Been traveling northeast the last week or so, things have been 'slow', as far as my heinous crimes against life in effort to slay a monster. Still, I sort of like the east coast, I think. I always wanted to visit Maine back in the day. The idea of having lobster fresh from the sea, and to look at picturesque light houses on the rocky shore as the wind sweeps in from the ocean. Sounds nice to me, there or the Pacific Northwest. Both seem just wholesome areas, and this comes from someone born in the 'Heartland' of America.
Anyway, so some of you probably have heard Robert calling me out lately. I really didn't want to have this meeting with him.
Look despite my....current work therein, I've made it clear that I do not enjoy it, but it needs done. Robert's the key player that put me in the spot I am today, but still in a way, I have had a deal of respect for his trials. I remember that day months ago when he chose me to play Sage to a bunch of scared, and confused people, when I hadn't even seen the monster myself.
Still I gave it a shot, and let delusion and grandeur fill my head...we all know how that ended by now.
So about Robert...the tormented man that has been mindscrewed, charred alive, beaten, drugged, and lived in some sort of maintenance hutch for weeks in a bad suit, eating beans...
I have to say the last part really makes me sad. I just picture him, delusional, sitting in a crawlspace, so filled with his own misgivings, that he forgot how to live on his own. He forgot who he was. Identity is practically the only thing I have. That plus a few clothes, a backpack, my blade, mask, and a healthy dose of frustration.
...and a nameless shroud that tries to rip my lungs out of my chest when I stop moving for more than a few hours. Unfortunately, my shadow is not something I could ever forget nowadays.
So Robert had asked me to meet him, via my old email that I hardly check nowadays. I can't believe he wanted to meet me in Roanoke, but I suppose that's fitting. I still can't figure out how the hell he knew I was in Virgina, but I decided to take up his offer, despite my misgivings.
He asked me to meet him in the children's section of some library in town, after hours. Certainly a novel idea of his, but again, I obliged.
It wasn't hard to break into, however I still quite worried about some sort of silent alarm being triggered. Night consumed the city as I peered outside, towards the main street, looking for some sign of police, or investigation, cursing myself that he may have simply sent me here in hopes I'd end up in police custody.
Then I started thinking about him again. The man's been tortured so much by evil, he was bound to be corrupted. What would I do if he was marked? Could I take his life so easily?
What if he wanted me to ease his pain? To stop living this futile cycle of loss and horror.
I wasn't certain what I would do.
I sat on one of the children's stools, rocking quietly as I stared at the floor in thought, when I heard footsteps from near the restrooms.
Unknown>>> Hey...Sorry about that, dinner was so good, it wanted a repeat performance.
I looked up, darting to my feet. Even at night, the library was illuminated enough that I should've had no trouble seeing anyone, yet the room was empty.
Unknown>>> So...what happens now?
I scoured the room, my hands clenching anxiously.
Me>>> Robert? Where are you?
I hear a belabored sigh, in response.
Unknown>>> So...It works that well, huh? Take off your mask.
Like hell I would. If he had been mindfucked again, I needed every assurance I had to survive any unpleasant encounter.
I've had vision trouble since Arkady nearly broke his blunt ass blade against my head, not to mention even more memory troubles. I squinted my eyes, mentally screaming to myself to focus harder.
My gaze just...slipped around him at first, as if he were beneath my view. Reminded me of our mutual foe.
Me>>> There you are...so finally I meet the second man that drug me into this nightmare.
I assessed Sagel in his glory. He was thinner than I expected. Wearing a bandanna over his hair, he looked gaunt, almost yellow. He kept his hands in his hoodie pockets, but I could see how frail his body had become, even without his hands visible. For a man who had plastic surgery to restore his appearance not that long ago, he looked like hell.
Me>>> You look like hell.
He drew out a hand to click on a toy carousel, which spewed out light and tinkled music, his gaze drawn to it for a moment.
Robert>>> Better? Yeah, I like it too.
Certainly he was not here to discuss merits of projection images from library toys.
Me>>> What do you want, Sagel? Are you here to kill me?
The thought infuriated me. Robert had lost his mind repeatedly, could he have seen me as something worse? I swept my arms open, reveling in the sarcastic drama.
Me>>> To remove a rabid dog?
He looked up, unreadable, as I boiled in contempt. Yet the anger faded from me, evaporating into the night sky, as my arms fell to my side.
Me>>> This isn't Star Wars, man...
Robert shrugged, his hand slipping back into his hoodie. Poor bastard must have been so cold, whatever he had done to himself, he was so gaunt, that for the second time in his life, he resembled the monster more than I'm sure he wanted to admit.
Robert>>> I admit that. You ever wonder what you would've been, if you had went down the other path?
He looked around the room as he provoked me to contemplate my wreck of a life. Before I could answer the question, he added to his musings.
Robert>>> Running like M maybe? Well...No use mentally fixating on 'what could've been', right?
He slouched, almost shrinking, a haggard look on his face.
Robert>>> No. I am not here to stop you. I just need something from you, then we never have to see each other again.
I glossed over his comment, still stuck on his question for a moment. I hated the idea of running, but what would've changed?
Me>>> I don't think, I could've.
My voice cracked, as I considered those possibilities.
Me>>> I couldn't have run, like M. He was the only one who managed to make that work...Everyone else realized they had to fight at some point, to end it.
I looked away, towards the inane posters all libraries carry, as I pondered that maybe, maybe the ones who ran, and never looked back were the ones who were the bravest of us. Cutting ties with the entirety of life, save a simple blog, knowing that for the rest of your life you'll be hounded by a monster, is that strength?
Me>>> I wasn't strong enough to just run, and live like that forever. No...I wanted an ending once, Robert.
All the angst, and depression of the last few months swelled within me, even now as I relate this, I can't help but
Me>>> I wanted a chance to be someone. I was stupid, and I chose to fight it.
He leaned against the far wall, next to the carousel, his thin hand idly played with it, causing the stars and moons on the wall to spin about.
Robert>>> Stupid, yes, but it wasn't a waste. At least not in the way you think it was.
He straightened up, looking back towards me, before he continued.
Robert>>> Anyway, enough mysterious babble about 'high level' concepts. To business?
I couldn't help but be amused by him playing it straight for once, without euphemisms, or cryptic speech.
Me>>> I thought mysterious babble WAS your business.
He laughed sadly, looking at the floor. I joined in with a soft chuckle. Two pathetic men, in their last gasps of life. Gallows humor at its finest.
Robert>>> Yeah... Stock in trade, claim to fame. How about some real simple stuff then?
He tilted his head to the side, his voice grew stronger. A bit more as I had imagined him, even rocking on his heels, as if giving a lecture to his old student.
Robert>>> He is Death.... We've trussed up the ideal. Made it seem noble, or coldly compassionate, or a hot goth girl...but we're still afraid of it. Of Him. We run, we hide...fight...some try to forget about it, only to remember later. He's always there, and he will get us all in the end.
Five months ago, I would've been spellbound by his oratory, even still it was oddly humbling, to hear him talk. Some time ago, before he was shattered beyond belief, this man started the united front that remains even to this day, even if disdainfully referred to as the 'Core Theory' days, done in by people's self-glorification.
Me>>> You speak of death, or of the monster. One's been spared to me, the other's just waiting.
He shrugged again.
Robert>>> I think it doesn't matter much at this point. He's changed too much.
Me>>> He's changed, you think? Who's to say the brazenness, the use of agents, the many appearances. He could've done this all before, we would've had no idea, hell a great deal still don't know of him,
The lucky bastards.
Robert>>> Gut feeling. Anyway it's the agents that are the real problem, particularly *that* bastard. Which is why I am here.
I could taste the venom of his reference to Redlight. I didn't want to even think about him. All I can see is a woman on her knees, begging me to shoot her, when I think of that name.
Me>>> Redlight...the pain in the side of most everyone I know. Heh, even Strahm. So you think you can kill him?
He nodded softly, sincerity and conviction in his tone. He gestured with his off-hand as he continued his theorem.
Robert>>> I know how. If he takes over Cynthia, then it's done. He'll have his own army, away from Him, and well...he'll just run roughshod over us, then go public probably. He's an ambitious little shit.
Robert>>> I can't just stab him, as he's 'invested' enough of himself and his identity to make a jump to another of his puppets. But, I know what to do to really, and truly kill this bastard.
Bodysurfing. Robert's still a damn loon, but that would explain his speed in transit. I doubt it's true, but we all know stranger things are out there.
Me>>> You really think there's more than one out there...that there's a whole network. I still don't buy it. But I'm all for killing the smug asshole, and adding him to my collection.
Certainly Redlight's bone would aid in my attack on the tree...
He shook his head, cutting my thoughts short.
Robert>>> You'll never do it, and you don't want to.
I shrugged back, for once, as I considered my ever fading options.
Me>>> It's not really my task at hand. But if I see the bastard, i'm not saying I wouldn't take the swing....no, I'm better off not seeing him again. Not after Nessa.
Robert>>> I was...not wholly correct about the network. Bad intel on my part. But he can body surf, he just has to do something special with Cynthia....Alright, enough dancing about it, zero. Where's the tree?
I was in the middle of a speculative answer when he stunned me. The Bleeding Tree.
Robert wanted to see it. I suppose that at least he believed it was real, so that's a comfort to my sanity, though the world'd probably be better off if it was just my own hallucination.
Me>>> You want to....Robert, no. Don't do that.
Lost for words, I stumbled over myself. He withdrew a set of pruning shears from his hoodie pouch.
Robert>>> It's important, zero. Where's the tree? I know it's not 'fully real'.
I drew my blade quickly, then took a step back. Certainly a set of shears were no match for a blade, even a crap one like mine, however it was a threat that I did not intend to ignore. Even as he held the shears one handed.
Me>>> It *is* real. Robert...The tree *will* kill you. You're sickly enough as it is.
Robert>>> Maybe, but I'd rather die doing something...
He set the shears on the half wall beside him, next to the carousel, then gestured to my blade.
Robert>>> And put that away please. Not like I have much time left anyway, so why would you even care? I die, one less schmuck you have to kill, right?
He still thinks I'm a psycho, that the deaths at my hand were for vengeance. Certainly it was murder, but with greater purpose than that.
Me>>> You were once a noble man, Robert. Even if your choice of replacement was faulty. Heh...I admit, I have considered killing you, though not with malice, but with mercy. To end this suffering you've been throwin into repeatedly.
I lowered my blade.
Me>>> But...heh...you want what I wanted once, long upon a time, don't you? A last chance to do something worthwhile.
Robert>>> My kind of thing, along with the babble.
I could relate to that. The man was everything from a 'guardian' to a liar, to a perfectly average person at times. He wanted to figure out which of those he really was.
Me>>> I understand that, but fuck man, why the tree?
Robert gave a weak smile as he gestured into another shrug.
Robert>>> It's complicated. You want the short version, long one, or just the comfort that it's not going to affect you. You'd probably be happier not knowing.
I sat down on the same stool as I thought things over. Certainly I had a little respect for the man, but was there any trust? I rolled several variables around in my head, when I decided that I've always been a bit of a gambler.
Me>>> When you get there, you'll see the trees just part, and the ground will shift to roots...and it will suddenly be before you, a body upon each branch. A crashing weight will send you to the ground, and every time your skin will touch the roots, it will drain your life....The worst is the eyes...do not make contact with its eyes.
I looked up to ensure he was listening, before I continued.
Me>> It is an unearthly glow they create, and every second you are drawn to them, is as the same as the monster's own mindgames...."
He nodded, then gestured towards the exit. I stood as he went to depart.
Robert>> Thank you. Have a good night, zero. Good luck.
He paused as he turned to face me.
Robert>> One more thing...
The window next to me shattered, as a tremendous boom broke the silence of the air. A smoking hole in Robert's hoodie pouch appeared, with the glint of metal inside.
The fucker tried to shoot me. However lousy aim he had from that awkward position was soon to be fixed as he drew his pistol on me.
I started to dive for cover, dropping my blade in the process. Last thing I wanted was to be impaled as I panicked.
A second and third shot rang out as I scrambled behind a children's table, frantically looking for some way out of this mess.
Robert>>> For what it's worth, sorry...
He was already gone when I steeled myself, ready to attempt to close the distance.
Metal glinted off the floor, flickering stars and moons upon it from the projection.
The blade, that had cut the Bleeding Tree.
Now it was sundered, broken almost in half