Citadel – Part IVJan 28th, 2010 | By edward j rathke | Category: Series, Sunset | 741 views
“He’s always drunk now.”
“He’s talking to himself.”
She turned to her daughter.
She sighed, wiped her hands, and walked past her daughter to the attic, to the sentinel in his citadel.
“It’s all fucked and I know that it’s all fucked because the day just doesn’t happen anymore and now everyone’s in with that preacher, even my family. Yeah, but they’re good people. They’re idiots! That lunatic’s out there raving and forcing everyone to migrate because, for some reason, where we live, where we’ve lived all this time, is no longer suitable to humans. At least not humans that want to survive or shine in god’s light. Yeah, that’s what bothers me most, everyone’s found god all of a sudden, like god was always here if only someone had had the foresight to shut the lights off, god would’ve stumbled out years ago. They’re not hypocrites. They’re just scared. We’re all terrified! It really might be the end of the world. What’s there to say about that? He has an answer. But he doesn’t. Not really. He’s a parasite, sucking out everyone’s life with false hope and false religion. You act like you’ve something better to be done about this. Like you’re getting somewhere up here. I am, though. I am. It’ll be ready and I’ll show everyone. We can fix this, make it all better. But I need everyone to stay. They can’t follow him to wherever it is he’s going.”
“They need hope. You know that. It’s why they’re going, so you need to give them hope. Real hope, not some deity or promise or whatever else it is that people do to steal trust. You need to give them real hope. I know. I know. And I’m trying, but it’s hard by myself. It needs to be concrete, take that abstract hope in god or whatever it is and turn it into that humanistic kind of hope. And it can happen. I know it can. But what are we gonna do? We need to start small, it always needs to start small. A few people at a time. Yeah yeah yeah, restart civilisation. Exactly! But they’re all set on leaving. If we pitch it right, we can make them stay. Or not make them, but convince them to stay. Yeah yeah yeah, you can’t force it. The world’s dying and so goes humanity with it if we let them, so it’s about changing their minds. That fucking preacher.”
He flinched, his body washed white by the single overhanging naked bulb. Tearing round, he watched her watching him. Her eyebrows sagged and her face was a mask of tears.
“Are you okay?” She stepped through the doorway, her hands hanging at her sides.
He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why?”
“Angie says you’re drunk.”
He threw back his head laughing and fell back into his chair, spinning it round with his legs.
She stepped towards him. “I’m worried.”
He stopped and bolted upright. He stood three feet from her and his face was a wall of ice.
Her hands rubbed themselves. “Won’t you come out of here? Come talk to us?”
Emotionless, he was a statue before her. “I’ve nothing more to say to you people.”
“All you do is drink and sit up here. Please, just come downstairs for a little while. It’d be good for you. Please?”
“You think I’m crazy.” An accusation, his voice steel and his face stone.
“It’s no good to be alone like this all the time.”
He laughed again and hopped around his desk to the far side, away from her.
Slamming his hands flat on the desk, he kept his head low, the sound slapping through the room causing her to shudder. Her heart raced and she was afraid, like she had stepped into a tiger’s cage. It was his domain now and she, along with the others, were no longer welcome. The earth was collapsing and his room was on fire, but she traveled to hell to save him from the devil only to find he was consumed.
He raised his head, slow, the shadows deep, blacking out his eyes. “Mother.”
Time stood still, the words hanging between them, roaming through the thick air in the room, bouncing off the walls, and colliding with the minutes that broke apart. His eyes were blackholes and she could not look away, but she could not stay. She imagined retreating, locking the door, and trapping him.
“What happened to you.” A statement whispered from her lips and she hoped he could not hear.
He slammed his palms flat and hard against the desk once more. Knives cut through the air and stabbed at the pinnacle of her spine, at the bridge between bone and grey matter.
“You’re going, aren’t you?”
She stepped back, the shadows of his eyes bore into her. “We’re all going.”
He lowered his head and stared into the floorboards. “Why do you believe him?” His voice softened, calm.
“It’s not a matter of believing or not. The whole city’s going. We can’t stay here anymore.”
“Why?” He raised his face to her, his voice shattering. “Why do you have to go?”
“Honey,” she stepped towards him, slowly, and placed her hand on his, “enough people want to go, and we’re going with them. It’s safer like this.
“My chest, it falls apart sometimes, you know?” He slid his hand from hers and sat on the desk, his eyes shifting from his hands to her face. “There’s an ocean inside me, but I’m just a pint glass, and I can’t keep it in. Everything waves and I feel like I need to cry or I’m already crying and when I try to feel my face it’s covered in sweat. I can’t let this go. Any of it, so I hold on tight, you know? Because if it gets away, then there’ll be nothing left. I’m ready to crack to pieces and I’m afraid that I’ll drown before I break.”
She wrapped him in her arms. “Come with us.”
They sat there beneath the circle of light emanating from the overhead bulb, a bubble of luminescence floating through the darkness surrounding. She closed her eyes and he was a newborn again, his eyes flickering, his arms wriggling. He was learning to ride his bike for the first time and she was cleaning the dirt from his cut up knee. She was pushing his swing and he laughed so hard that her heart disintegrated, blown away like grains of sand in the passing wind.
“It’s going to be okay as long as we’re all together.” She rubbed her fingernails lightly on his back, the way she did when he couldn’t sleep as a boy. “They say there’s a man and a woman who just had a child and they’ve settled in the Caribbean. They say he’s the last child born and will likely be the last person born, but they named him Sol. He’s a beacon of hope, though it might be for nothing, he’s at least something. The Preacher wants to follow him. He thinks that if there’s any chance to make it through this, if there’s an otherside to this darkness, a dawn or whatever, it’ll be with him.”
They rocked rhythmically on the desk, a moment untouched by the falling ash and the beating of the rioter’s drums.
He pushed her away and jumped to his feet. “I’m not going.” His eyes were blacked out once more. “I’m not going and you can’t go either. We need to stay here so I can fix this.”
She reached towards him, her voice failing. “Tim, no one can fix this.”
He stepped out of reach and into the shadow, outside of the light’s touch. “We need to stay here, to fix here. We can do it. I know we can. You just need to trust me. I’ll fix it all, everything. We can rebuild from here on out. Everything’s falling apart and it’s up to us, to all of us, to start putting the pieces back together even if we only have glue and duct tape. We need to salvage what we can and fight this, even if it means fighting a god that never cared.” His voice came in waves, gunshots or broken glass. His body vibrated, every atom struggling to transform, to become a better version of itself.
“Honey, there’s nothing left here.
“The gangs and the riots, they’ll get you if you go. They’ll tear you apart and eat your insides.”
“They’ll get us if we stay.”
“‘Then it doesn’t matter. Just stay. Don’t be a part of the massacred herd led by that fucking sightless beggar.’ His hands waved wildly with each word as if he was trying to capture every thought with them, rope them from the air, and bring them to her to make her see reason.
“When’s the last time you slept?”
He stared at her from the darkness, but said nothing.
“Or been sober?”
She waited and watched him prowl the perimeter of the lighted circle that she realised was centered on her. He crept to the stairs.
“Angie can’t go.” His voice was low or she imagined it was low, bent and distorted by the change of light.
Her heart skipped a beat. “Let’s talk with her about it.”
“I won’t let you take her. She’s too young to travel suicide.” He bolted down the stairs.
She chased after, screaming his name, then hers.
The wind blew cold and rain rattled the windows. Fires lit the streets, marking gang territory, places where the dying went to kill. Bereft of sunlight, the streets were haunted by flamed tongues, and the Preacher lay underground, planning the exodus from hell back to Eden.
Angie’s tears wrapped cold iron hands round her throat, stifling breath, but Tim held on firmly.
“Please, Tim, just let her go.”
“You can’t have her! I won’t let that bastard fucking lunatic march her to her death along with the rest of you. You can go fuck off and kill yourself, but she stays.” He stood behind her, his hands, clamps on her biceps. Angie struggled, but her twelve years brought little strength.
“Let’s just talk. Please. No one’s going anywhere.” Her heart at her feet, she saw him holding her as a child, reading to her, cutting her food, and being a father and brother so she would not have to go without. A drop in time swept away, cast in dark shades, leaving only a phantomed past.
“Mommy,” her tears, each one a stab to the chest.
“I’m here, baby.’
He let go, his face a crumbling landscape, and he fell back into the sofa. Angie ran to her mother and held her, tight, as if the sun would rise if she squeezed just right.
He put his face into his hands. “I can’t do this alone.”
“You don’t have to.”
“You’re all gonna die.”
He looked at his mother clutching Angie and sighed. “I want to.”
“Come with us.”
“I tried to kill myself the day that the sun forgot.”
Her face paled and her grip slackened on Angie.
He watched his hands and traced the veins of his left arm with his right index finger. “I tied a knot and tried to jump, but it broke. The rope, I mean. I knew it was over. Everything. When the sun doesn’t rise, the earth dies. I wrote that on my hand one day a few years ago. It was science class and Mr Finn was talking about how it took eight minutes for light to reach earth, so, when the sun died, we’d have eight more minutes to live.”
He continued to trace his veins and never looked at them, the two who watched him like a chaotic sage. After some time, her brought his gaze to his mother’s eyes. “These are the longest eight fucking minutes.”
His eyes fell once more. The sound of rain filled the room, tapping through the silence. Angie still held on, but lighter. They watched him sit there, his fingers carving his future into his arms. She saw where all his hope was, where the light she searched for was trapped. The darkness had seeped in and torn through him like a tsunami through a glasshouse. The brightness of his youth, his smile, the love she saw in him, all of it decimated and replaced by bitter blackness.
“Death isn’t the only way.’
His finger stopped for a moment, then moved on.
“You might not believe the Preacher and I know you hate him, but, with all of us together, maybe we can make it. I don’t know what’s out there, Tim. I don’t know if there’s anything, and there might not be. There may be no family in the Caribbean, no child born without the sun, there may not even be islands down there anymore, but we can’t stay here forever just waiting for the world to swallow us. It’s been weeks since the sun and every change has been worse than the last. They say the flood’s moving this way, taking over every inch of land. They think it’ll continue till it hits the fires that keep stretching east. Right here in the middle, a colossus of steam. The raiders are taking over the country. They’re like packs of wolves or demons. They spark up everywhere and the streets fill with rotted bodies. Everyone is killed or suicided. It’s no life and there’s no hope if we stay. You’re old enough to choose for yourself, but Angie’s not, and she’s coming wherever I go. But we need you too, Tim. Please, just come with us.’ Her face streaked with tears that she gave up trying to wipe away.
“I want Tim to come too.”
She smiled, almost laughed through her rivering eyes. Her heart was a flower and the petals were all raining down.
“No.” His voice was flat.
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning. The gangs’ve already taken parts of the city. It’s not safe here anymore. We’re all terrified to go, but to stay is worse. Take the night to think about it. Please. Tim.”
He looked up into her face.
He rose and walked to the attic. The door slammed and did not open again.Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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