Monday, December 16, 2013

Fiction: Absolutely Positive

This story at Fictionpress.

See also: Things Unsaid; Sixteen Hours

A Story Across Years: Chapter five. "Tradition, of course. I wonder when it started."

Secret Life: Chapters seven and eight. Sci-fi horror. "He is afraid. Afraid that he knows why he is here."
Sadcore warning. 
Babylonian Medley: Absolutely Positive

You made the lentil soup yourself. No-one can make it the way that you do. A dash of this and that. Humble ingredients that are spun together to make a meal fit for a noble. At least, you think so. Many nobles have disagreed with you on the matter.

Perhaps that is why they needed to die.

It isn't that you killed them for lacking in good culinary taste or simply disagreeing with you. But they couldn't appreciate the simple things. They couldn't see the refinement of humility or the grandeur therein. This had many different consequences. One of them was that they were unable to appreciate the best things in life. Another was that you have been been killing them whenever you could get away with it.

That's life, isn't it? And it's also life that you won't be able to kill any more of them. And life that they'll die soon anyway.

It's done. Babylon the great has fallen. Your dreams of empire crushed to dust.

And here you are, all alone, eating lentil soup.

There are books all around you. Surrounding you. Like a cloud or a ring of fire. On every imaginable topic, rising high in piles like towers and great walls. Here a treatise on astronomy, there five volumes of poetry by a circle of poet-historians all centuries dead. If you close your eyes then you can envision each and every one of them in its place, exactly where you left it.
If you can close your eyes then you can remember your first day in Babylon. You had not always been a speaker for the living, or a philosopher, or a demagogue (and all three were the same in Babylon, or so they were to you). Once, you had been a trader. A sailor. A night shipwreck had brought you to the edges of Babylon, and you walked to the lights from the crash site, no other survivors in sight. Who would have thought that you would stumble across a library? Who would have thought that you would enter therein? 
Perhaps it was fate. If so, then you wonder what it was that had made fate love you so, as much as you love books. And you wonder what it was that had made fate so fickle, and made her turn her eyes and her favor from you.

You drop the spoon into its bowl and stand. It is time. "I come, I come," you whisper. A smile spreads on your face. "Why do you call for me?"

The world is falling to ashes at your hands. All future history aborted and replaced with a hideousness that burns your mind's eye. You have a duty to perform, a rectification to perform. And you are hardly going to do that in the nude.

Luckily you have clothes hanging beside your desk. You slip on silken underclothing first of all. Comfortable clothing, to be sure, but once its purpose was to catch the arrows aimed at the ancestors of your adopted people. The sleeves are long and wide, far from restrictive. Next to go on is a poet blouse and a short, dark blue skirt. Less your style than your previous dress or undress, but you can own it all the same. You have to. The rules for formal dress are older than your grandfather. And he's pretty old.
You remember walking through the streets in the wake of the Iconoclasm. The Trial of Sisyphus was brought to the forefront of your mind. "The quest for power is an empty thing," you told John. "Sisyphus' wife threw his corpse into the public square."  
John didn't say anything. It was John's corpse that was thrown into the square, John that spent ten years in Hell before your friends could secure a release. But that's why you say it. You understand. You understand the pain. And what else you understand, what must be understood by John if it is not already, is that these are more than stories. Or else all other things are no more than stories.  
But if there is mourning for the sacrifices that have been made, then surely there can also be rejoicing over fresh gardens and empty tombs. "Here, John," you told your friend, and the two of you looked around at the scattered statues all about you, like the books in your study. "Hear the silence of the idols."  
Stories, you did not know if John understood. But you could see in your comrade's eyes that acceptable losses were understood. John lost something, in those ten years at Letois, and John accepted the pain every day (there is no price too high for the glory of the city Babylon). 
You slide copper bracelets over your left hand and hang jade rings from your ears. You move as you dress, you dance as you move. Happiness is not good for mortals but neither is sorrow fitting for immortals, and you know that no-one has ever been a prince by playing a pauper. Do you weep today?

There is salt enough in your lentil soup already, you think. Why would you add more? What reason do you have to weep? You can feel the sun rising and falling in your body, and the waves reaching and sinking. You stand alone, and you stand alone in the midst of creation. This is the nobility of your soul, that you can see past the dark of space into that day when the gods, now dead, now not-yet-born, are made by the hands of men and women with their eyes firmly fixed upon the stars.

This is the nobility of your soul, that you can see in your heart the future ashes and rubble of Babylon, and not flinch. That you can see, and see past it- to the songs that will be played on other worlds in generations hence. And today you see to it, where it will not be seen, and make a cure against a sickness unto death. To realize, and to exist in awareness of yourself and your own future gods.

To stand. And to do your duty.
A memory floats into your thoughts, from scant days ago. You were speaking with John and Elymas. The three of you had begun to realize that the war was not going as you had planned it. That the city would fall. That every pain and trial in your collective history would be turned to vain. 
Unless. The most powerful word with which a sorcerer can conjure.  
You wrap your hands around one of John's, and look at Elymas. "The process from perception to comprehension is like this, a closing fist," you say. "I will persuade Persephone before you, as Sisyphus did."  
Neither of them doubt you. This was your dream all along. Your dream that you made theirs, or your dream and theirs, woven into a more brilliant tapestry. Your dream was history itself. 
You put on felt socks and leather boots, and over your hands go soft green gloves with a button leaf design.

"Oh, Aesopus," you say. "Aesopus, there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn!"

You take the golden crown into your hands and rest it on your head. You look at it in the mirror and make a face. You toss it away with a flick of your fingers and pay no attention to where it goes.

"Benediction. Benediction, Mister Cross. Haha!"

You give a little spin where you stand, and giggle. Very girlish of you- but then, you haven't allowed yourself to be a girl for so long. Perhaps you can be one again in this short space of time, hanging between moments.

You take your suit-jacket off of its hook. Orange and white pinstripes. Perhaps you can allow yourself just one touch of personal expression.

Your fingers deftly work their way up the jacket's buttons. Smooth out a couple of ruffles in your outfit. Tie your hair back into a ponytail.

You hear the front door open downstairs.

You look at yourself in the mirror. This is it: the katalepsis of the sniper.

There are footsteps coming up the stairs. 

You ascend the chair. It must look very silly, if you're going to be honest with yourself. Your hands brush against your throat. 

You think back to Sisyphus one last time. Think of the war, the stone, the victory. The struggle was enough, and he had become Man alone. 

John appears at the head of the stairs. You can hear a scream, you can hear the words, but you cannot attach to them any meaning. 

You look at John. Smile. "Look! For I shall die, and in dying shall conquer death!" 

You kick the chair out from under you, and then your neck catches against the belt. 

Amid the ringing in your ears you hear John. "Zeno! Zeno!"

John won't get you down in time. You're safe.

You've done it.

The world dissolves into light.

"Happiness is a good flow of life."
- Zeno, as quoted by Stobaeus

Notes for this story. 

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