Valley Of The Shadow

From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Home Is Where by John Murdock (Wednesday, June 13, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Fear by Astra Kyne Murdock (Friday, June 15, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007)

Ira furor brevis est. "Anger is a brief insanity."

Sera felt tears welling up inside her and fought them down, burying her face in her hands. It had been a hard, hard day before...this...and now it was just so much harder. There had been that one bright moment in her day, but all of that had vanished when she went to see if what Vickie had tried with JJ had any effect. But he was unchanged, and now she had to wonder--had the Fallen taken his spirit? Was there any chance at all for him? For any of them?

She had learned the shocking truth from JJ's caretaker; so far as he knew, except, perhaps, for some wild tribesmen in some inaccessible places, these were the last holdouts againt the Fallen--though of course, he did not call them that, referring to the as the World Government. Everyone else, everywhere, had acquiesced in apathy and resignation.

These caves depressed the mind and the spirit. She longed for sunlight, but her patrols were set for the night hours. She scarcely saw the children; they labored like everyone else, until they were ready to drop with exhaustion. Like the others, she stood sentry at the approach points to this new HQ, in the midst of this poisoned land. Unlike the others, she could sense the hunters out there, and the Fallen that were their masters. The Fallen grew impatient. They had found the old HQ empty, and...they were not pleased that the prey had escaped them.

People kept coming to her, instinctively feeling that she could give them back their hope, that she could give them sure comfort, even as her John had understood, even when he had not believed, when they had first met. And she had to; it was not in her to deny them. She listened to their fears, soothed their anguish as best she could, gave them whatever she had to give. But was it enough? Could it ever be enough to break the wall that the Fallen had placed around the world, isolating it from the Infinite? This was Hell; for Hell was despair without end.

How can I save a whole world? she thought, her spirit failing. I cannot even find my way home.... She felt her eyes burning, her heart emptier than it had ever been, She needed John the way that she needed to breathe; they were each other's support and foundation, and without him, she was a shell, a facade, and she could feel that shell crumbling a little more with every passing hour. Oh, my beloved, my life, my love, how ever will I find thee?

"There y'are. I been lookin' for ya."

She felt the words like icewater thrown in her face. The familiar voice, but cold and distant. Intense and focused hostility instead of the support. She looked up, glad of the uncertain light, glad that the Sarge would not see the redness of her eyes, the glitter of unshed tears in them. "Now you have found me," she said, forcing her voice to be steady.

"You listen to me, Sera-whoever-you are. I want ya to stop tellin' my people these fairy tales of yours, an' that's an order if it has to be." He glared down at her, hands on his hips.

She had lost the spirit to be angry with him. "You want me to stop giving them hope, is that it?" she asked, feeling her throat close after she said the words.

"You call what yer givin' em hope?" He almost sneered. "I dunno what you got Vic thinkin', but the rest of my people don't need none of it. You just stop it. We clear?"

She nodded, unable to speak. He turned on his heel and left, and she buried her face in her hands and wept.

This was it then, the death of a world, and with it, her own death, and her children's. She and they would die here, and be trapped like all the other souls around her, trapped in this place of despair and resignation. She felt them pressing in on her, a few, only a precious few, still able to care, to love. A few...

When Sarge found out what she and Zach had done today--that would be the end of it. He would have her cast out, surely, although he might try and keep Astra, Ratt and possibly Aedan. They were useful to him, and if he gave them orders, they were young enough to think they had to obey. There would be nothing for it then but a last stand against the Fallen and their creatures without hope, without help.

She would never see John again, not even in the Infinite. She would never reach the Infinite, not even in death. All was dust and ashes, and this was how their story ended. Even in the realm of the Fallen, they would not meet, for the Fallen would see to that as one more means of fostering misery.

There were no friends to help her here, no Red to stand beside her and face the Fallen as her world's Red once had, and the one that wore John's face looked at her with contempt and such anger as she had never seen directed at her from John's eyes. Whatever this world's Vickie thought, she would not side against her leader, and as for Zach--in a choice between her and what might have been her illusions and the friend of decades, his fellow commander--there would be no choice at all.

And so she wept, silent tears, in the darkness, all alone, horribly, desperately alone.

And too late did she sense her daughter hurrying away.