS after...
Until there came the day that Cipher called for a volunteer to go "entertain" their latest "guest".
I said I'd do it before anyone else even got a chance.
To say the lot of them were stunned would be beyond an understatement. The only ones who didn't look confused... was Luke and Mumbles. Neither one had to think hard to figure out what my thought pattern was. I heard a few snide comments before Cipher took me aside. Telling me that I didn't have to go through with this. That I was punishing myself for no reason. That I was being a moron and should let everyone just... keep to their roles.
I just said again... that I'd do it.
Luke... asked if I had ever tortured anyone before.
I just shrugged. Apart from beating the shit out of some assholes that deserved it, I couldn't say I had much experience.
And that's how I ended up in a room prepared for splatter, with all manner of instruments at my disposal... standing over a young man strapped to a table. Bare down to his underwear. Blindfolded, and gagged. Breathing short and trembling. Shivering.
Opposite of me, stood Morningstar.
Even taking my hands and pushing my fingers into certain points. Letting me FEEL what he was talking about. Saying that, if I was going to do it, I might as well learn to do it like the Best. Like him. Like Nightscream. Like David.
So.... when it came time that Redlight needed some "convincing".... I knew exactly what to do. How. When. It was all there. Safely stashed in my memory...
But I really didn't WANT to go through with it. I didn't WANT blood on my hands like that again. Working on the flesh.
Star said my hands had "natural talent" for it.
My father... would be proud of that.
But I didn't even have to TELL Fracture how much I didn't want to DO that again. He just... knew. Or could see it. Somewhere on my expression. Or in my tone. He knew, one way or another. And he purposed a theory. Something we could try FIRST, before going to the torture aspect....
He had noticed how... disjointed Redlight's thinking could be. How mixed his moods were. All set on a whim, as quickly changed as the wind. Sometimes... though very very rarely... he almost sounded like... a little kid. Scared of the dark. Muttering about broken birds. He almost... ALMOST... sounded like... Spencer. That deep down beneath that insanity of Red, there still existed the boy who was toyed with until he broke. Still afraid of the dark. While painting the world Red. The change was... barely a blip in the psyche. Seemed to last all of a second or two. Just long enough to notice. Not really long enough to react.
Fracture theorized that if there was ENOUGH of "Spencer" left in Redlight's mind, that we just might be able to PULL that the surface, if we encourage it the right way. That maybe we could get that side, that blip, to take over just long enough... to convince him to handle his own fate. To atone for his own sins. All the crimes he has committed... and for the part he played in leading the world to the brink of an apocalypse. If we could just... talk to him...
and we tried.
We really did try.
We called him only by the name "Spencer". We talked about events in the blog he'd written. Focusing on what we knew. Asking questions OF Redlight from that point. Mentioning all the right names. Even the names of people that he'd been associated with for a long time, like Elaine, or even just for a quick pit-stop, like Mitch. We brought up Writer. The games he used to play. All the ways Spencer had TRIED so hard to be GOOD, despite everything weighing him down.
We honestly tried to make it work.
We worked on it all the days it took to GET Redlight to the Cult Town. And even that last morning. We just kept calling him Spencer. Kept trying to stir up the memories. The faces. The FEELINGS, if there were any there at all...
But it didn't. Redlight was only Redlight. And we'd run out of options. Or, rather, I had. It was my job anyway. My "Quest" to finish. Even if I could have rightfully passed the duty on to someone else... who else would have done what I had to do? Fracture didn't handle that sort of thing. From the looks of him at the time, he was barely handling being in the same vicinity of it all...
I bet no one would have thought someone like me could make Redfuck so much as FLINCH.
But I was trained by The Best. Who had been trained by The Best. And I got pointers from another Best through emails, to top it all off.
So yeah. He flinched.
He nearly bit through his tongue. Snarling. Cursing. Promising me Hell, and beyond. Grinning through blood. Laughing. Yet hissing. Sealing up the pain. His psyches swapping all across and inside out. Mixing around. Twisting from Mastermind to Rabid Dog and back again. It wasn't... just my hands that would covered in blood though. It was my arms. My front. Splattered across my face and beading down my neck...
I kept telling him the same thing. Over and over and over again.
Push his power into The Veil.
Then all the pain would stop. EVERYTHING that is happening WOULD STOP if he just cooperated. If he just...
And that's when... something changed.
Fracture warned me.
He WARNED me to be careful. To keep back. That it might be a trick. That he had a BAD feeling...
and so did I.
Even as I crouched down in front his slunched, bloodied form with my own hands covered in his own colour.... I felt it in my gut. That feeling. That old feeling I ALWAYS listened to because it ALWAYS had kept my fucking ass alive....
But I didn't listen to it. Or Fracture.
Because I wanted to be able... to tell the lot of you that he found himself at the end. That Spencer came back. That he wasn't DEAD, wasn't LOST, wasn't COMPLETELY overcome by rage and lust for power. I wanted to be able to have PROOF.... that even the WORST of people can change. Can do the RIGHT FUCKING THING if they only damn well CHOOSE to...
But I can't say that.
Because... all I saw was a blur. A hand. Free from bonds. Whipping out. Snapping. Lashing. CRUSHING my throat in an iron grasp as that bloodied grin tore WIDE and deranged and MAD and I couldn't breath before... I hit... a wall of Red. A WAVE of Red. Consuming. Suffocating. DROWNING...
And I twisted. And gagged. As water filled my lungs. Thrashing for the surface... and breaking it. Gasping for air under a hot summer sun. My limbs instinctively treading me in place as I whipped around. And around. And around. Oh, I recognized it. I knew it. So well that it hurt. The lake that stretched off into the distance, fed from a river to the North. An oasis of fresh, clean water, encased in a forest on all sides. And, near the shore... a small log cottage sat nestled as the centerpiece of a cozy campsite. A dock nearby, tied up with a single red boat... and a beat-up old car in the driveway.
It was Sam's parents' cottage. A modest place, but nice.
It felt... so wonderful... to see it again. To see something so familiar...
And then I got to see something very familiar. Some...ONE... very familiar. Waving from the shoreline. A call. Asking if I was alright. Even from the distance I was, I could see it. The mess of auburn hair nearly looking RED in the flare of the sunlight. That body, in that swimsuit just right. Just perfect. Too perfect for someone like me. But Jesus CHRIST you were deluding yourself if you thought for one SECOND I would give it up without a fight. And it would be one HELL of a fight.
I swam in. And those near-silver eyes met me there. Concern. Worry. Love. All reflected back to me. Open. Honest. Kind. Compassionate. Sam's hand touching the side of my face, my forehead, and pulling back with a hand traced with blood RED. Asking what I hit my head on out there. Asking if there are jagged rocks. Expressing worry about the need of stitches. And, like Sam always did, flipping ahead. Announcing that, when our baby was born (we'd just found out, at that time), that we'd have to move away any sharp rocks under the water. Which, of course, is rather ridiculous. But cute. Very, very cute.
A kiss was placed to my "battle wound" from my watery adventure before I earned That Smile.
And something COLD gripped me inside. Sam only asking what was wrong.... even as the Red boat on the shore rocked in the waves. Even as the sunlight FLARED against Sam's hair. Even as I felt the blood flowing down my face, from my EYE, in my EYE... but I'd.... lost that I? Didn't I? But it stung now, like a blade driven down deep inside. Those eyes of silver TWISTING a BURNING amber as that GRIN tore out and wide....
And the water came rushing back in. Cast in. THROWN into its depths and driven straight to the bottom of the COLD and BLACK as RED blood filled the water, filled my lungs, filled EVERYTHING as I choked and gagged.
and Sam's hands wrapped around my throat. Over me. ON me. Pinned me down, all the weight CRUSHING DOWN. My back pressed against the rocks, sharp and jagged and cutting as they sliced my skin. Staining the water with even more RED as those silver eyes were overtaken by burning, scorching, BLAZING amber. Wild. Enraged. That snarl tearing back, showing far too many teeth as auburn hair was replaced with a Red Hood that fed down to cargo pants and bandages around long fingers of bone and scraps of flesh. That vicious glare nearly seeming to glow(?) in the dark waters around me as I struggled and fought and flailed to free myself.
Only for the reeds to catch my arms. Snaring me. DROWNING me.
And then it was the Hospital. The Asylum. The reeds morphing into straps. Pinning down to a cold bed even... even as I fought against them. Against IT. Against this nest, this HIVE, of things already far gone past and I KNEW they were past more and more with every passing second. Even as more straps tightened to the point of agony around my thrashing - convulsing - body, even as white-coated doctors filled the room with needles and cold, cold hands... Redlight couldn't hide himself. He was desperate. He was weakened. He was STRUGGLING just as much as I was.... and he kept bleeding through each picture. The doctors all staring with burning amber eyes. Red blood COATING the white, white walls and reflections that all mirrored wrong, distorted images of... not me. Not my history. But his.
If I watched... the reflections... I saw flashes of HIS past. HIS struggles. HIS pain. HIS misery.
I saw the Camp that Spencer grew up in.
I saw Spencer save a baby bird, keeping it a secret in a shoebox under his bed.
I saw that "Writer" asshole. Crushing a young Spencer's hands around that same bird.
I saw faces. Hundreds and hundreds of faces. Oceans of blood. And death. So much fucking death...
Then the straps were reeds again. Then back to straps. Then the iron hands of my father. Then back to straps...
Everytthing twisting. contorting. pulling and drawing back on itself. SNAPPING tight, then spiraling... every second... feeling like a knife was being driven into my skull. White hot and BURNING. blazing my vision WHITE against the bleeding Red...
but at the edge of it all... I heard it. A whisper. An echo of a voice. An impression of something... just out of earshot. So damn faint I could barely....
but it... gave me a way. a direction. a reason. I FOUGHT for it. TOWARDS it. Closer and closer through the agony that justt SPLIT into my skull WORSE and WORSE. Pushing, thrashing, SCREAMING...
until I woke up choking on blood.
gagging on it
coughing it up until it stained the ground under me and ran thick down my chin. Fracture's grip steadying me. Firm. Keeping me from collapsing completely over myself as I coughed and hacked and shook. Sweat pouring off me in torrents. Everything in me... through me... that WAS me... screaming out. Even as I myself found I had no voice left at all. Held in my throat by my own pain. And I... could feel... him. Tugging. Clawing. WRENCHING me back out of the driver's seat. Fighting so hard...
We have all fought... so very hard...
The relief in Fracture's tone was pressed aside by the urgency of what followed. Telling me it was time. That I had to do it now. Before I lost it again. Before he dragged me back. While I still had the strength to, I had to GET IT OVER WITH... and told me what to do. What to feel. What to try to REACH within myself, now that he and I were one.... I could make the choice for Redlight. I could force it. Force him. As long as I dug my footing in. As long as I kept forward... it was up to me.
It took... what felt like eternity for me to fight past the clawing... and find what Fracture was talking about. That feeling. Like finding the switch in my head. A switch that didn't belong to me... and... I screamed. I SCREAMED so fucking loud I thought I'd rip my vocal cords to shreds... when I tried to take it. Switch it. SHIFT it. The agony EXPLODING through every muscle, every nerve, every BONE, every CELL of me. I can't even... begin to fully explain what it felt like. I'd never felt anything even close. But, somehow... through the agony... and screaming... and burning ENRAGED amber...
I found it.
I SHIFTED it.
And I felt it.
I felt the pull begin.
Like taking the plug from a drain. Starting slow, but quickly speeding up. I felt... Redlight's clawing turn into clinging. Holding. Scrambling...
The pain... was beyond screaming at that point.
I had no voice.
I just... Wasn't.
For the longest while... I just... Wasn't.
But... somewhere... between Knowing and Not... Eternity and Nowhere... things... slowly... came clear.
Somewhere in there.... I started to think again.
And I thought... that I was dying.
I knew I was alone.
Fracture had left.
For fear of being stuck in a Realm not his own.
And he had taken Konaa's sword with him.
I could feel the blood... from my eyes, my nose, my mouth, my ears... I could feel the stab wound Red had given me... bleed freely again.
I knew I wouldn't last. I knew it. But I was... at peace with that. I was ready. Least, I thought I was....
worse than anything
but eventually... I was taken away from it. Eventually... everything that was white, and red, and hot, and blinding, burning, blistering.... was lost...
in an endless black.
that didn't end
until the sharp pain of a too-tight bandage snapped me awake. And mother FUCK did it have me cursing. Wincing. TWISTING on the bed...
And finding myself staring right at non other than David Banks.
The fuck gets around, it would seem. I guess he didn't like the tone I'd left with, and wasn't ready to let me just... exit stage right. He literally dropped what he'd been doing.... all to haul my unconscious ass from that Cult Town. I'd apparently been passed out for a good week before a changing of bandages brought me around again. I was... in such a wreck. The guilt of sealing Sam and Luke into that forsaken realm of the Fears... it crippled me. I really didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't even fucking NOTICE for the longest time... how seeing that guilt eating me tore into David. I didn't even THINK of that. Making him relive that nightmare again. Nearly giving him a fucking heartattack... when I wandered out of my room to get something to eat, and ran into Em. Landing up talking to her, since David was off on errands. Fixing her a snack, while I did mine. Telling her how I knew her "Grandpa" from a LONG time ago. That it used to be my job to catch him.
"You must have been really bad at your job."
"...Heh. Yeah. Yeah, I guess I was."
I was trying to show her some chords on David's guitar when I heard the crash. Something heavy hitting the floor down the hall. And running. Panicked. Sprinting through the house. Of course, I went to go see what the hell was going on... only to come face to face with the ex-assassin. In a panic. Looking for me. Having been... expecting to find a corpse somewhere, since I hadn't been in my room.
The poor bastard... looked like a complete wreck.
I really... RECOGNIZED... what kind of hell my own actions had been putting him through.
What level of thinking I had adapted.
He had considered what I'd done at the Cult Town... to be a suicide attempt.
And, I guess when he saw the guilt I was holding... he expected history to repeat.
We had a long talk then.
I wasn't going to be following Sam's footsteps. Not like that. I wasn't about to INSULT the love of my life like that. I hadn't... considered... the Cult Town to be anything like that. I just... didn't expect to get out alive. And I'd been okay with that. I'd been ready. I was tired, and I was ready...
But, since I'd survived... I was going to live.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do...
But I was going to live to do it.
I stayed with David for a little while... but quickly decided I had to take my own route. After all, when someone starts finding random body parts lying on the front doorstep, that tends to be a good indicator that you are involved in some form of shit or another and do not NEED a tag-along. David insisted I could stay, but I insisted otherwise. And made him promise to find me... when things calmed down for him. That I owed him a drink or ten.
He hugged me.
Which was, quite honestly, one of THE most awkward moments of my life.
And we parted ways.
Since then... I've been traveling. Thinking. Trying to put that day into words. Trying to finish this post. To let all of you know what really happened. Why we are still here. How.
It's been... a long process to go through.
after all... I'm not a writer. But I tried.
So many people died since this all began. so many more will keep on dying... but I will help out where I can. In some small way, maybe we can... retake some ground. I never considered myself to be a good person, even when I was an Agent... but now... that's what I WANT to be. So that's what I'm going to try to be. Every day. Even if I feel miserable, I want... to try to take Sam's place in the word, a bit. Sam used to be such a bright, shining light. Everything just seems so dull, ever since we split ways...
No matter... how far lost you are in The Castle, Sam. I will always love you.
I think about you. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. You're with me. The Plague tried to hurt you even more when He pulled your strings and made you take my eye... but an eye is nothing compared to the heart. And you took that YEARS ago. Back on that bus. When you first asked if that seat beside me was taken. Smiling at my scowl. A smile that lit up those eyes of silver as you kinda tilted her head sideways at me. The red in your hair catching the light. From that day on, you were always so determined to give me reasons to smile. To give me reasons to keep hoping. Keep believing. In myself. In people. In life. In everything.
My Eternal Optimist.
My Best Friend and Lover.
My Light, when everything else went Black.
I will Find You, one day.
Until then... I'll keep smiling.
I'll keep smiling.