I Am A Rock

From the Story Arc: One of Two

Previous Story in the Arc: Running Low by Belladonna Aura (Friday, August 10, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: The Longest Night by Belladonna Aura (Tuesday, January 01, 2008)

(posted Friday, December 21, 2007)

Bella turned the little glass of vodka in her hand around and around, watching the play of lights from the television set reflect in it. She had the sound turned down, she was playing one of those New Age things with abstract computer generated patterns on it, because every damned thing on right now was Christmas. And this was her second Christmas without him.

Without Zach.

Somehow it never seemed to get any better. Only the anger had faded, and with that had come resignation. None of the new people had known Zach, scarcely anyone seemed to remember that it had been a year, a year—but it was Short Attention-Span Theater out there anymore, and maybe that was all for the best. Oh, she probably could have drummed up more than enough interest for a memorial ceremony for him, and done the whole media thing but…why? It wouldn’t bring him back. Petro had brought down the bastards that were ultimately responsible. She had parlayed her status as Grieving Hero’s Widow into enough political clout to make sure those particular programs would never ride again. And now—

Now she was still grieving, but she was also tired. Tired of…so many things. So she had let the day pass quietly. Only two things had marked it. She had blanketed the memorial marker in violets and rosemary—fidelity and remembrance—and she had spent the day organizing something new. The Murdocks had their “Alchemy of Love Foundation” to send KR kids to college, Mori had her “Rebuild KR Foundation,” which now was going for the repair of what the ongoing Rikti raids were doing…she made something permanent for Zach.

She had thought long and hard about this. And maybe some people might have thought it was frivolous. But the one thing that Zach Marlowe, Bestial Boy, had been known for was his love of life and laughter. And it was a known and well understood phenomena that people who laughed got better faster. She was a healer—it all fit.

So the day after she made her announcement and ruthlessly began hitting up every VIP she had ever had contact with for donations to the Zach Marlowe “Make ‘Em Laugh” Fund.

It was an ambitious project. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, two dedicated television channels, one for children and one for adults, would air continuous comedy programs on every television in a hospital, fed by a programmed server with a library of thousands and thousands of shows. She started with the pilot project in the hospital in KR. Within a week of hard campaigning, she had more than enough funds to cover every hospital in Paragon City. Eventually she hoped to have the program in place in every hospital in the country.

“It’s a good legacy, baby,” she said aloud, staring at the play of light in the glass. “Crooks get out of the Zig, the Bugs come back to bomb us, psychos screw around with time…but you’re making regular folks get better.”

She had studiously avoided Ouroborus. That was another source of grief. She couldn’t bring herself to go there. The temptation would be so great…change just that one little thing…snatch him away before that madman detonated himself. Just one little thing, that couldn’t be so bad, could it?

Of course it could.

The General, the Zach Marlowe from another time and universe—literally—was practically living there now, consulting with the Menders on how to get himself back to his own universe and his own time. That was reasonable. He shouldn’t be here, and she had, she admitted it, encouraged him in his efforts. It got him out of CCCP HQ. She didn’t have to keep running into him, hearing the voice that was so familiar, the laugh most of all, seeing the face that she should have seen next to hers in thirty, forty years’ time. She sincerely hoped he would find his way back. She was not his Bella; he was not her Zach.

The DVD finished, and the TV switched automatically to satellite, and of course it was—

She shut the Christmas crap off with a muffled curse. Darkness descended on the living room, and with it, silence.

Then, from somewhere deep in the apartment building, the echo of music, Not Christmas music. Simon and Garfunkle. Old Simon and Garfunkle.

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window, to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock, I am an island.

Her hand tightened on the glass. That…that cut very near the bone….

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.

But she shook her head at that. No. No, and no, and no. That was wrong. That wasn’t her. Yes, she had built walls, and barricaded herself and her talent inside them…but it wasn’t to keep her friends out. She needed them. They, she hoped, needed her.

Don’t talk of love,
I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.

If she could have it to do over, would she—

No. Never. Sera’s own words echoed back to her, the words the angel had spoken when she thought her John had forgotten her forever. Better far to have had the love. Even now it was worth the pain and grief.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock, I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island never cries.

With a sound that was half a laugh, and half a sob, she tossed back the single shot of vodka that was all she allowed herself for a nightcap. Fricking genius songwriters. Make what sounds like an emo anthem, when you are actually trying to tell people the opposite. Oh, she would be a rock all right. But not that sort. She would be what CCCP needed and he wanted, the rock to which everyone could go, the rock on which the enemies of the CCCP would run aground and sink. And she sure as hell would not be an island. She would not let part of Zach’s legacy be that.

She stood up, left the glass in the sink, and headed for bed. Tomorrow was a long day. There was the soup kitchen Christmas Dinner to plan, and the CCCP Father Frost present drive. And the installation of the second “Make ‘Em Laugh” rig at Crowne Memorial.

Just in time for Christmas.

I am a rock. But not an island. Goodnight baby, wherever you are.

I will always love you.