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I grip my sword hilt, palm slippery. Sweat crawls beneath my jacket; my stomach roils.
Grass and broken glass crunch beneath my boots. He shrugs aside his cocoon of dirty cardboard, rises on jerky marionette limbs. Doesn't attack, doesn't speak, just watches me. Face too young for those sad eyes, hollow and worn, hospital bracelet loose around one knobby wrist. He raises a hand in greeting.
Easier if he scourged me with curses and righteous wrath.
His eyes shine brighter, mask slipping. He knows me, knows what I do. My threats and entreaties die unspoken, no match for that calm strength.
"I'm sorry." I draw my sword, a needle-shard of ice and darkness.
He steps forward and spreads his arms.
Ofanim. The Wheels. The Many-eyed Ones.
He sheds his mortal guise like grimy clothes. A rush of heat and wild kaleidoscope flames, radiant sunrise against sin-black night. The underpass blazes like a cathedral.
So beautiful, my brother. His symphony swells inside me, light and motion and glorious purpose.
I have purpose too. The sword weighs in my hand.
For all his brilliant fury, he is at peace. The love and sadness in his eyes outshine his fire.
Half-blind with tears, I strike and miss, strike again. He catches my wrist, pulls me close. No anger in him, only love. Gently he holds me, stronger than my fragile flesh. Tenderly he wipes away my tears, that I may see him. Inexorably he meets my eyes.
He shows me paradise, the glory he left to be a soldier in this war. Glory he carries still. He offers it to me. If I lay down my sword, lay down my bloody purpose, my master's vendetta. Set aside my burdens and follow him.
My sword falls from numb fingers. The ofan enfolds me in his dizzying electric embrace. We rise together, weightless, the heart of an atom amid incandescent wheels.
I love him.
I hold his gaze, drink down the wonders he offers. My hand slips inside my jacket.
His song resonates in my bones. It will shatter me. Peace, an end to suffering, respite from this war. I give him what he promises.
My dagger slides between his ribs, into his borrowed heart. Ensorcelled steel binds angelic aether to rough clay, transubstantiates him till he is as mortal as I. I twist the blade; his blood bathes my hands.
We sink to the broken, bitter earth. Glass bites my knees as I cradle him. My tears splash his face. His eyes, brimming with love, slowly dim.
I hold him close until he's gone, an empty shell in my arms. My flesh unscathed--he's wounded me like no other. The night reeks of carrion and bitter tears.
We have fallen so far. I have farther still to go.
© 2007 Amanda Downum.