by Henry Wyckoff
Duncan slowly opened his eyes. Life had returned.
"Are you all right?"
"Huh?" He noticed what looked like an EMT, except that he had a Watcher tattoo on his wrist. Joe, he saw, was being treated by a similar man. "What time is it?"
"Fifteen minutes after you were attacked. Joe made the call."
"Joe? What's going on?"
Joe, his hand already wrapped and a blood line stuck in his other arm, grinned, "It's 912 -- for those emergencies that need to be handled without all the embarrassing questions that the folks with 911 would ask. How else do you think Watchers get the emergency treatment and the bodies cleared without having to file yet another report with the local authorities and answer the questions? Or serve time because of the answers?"
Duncan had been quite puzzled by that, but rightly figured that somehow, someone took care of it. Now he knew. That's when the important issue re-emerged in his head. "Marie! Is she all right?"
Joe shook his head, "The loft is ok, but Marie and Jay were both taken. Some blood was spilled, but I don't know who got it. More than one of them, in any event. Maybe one of the bad guys. One of your knives was used." He made a face. "Either Jay or Marie cooked some really good rice steak and left it behind -- I hope it's not from one of the bad guys. Really good rice steak..." He wiped the corners of his mouth with a sleeve.
"Where do we find Alf?" He snapped.
"I don't know. He might take them to his home, or he might take them to some warehouse. We'll have to keep the eyes out for him."
"Do that." Duncan limped upstairs. If Marie was going to cause this much trouble for him, at least he deserved something to eat out of the whole mess. If Joe hadn't scarfed it all. It turned out that he hadn't.
Amanda walked in as Duncan was nodding to himself, "Mmm... rice steak..."
"What happened?" she noticed the blood with alarm.
Duncan nearly choked, "Where were you?"
"I had to run a few errands."
"Does the name 'Alf Magnus' ring a bell?"
She frowned, shaking her head. "No. Why?"
"He took Jay and Marie just a few minutes ago."
* * * *
I slowly opened my eyes, wishing I had a cold beer in my hand. "Oooo..." The next thing I knew was that I was tied to a chair in a dark room.
"Good!" I heard Marie breathe. She was close to me. "I thought you were dead!"
"You died. Have I totally lost my sanity?" My voice was level. This kind of conversation was something that had rolled around in my mind for years. I knew it was bound to happen, so I had no reason being shocked.
"I did, and I didn't," she sighed. "There's a lot about me that you don't know."
"I believe we have a long time for your story."
I snorted, "Of course you are."
"I live forever in a very literal sense," she didn't react to my statement. "I have lived for over two thousand years. I can be killed, but I always heal. Always."
"You had no urge to kill yourself?"
"Why would you ask a question like that?!"
I snorted, "Most would wish for immortality, but I'm a cynic. I think that the longer we live, the less we wish to. Why else would the old welcome death? Think about all the regrets, mistakes, and pain that accumulates over time. Unless, of course, the memory were to be extinguished." We sat in silence for a while. "How did it happen?"
"My first time?" she smiled. It faded when he didn't appear to get the joke.
* * * *
Macedonia, The Fortress of Pydna, 316 B.C.
The fortress was falling, and all was in chaos. Not turmoil. Not a screaming mess. It was chaos. Maybe you have to see it yourself to understand that 'chaos' describes destruction in the sense that 'infinity' is used to describe numbers. I could see the bodies falling right and left, and feel their screams down to my very soul. It wasn't enough that they were dying. I could feel their souls being ripped from their bodies, their screams for mercy when it was already too late.
Kassandros was the leader of the army that had utterly smashed down the defenses of the city. He was born into his position, and his parents ensured that he would never have to earn his rank. That was not an issue, however, because he was a born butcher. He instinctively knew how to smash an enemy and do it in the most fear-inspiring manner. His order was to kill me, and it pleased him. Anyone else who died because they stood in the way were considered to be poor, unfortunate innocents who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kassandros certainly didn't care who he killed. If any of his own men died, he certainly wouldn't have minded. The city would survive, but not unchanged.
I was seen as an evil, scheming, murderous witch. I did worship Dionysius, but he was a male god. But that is beside the point. What is important is that I fell out of political favor, and I was to be purged. If Stalin ever had a previous life, he must have been a Greek. The Greeks of those years were good at purging those who are no longer politically favorable. The Byzantines even more so. Kassandros is the champion of that race, and I would encounter him in every generation. It was his instinct that allowed his army to enter the city. They found me quickly and captured me. In those days, I was not a fighter. Women just didn't carry swords or spears. We hid knives, however, and I used those to my advantage. Five men died before I was overpowered. But not killed in the heat of the moment. My fate was to be killed in cold blood, or so they planned.
When I was bound to a spot, Kassandros stared at me and spat in my face. I'll never forget his face, after all these years gone by. I would be reminded of it, wherever I go. "Now it ends, witch!" he swore. Deep down, he knew that I wasn't a witch. He hated me because I had foiled his political schemes.
I managed to smile. I had lived my whole life, knowing that this might be an eventual outcome. I would die with dignity.
The soldiers refused to kill me. In those days, soldiers had minds of their own and were not afraid to use them. They knew who I was.
Kassandros was angry. "One way or another, you will die! Let the families of those you have killed have their revenge."
In the end, that's how I met my end. A mobland killing. I don't even know how they killed me. I think that's why Kassandros hadn't killed me himself. It would have been too swift, and he had not been given authorization to have his way with me. Only to put me to death.
When I awoke, I thought I was in the afterworld, because I could clearly remember dying. I had no idea that I was immortal. It was as if I had woken up from a dreamless sleep. I was very hungry, and looked like a starving slave. It would be a few weeks before I would notice the clues that would make be suspect my new state of being. Later, I would encounter my teacher. As irony would have it, her name was Cassandra.
It was she who taught me how to deal with Kassandros whenever he encountered me. It was I who killed him in history, though of course, the books would not say that it was I who did so.
* * * *
"So that's my story. As much as I can say right now, anyway. The one secret that I keep from everyone." She looked directly at Jay. "Now it's your turn. What's the secret that you've been keeping from the world?"
Jay nodded, "It's hard, you know? All my life, I've been used to keeping my mouth shut. I mean, who'd be interested in what I think or feel?" She said nothing, so he continued. "I am the opposite of you. I live, but I am truly dead."
Marie stared at him, "What do you mean?"
"I'm empty. Where most people have hopes and dreams, and even the aimless jumble of thoughts in their head, I have nothing. My mind is empty. I go through life simply existing." I looked down. "Do you have any idea what it's like to go through life, simply wishing that I can interact with people, and yet being unable to have that interaction because there is a boundary that separates me from them? I've tried to walk in their world, and it resulted in destruction of everything I hoped to forge. None of them ever tried to walk in my world."
"What world would that be?"
"A world without words."
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