|Subject: Chapter 311 - Part 1
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Date Posted: Monday, November 05, 06:41:06am
In reply to:
's message, "Chapter 307 - Part 1 (16 and above)" on Monday, October 22, 07:10:11am
Extra warning: There are some unpleasant details here, but I don't think they're enough to rate a warning.
Dreams in the Dark (311/318)
by Katherine Gilbert
As it turned out, it was hours later when Michael and Ackerman were finally let out of their hiding place. In the hours which passed in their lightless confinement, they heard Stephan's voice again--but only once. After that, there was only a dragging sound and the shuffling of some footsteps. No one came to get them. All the fugitives could do was listen to their own, quiet breathing and pray that there might be some safe way out of here again.
Michael's fears were like Ackerman's, much for himself, but he had the additional weight of terror over their kind host's fate; it didn't make his situation any easier. If he had been, even tangentially, the cause of Stephan's death, he had little idea of what he would do, of how he could possibly cope with the guilt. Already, he had seen one of his comrades shot, knew that another had nobly chosen death to save them all. Their fates were weight enough upon his soul. How could he also withstand the ruthless murder of an old man as another of the crimes of his very presence?
He had no real answer for this terror in the hours of darkness he experienced. The pain of the question took precedence over everything else, no matter how pressing--even the lingering ache of his wound, the sore discomfort of being propped, unmoving, against the ladder for hours on end, and the weakness of fatigue, hunger, blood loss, and dehydration; there was too much time to think back. Once he did, as well, he could no longer understand his own thoughts in the days leading up to Hillinger's attack on his wife, wasn't certain how he could ever have believed that he could kill. Just witnessing these recent deaths, knowing that he was their cause, had placed a burden upon his soul which he knew with certainty could never be removed. But to be the actual person to do the murder . . . Lord. That would be another situation entirely.
He still remembered his previous certainty, the belief that he could look Hillinger dead in the eyes and still pull the trigger. And perhaps he would have done so, had the situation turned out differently. It wasn't that the gunman hadn't deserved death, the tally of his victims innumerable. Poor Simone had only been Michael's own, personal loss. But if Nikita's husband had continued in this direction, what would have become of him? How could anyone commit such an act and stay entirely human into the bargain?
This was a profound point, one he was only beginning to take quite seriously. The more he thought into it, the more he was convinced that it wasn't possible, that the very action of pulling the trigger caused a change, a sort of internal death, from which there was no way back. It wasn't simply the moral sin of it, the potential arrogance of the judgment that someone else's life was less important than your own. For all Hillinger had done, he was beginning to see life the way he suspected his wife did, knew that this wasn't really his decision to make. But it was the very first time that he was starting to understand this simple truth.
Still, this wasn't all--much more behind the fact. To kill someone else required a payment in kind, the irreparable destruction of some part of the killer's soul. And such spiritual death was as impossible to return from as the bodily kind.
He began to understand this truth in those terrible hours in the darkness, saw the mistake he had made. To kill was to become less than human, to give up the right to interact with your fellow creatures, to receive their love. And yet he knew that, if he had to, he would pull the trigger himself, would do it for the selfish end of returning home to his wife--for the greed of spending time with her alone. But such a decision would also mean the absolute death of some better sort of understanding between them.
He knew this now, saw the point his wife had tried to make nearly a year ago, when he had been turning so very cold in his pursuit of protecting her. He had, at the time, already braced himself to murder Hillinger, to choose his wife's life over the gunman's. And, while he knew without question that she was more whole and worthy a person than the despicable gunman could ever have dreamed of being--was more angelic than any human quite had the right to be--such an act would not have been without consequences. It would have caused a change--and it was one which he wasn't certain his wife could have lived with for long.
Nikita had always tried to argue otherwise, still claimed that she could love him, no matter what he did during this war. He knew she meant it, too, certainly intended no loss of affection. But, if he came back to her stained and broken--the cold shell of a man she had once known, his soul given up in his various crimes of duty--could she keep the promise? Or would she only stay with him in order to honor her tender words?
He let out an inaudible sigh at this fear, knew now that it was one of the worst dangers he faced. Yes, he could die here, or could be wounded beyond repair--even if he were able to return to her--but those were only physical changes. Nikita wasn't shallow enough to leave him, if he were broken in body, or to stop loving him, if he were dead. No, there was something within him which drew her to him, something far beyond the sexual fire they created together. But, if that deeper part of him were gone, could he ever hope to fully win her love again?
He had to fight down a shudder, having no answer to this fear; he wasn't even certain there was one--or, at least, not one he wanted to know. He couldn't even focus enough to think through the fact that Nikita herself had already picked up the gun--even if, fortunately, she had yet to be forced to use it in any deadlier sense--the idea of his wife having to kill to protect herself far too brutal to be able to face; his thoughts remained only on his own destiny. He knew that, if he survived, it would be with a soul which was dragged down by guilt. He could only hope that he could avoid that final act of murder--or there would be nothing left of him which she would recognize at all.
It was this truth which terrified him, but it couldn't be denied. Nikita had not fallen in love with a killer, had understandably feared him in those early days of their acquaintance, when she had thought that he had had something to do with Simone's death. Perhaps he had the guilt of not saving his lover, but that was different; he had tried, would have done much more, had he known how. Even Adam's birth was a small sin in comparison--a childish bit of foolishness which had, in the end, been made right. But his wife was too pure a soul to love a man such as he might become, one who could knowingly, even calculatedly, take another's life. Even if she stayed with him, all deeper connections would be over. There would simply be little left for him to give.
This hideous truth ate away at him during those hours in the dark, made him fear that his death might be a far more bearable option for her. But it was at this point, fortunately, that he and his companion were finally given some signs of life.
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