This is the second instalment in a eulogy given by our hero, Sylvie. The first part can be found here. For the time conscious, the below is about three thousand words, so most people are probably looking at 10 to 15 minutes of reading time.
As the wheels of the plane touched the tarmac, my holiday mindset came crashing down around me. I was home, with all the comforts and irritations that entails. It was a cold Thursday evening. I had a dozen missed calls and enough emails to take a week to sort through. I ignored them all. I saw in the taxi, staring out the window at the city lights as my driver chatted in my general direction. His accented speech providing a background of white noise to the internal tumblings of my mind. I still couldn’t forget my man. I remembered being certain of my love. I still was certain of it. But, intellectually, I knew I shouldn’t be. I watched the lights. I don’t know if the taxi driver didn’t realise I wasn’t listening or just didn’t care. I wallowed in memory until the car pulled up outside my apartment. As my shoe first touched the pavement, I made a resolution to move on with my life. To forget about my holiday flight of fantasy.
As I went through the motions of returning home, I planned activities for the next day. A lunch with Mum. Dinner with Dad and his partner. Drinks with the girls.
It was four cocktails into drinks with my friends when my plans came undone. He walked into the pub. My heart skipped a dozen beats and I stopped speaking mid-sentence. It wasn’t even the Sight this time. Merely the combination of alcohol and surprise. I stood, handing my drink off to a friend and walking away before she could protest. I strode towards him, my eyes locked on his face.
“Hi,” I started, “I wasn’t expecting to run into you again.”
Despite the late hours and being inside a dimly lit pub he was still wearing his sunglasses. Somehow, I still knew he’d locked eyes with me when his face changed from a blank mask to the sort of grin that takes the entire body to properly convey. His stiff, tense, business-like posture relaxed. I’m sure to an outside observer he’d have looked like two entirely different men in those moments. To me, he was always my man. Even at that early stage. That’s the blessing and curse of the Sight. The first impressions people make are lasting.
We chatted briefly. He apologised for having to run off when we first met. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the conversation. A side-effect of being drunk I suppose. I remember exchanging names finally. His was Derek. I remember asking him if he’d like to stay out for a few more drinks. Just the two of us. My friends be damned…
I was gutted when he said no. Convinced that he was just blowing me off and the incredible connection I felt was one sided.
And then he said “How about tomorrow night?”. I swooned. I never thought I’d be one to swoon. Even when my former fiance proposed to me, I didn’t swoon. I gave him my address. He said he’d pick me up and we’d go to a nice little restaurant he knew and then there was a private party at one of the more prestigious art galleries. Apparently he could get us in if I wanted. I swooned some more. In retrospect, I find my swooning equal parts adorable and embarrassing. Which I suppose describes most of what a person does when they first fall in love.
He left and I returned to my friends. The rest of the night passed in a bit of a daze, my thoughts firmly planted on tomorrow evening.
The next evening, I was ready with five minutes to spare. Everyone is indecisive and nervous before a first date. I didn’t realise just how important this one was going to be, but it still took me hours to settle on what to wear. I wanted to look and be perfect. It was years later that I learned that he’d spent even longer getting ready for the date. Eventually, I settled on my little black dress. He’d settled on a rather dapper suit and his trademark sunglasses. He arrived perfectly on time. To the second. I noticed because I was looking at my watch every three seconds as that last five minutes passed interminably slowly. It never ceases to amaze me how very different from their usual selves people can be when they get sufficiently nervous. He was perfectly on time because he’d gotten to my place twenty minutes early but wasn’t sure if he should be early or not. So he waited. Checking his watch every three seconds.
I opened the door to greet him and we both stood there, just looking at the other for an eternal moment. My Sight opened and again I Saw so much of him. I fell in love all over again. Just as I have every time I’ve Seen him since that night. I didn’t See every fibre of his soul at that point, though it certainly seemed that way to me, so young and new to my abilities. Of course, I understood none of this. I was still a few hours from realising I had powers that most don’t. I Saw a man with a desperate desire to be good. A lonely man bound by duty and honour and love. Brimming with passion and hope. I Saw glimpses, fragments of his past that I didn’t really understand. They weren’t in order. In many cases multiple events were superimposed on top of one another. It lasted an eternity and only the briefest of moments all at once.
We hugged awkwardly. The strange, uncertain dance of a first date greeting. Neither party sure what the right greeting is. Both so nervous of getting it wrong that they’re barely cognizant of the actions of the other. Don’t tell the young lovers, but there really isn’t a wrong way, both are so enamoured with the other everything will be perfect even if it isn’t.
We walked the few blocks to the restaurant hand-in-hand, exchanging nervous chatter and long moments of blissful, awkward silence. Our table wasn’t ready when we got there, so we each got a drink at the bar. It probably saved my life. Several people’s lives actually. Derek couldn’t have saved me if we’d been seated and I suspect his resultant rage would have been an unfortunate thing to behold.
Three black-clad men burst in to the restaurant. They looked like the special forces or terrorist groups you see in movies. Caps, vests, pockets everywhere. Equipment hanging from their belt. And weapons. Two carried guns, one a crossbow. I was facing the door when they walked in, Derek faced away from them. I screamed. Others screamed. The man with the crossbow pointed it at me and squeezed the trigger. The bolt sprang towards me. In that moment I knew I would die.
At the same moment as the men entered the room, Derek’s stiffened and tensed. I would swear his eyes widened in surprise and fear, but I can’t know that, they were still behind his sunglasses. Regardless, he seemed to sense the danger before it happened. He leapt in front of me, twisting to face the assailants as he did so. The bolt landed in his chest with a wet thunk. He fell to the floor. I screamed again, this time more with rage than fear. I dropped to his side to help him. And that’s when things really started to get weird.
He grunted and yanked the bolt from his chest, standing as if he’d not been shot at all. He seemed taller than previously, his voice boomed deep and forcefully. The room darkened, its shadows grew.
“You have made a grave error in judgement.” he addressed the attackers, “You will apologise to my date at once”.
The words seemed to hang in the air. Menacing and powerful. Like a school principal dressing down a twelve year old for some foolish action.
One of the men stepped back, another visibly the shook. The man with the crossbow tilted his head slightly to the side and stepped forward, motioning to his men to advance.
They raised their guns. Derek stepped in front of me, wrapping his arms around me, shielding me with his body. I heard the guns fire and glass and wood around us explode from stray bullets. I felt several bullets impact Derek’s back as he protects me. He pulled ever so slightly away from our his embrace and looked into my eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to learn about me this way”, he stated simply as he removed his sunglasses.
Where his eyes should be there were deep black abysses. Not simply a lack of eyes, but an active void. Swirling slightly, a thousand shades of the blackest blacks. I Saw into his soul and knew him completely. Every evil he had committed, every good he had done. I knew him as well as I know myself. Better.
He turned from me, a tear running down his cheek, and said a Word. I cannot remember the Word. Its syllables refuse to stick in my mind. For me, as for most, they are literally unmemorable. Darkness launched from his eyes towards the attackers. A palpable cloud of shadow that flew to the attackers. It enveloped the two with guns, but seemed unable to encircle the leader, breaking like waves on seawall a foot from him. The enveloped pair turned pale white, their hands shaking as their guns clatter to the floor. One fell to his knees sobbing and the other fled the building. He didn’t stop to open the door, instead crashing straight through its glass body and running, bleeding into the street heedless of traffic.
The leader’s knuckles were white from gripping his weapon, but he maintained Derek’s gaze. He spoke as Derek strode the few metres towards him.
“You can’t hurt me demon. I am protected.” He clutched at a talisman hanging around his neck.
Derek didn’t pause or slow, his hand reached for the man’s throat as simply as one reaches for a carton of milk. A brief flash of light, barely bright enough to distract, is all the resistance the talisman makes before its meagre power fails. Derek wrapped his right hand around the man’s throat and lifted him off the floor.
“You will apologise.”
The man trembled as his face turned shades of blue and white. His crossbow fell to the floor as his hands grasped at Derek’s grip on his throat. He stammered out an apology to Derek.
“Not to me. To her. To Sylvie.” Derek growled.
The man, gasping for air, apologised to me. I’m not really listening. Derek is looking in my direction again and I’m entranced by his eyes and the clear view they provide me of his very essence. I can see the great pain he is in from his wounds. Barely holding himself together. He may look invulnerable to the attackers, but I see the truth. He has over-reached and is about as vulnerable as he has ever been.
“He would have killed you. The Laws are clear. His life is forfeit to you if you wish it. Does he live or die?” Derek asked me.
“Let him live.” I replied, still mostly caught up in my concern for Derek’s wellbeing and only half-paying attention to the current situation.
“So be it.” Derek turned to look at the man and droped him to the floor. “Take yourself and your friends far away from here. I know who sent you and they will be dealth with. If I ever see you or your friends again my response shall be far less subtle. Now, leave little mortal.”
I didn’t see the man leave or drag his friend with him, though it’s my understanding that’s what happened. My attention was given wholly to Derek.
He began to apologise, “I’m sorry Sylvie. I never thought you’d learn about my world like this. I never thought you’d be in danger because of it. I should have. But I was too lost in thinking about you. I’m sorry. I assume you want me to go. I’ll lea-“. I cut him off at that point in the best way I knew. I kissed him. It was a good kiss.
“Derek. I saw everything about you. Everything you have ever known or felt, I know and feel. It’s fading now. I remember so little. But I knew you completely and I know I trusted and loved what I saw. And I know I’m getting myself in over my head. I’m staying anyway. With you.”
After a few moments of silence he nodded, water welling in his eyes as a smile broke across his face.
“We need to leave,” Derek explained, “we can’t explain this to the police and I need rest. Plus, being stuck with the police isn’t necessarily the safest place for us just at the moment.”
Derek’s balance faltered and he stumbled, his hand catching the bar for support.
“Let’s get you out of here then. Lean on me, we’ll get a taxi.”
Derek passed out moments after taking his seat. When we got to my apartment, I managed to wake Derek enough to help him up the stairs and to my bed. He was incoherent and disoriented. I’m pretty sure he thought I was his mother and he was still a schoolboy. Not exactly the outcome a lady hopes for when she takes a boy home after a date. I took his boots off and collapsed on the bed next to him. His memories still swirled in my head. They were slipping away, but as they did so they mingled with my own memories. I couldn’t tell which were mine and which were his. It was like a bad 80s movie montage in my head. Years whip past and blend and merge. Time passes as in a dream. Without meaning. There are only events. Every door leads not to a hallway but to another moment. The last moments before I am overwhelmed and sleep claims me are a cavalcade of our most powerful memories. The ones with the most pain and love. The ones we can’t forget even when we want to.
I’m at war, snow covers a forest as shells explode around me. My teeth are chattering from cold and fear and nearby explosions. Broken boys lie around me, the snow stained red with their blood. Scared men, boys no longer, huddle against me in the foxholes. We pray for our mothers.
A skeletal, hooded figure stands in front of me. The air stinks of the grave. It points a bony finger at me and I am surrounded by Death, infused with it. I am Changed. Power and pain flood my body. I am no longer who I was. I am more. I am less. I am apart.
My grandfather lays on a hospital bed in front of me. He is telling jokes, between fits of a hacking cough. He tells me he loves me and is proud of me and the amazing young woman I’ve grown into and then he closes his eyes. He never opens them again.
My little brother sits in a chair on a wooden deck gazing at a garden. He’s old and frail now. A man of eighty, his mind scattered and lost. He no longer recognises his wife or children. But I am unchanged from our youth. He recognises me. We talk of summer days and winter meals. I hold his hand as he dies, scared and confused but loved.
A woman is walking towards me as I await the tolling of the bell. She is radiant, her eyes see through me like a diamond cuts glass. I expect her to walk on past. People always do. The aura that swirls about me drives them away. I sigh. She says hello. My breath catches. We talk. I have never met anyone so unperturbed by the aura of Death. She is remarkable and smart and witty and beautiful.
I am standing, looking over Macchu Picchu as clouds lightly caress the mountain’s peak. I am breathless with wonderment and awe. Were there gods, this must surely be their home.
I am riding my bike without training wheels for the first time. Dad said he wouldn’t let go. I turn my head to see if he’s still holding on to me. He’s not there. Suddenly, I’m falling, crying out as the ground rushes towards me. Dad catches me. He holds me in his big, strong arms and gently wipes the tears from my face. He holds me tight to him and promises he’ll always be there to catch me when I fall. I feel safe.
I walk to the pool and meet my love for the first time. We speak of poetry and adventure, of mountain peaks embraced by the coming dawn and jungles darkening as the sun flees the sky. We speak of art and philosophy, of Orwell’s gut wrenching 1984 and the surreal confusion of Escher.
We spoke until the sun set and a bell tolled.
It came in at a little under 3000 words after some very heavy editing (at one point it was a little over 4500). I must’ve rewritten the beginning a half-dozen times before deciding to cut the entire opening sequence and basically jump straight to the meeting in the bar. I’ve rewritten much of it many times. It’s still not quite right. The original opening sequence – a fairly normal day in Sylvie’s life – will likely show up in the next instalment. No promises on when that’ll be. I’ve changed the way a few things in my world work as I’ve explored Derek and Sylvie’s powers more and I need to consider the ramifications that has for the story I have planned. So, the next piece I post might be part 3 of this or it might be a story about what happens when some idiot teenagers get a hold of a demonological grimoire