From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Interlude--Dr. Horatio Foxglove by Dr. Jacob Garvey (Wednesday, June 20, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Friend In Need by John Murdock (Saturday, July 07, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, June 20, 2007)

Omnis una manet nox. “The same night awaits us all.”

There was no one to hear. No one to see. No one ever came down this corridor, Sera sat in the floor of the corridor, face buried in her hands, in the half dark, looking like the statue of a weeping angel on a grave. It seemed appropriate. She had closed herself off from her family, from everything, even from the souls she felt pressing in all around her. She could not help them. She could not help anyone. She sat on the grave of hope and sobbed.

She heard a footstep, and involuntarily glanced through her fingers at whoever had come to disturb her mourning.

This world's John Murdock, eyes as sunken and desperate as her own John's had been at the time of his death, walked down the corridor. He always seemed to move with urgency, a sort of frantic energy. He spied her at the end of the hall, and stopped. "I've been lookin' for you. We need to have a talk." His tone told her that it wasn't a question; he was much more curt and abrupt than her John was. They truly were not the same men.

She ignored him for a moment. What could she possibly say to him? Nothing. Finally, with a voice thick with tears, she managed a few words. "You wish me gone."

"Yeah, I do. But not just yet. Like I said, we gotta talk." He glanced around, then spotted whatever it was he was looking for. Stepping out of the corridor and into a room, he came back out with a dusty chair. Dragging it into the hallway to within a few feet in front of her, he turned it so that the chair-back faced forward, and sat down hard into it. A frankly displeased look came over his face, like he was pondering something distinctly unpleasant. "I've been a mean sonofabitch, but I've had reason to be. Y'know why I can't trust you, or your family. There's too much at stake, and I can't risk it for my people. So I haven't listened to ya. I am now. Got it?" He coughed once into his hand, harshly. She recognized the sound, and what it signified.

Listen. He would listen and dismiss what he heard. It didn't matter anymore. They were all lost. It was over.

< Oh Seraphim, you silly thing. Haven't you ever heard that it isn't over until the fat lady sings? > Sera looked up, startled, as a voice forced itself into her mind. It was--

< Lend me your wings, angel. > The spirit stood, insubstantial, before her, hands outstretched. Without hesitation, Sera poured her energy into the spirit, so quickly that it seemed that she suddenly became the ghost, and the woman took her place among living things.

And the woman looked at this John with the same expression Sera saw so often in her John's eyes. "'Though lovers be lost, love will not, and death will have no dominion," she said.

The Sarge stood up from his chair so quickly it clattered against the wall from the force. He was wild-eyed, lost. "What is this?! Huh? Is this some kinda trick?" He looked ready to bolt, to run far and fast from whatever this was.

Sera could only watch. She could do, say, nothing in this state. Momentarily she was the drifting soul and the woman, Sarge's lost beloved, was the material one. She could speak, but only mind to mind, and his mind was closed to her.

John's eyes darted back and forth between the summoned woman and Sera. "Explain this! This can't be possible, it just can't!" His voice was barely above an urgent whisper, full of distress and even pain. He was coiled, ready to lash out at whatever sort of threat this might be. The woman had red hair --natural, mortal red, unlike Sera's faintly-glowing fire-red tresses, that were in some lights like the spun essence of burning coals-- and a fair complexion. She was neither tall nor short, and she could never be called "pretty," but her face was alive with character that made "pretty" seem petty and shopworn. She didn't speak, opting to simply step forward, reach out with her right hand and touch John's face. In that moment he crumbled, holding her hand with his own. "How is this possible? Jessica---how are you here?" Standing before this world's John Murdock was what appeared to be his lost love, his stolen love, from when he was still a participant in the "Program" that had attempted to make him into a supersoldier.

"She made it possible, John. But I've never left you." She smiled, seeming to glow all on her own. "Things are at their darkest now. But there's still hope. Hope for our world, and hope for this family. Her family, John," Jessica pointed gently at Sera, who stood mutely, insubstantial tears streaming down her face. "Your friends Zachary and Victoria already know this; she's helped them similarly to how she's helping you and I, now. I know that everything inside of you is railing against this...but you know at the same time that I'm right. At least now you do."

"Can...can you stay?" John had fallen to his knees now, looking up into the eyes of someone he had thought he'd lost forever. Even before the words left his mouth, he knew the answer.

"No, I can't stay. To do that would be be like them. To be Wrong. I would have to leave her as she is. It's not the way of things."

"What am I supposed to do? I mean---"

"Do what you think is right, John. There's nothing more that can be asked of you, or anyone. You've been doing your best for this long; a little longer is all that's needed."

"But what about you? What happens when this is...over?" The very thought of it seemed to physically pain the Sarge, the way he cringed.

"I need to go, for now. But I won't leave you, John. I haven't since we met, and I won't after this moment is over. We'll be together again soon enough." She touched her free hand to his forehead---and then she was gone.

Unnoticed, Sera swayed and put a hand to the wall to steady herself. Being the channel for two spirits, within hours of each other...and without the resources she would have had if this world had been open to the Infinite...she felt...pale and drained.

The Sarge was very quiet for several long minutes. Finally, he stood, looking much more composed. His eyes, while still sunken and haggard, now held a new light in them. Surety. He glanced down to where Sera was leaning against the wall. "You've done...this for the General, too? For him and Bella?"

"How could I not?" She replied in a whisper. "This world...your enemy is not just the World Government, nor even the evil creatures that created it. It is the ones who created them. Your world is ruled by the Fallen, the ones who close themselves off from the Infinite in their pride and hate, and with themselves, they have closed off this world as well. Nothing and no one leaves, John Murdock. Not even those spirits like Bella and Jessica who still hold to hope. This is the realm of pain and despair. A Hell, one of many. Too many."

"When Jessi said I'd be with 'er soon enough...she meant 'bout this, right?" The Sarge jabbed a thumb to his chest; he knew about the sickness that was inherent to his own abilities, the degenerative condition that only worsened every time he used his powers.

She dropped her eyes, and mourned. "Yes," she said simply. "Like my John."

Only there were no Kheldians here to save the Sarge.

And that thought made her eyes overflow again. There was no one at home to save her John either; no prospect in view that would allow them to come back to him, and she was so afraid for him....

The Sarge nodded simply, accepting her answer without question. "I need to talk with Zach. See to yer family, Sera. We may have some work t'do soon."