It exists beneath your notice, just like blinking. It's something you do so automatically that you take it for granted. You don't think about making your heart pump: it just does. You don't think about making your lungs work: they just do.
Until they don't. Until you're drowning in the dark, your thoughts dimming away. And there weren't many thoughts left to begin with: they died in the storm, sundered and burnt by bolts of lightning scissoring across your consciousness. Now the heavy clouds are drawing a blanket over your soul.
He was dying, wasn't he? This was what dying felt like.
It didn't hurt. It barely felt like anything at all. Like a blanket slipping in place on a cold night after a long day, a moment's comfort, a moment's restful bliss. Sleep now. It will all be over soon.
How had Crowe gotten the shock knife in hand? How had he surprised Alex?
The questions hardly seemed to matter, but they did
matter. Alex remembered
how much they mattered. Somewhere in the dark was the thought of this thing, this fixation, this obsession. He was supposed to...there was something he was supposed to do.
This was important. This mattered. There was something he was supposed to do
What did it matter now? It's over. Sleep.
But Alex didn't want it to be over. Alex didn't want to sleep. Alex didn't want to die, not when there was so much future ahead, lovers he'd never known and stardom he'd never obtain, not when there was all this life left and not when he had gone down like a little bitch, surprised by a man he'd hurt because he hadn't been able to bring down the blade. Alex wanted to live. Alex wanted to live
Alex bolted upright, gasping, and the shock knife clattered down into the dark, a welt of bright pain pulsing against the side of his face. His lungs ached, his chest burned, his heart was pounding so hard and so disjointedly that his head was spinning, his body felt weak and wrong. Everything shook. He couldn't stop himself from trembling, and he wrapped his arms tight around his body and shivered in the wet dark. He was pretty sure he'd crapped himself somewhere during the fight--whether it was because he was staring down the barrel of a gun or because he had been electrocuted he didn't know, but there was an uncomfortable squishing against his ass he really didn't like. Embarrassing. So fucking embarrassing. He'd been humiliated in front of the cameras. He'd been...
Who could believe that Alexander David Tarquin was a villain now?
He was lost in humiliation and weak agony. He sat, huddled in the dark, careless of image and careless of cameras. So careless that it took him a long time to realize he couldn't see out of his left eye.
He blinked, and found that only one eye closed. He felt nothing against his left eye. He felt very little on that side of his face. He trailed his fingers down until he felt tender, sunburn pain, then pack up until he felt numb.
And still, he could not see.
My eye. He...he...
He felt tears in the one eye he had left. He huddled down into the dark, his jaw clenched. He couldn't cry. He couldn't
. If he cried...if...
What, Alex? What happens then? How can this be any worse? You've lost an eye, you've been electrocuted, and you're covered in shit. You've lost.
I haven't lost
Huddled in on himself, knees pressing against his chest, blind in one eye (it'll never work again I'll never see again I I I I I
). He'd lost.
What the fuck does that matter, Alex? Alive, and blind, and humiliated. You've got nothing. You're just a scared little boy and everyone can see that now.
They can't see anything. All they can see is a fight.
A fight you lost
How many battles did Napoleon lose? How many times has someone beaten Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers? How many times were Vader's plans thwarted?
You're not them.
How do you know?
Vader never shat himself.
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But if he did, he made damn sure no one could find out about it.
Okay. Okay. There was something there, something real. If it was over, he'd killed Rea for nothing. He'd taken Crowe's finger for nothing. He'd lost an eye for nothing
. That was unacceptable. That was unacceptable.
"I see," he croaked. His throat was sore from screaming. He considered elaborating, but decide against it. Leave it for now.
He rose to his feet, and almost fell over. He hunched onto his knees, staring out into the dark. He still felt that awful, trembling weakness, but that was alright. He had to be larger than life, but a little human weakness was acceptable. Edmund is not less daunting an antagonist because he laments the accident of his bastard birth. As long as it never defeated him. As long as it never made him any less formidable.
Start moving. Keep moving. The longer you lay in the dark, the harder it becomes to recover. Do you want the world to see a child forced to kill against his will, or a towering antagonist who has awakened to a higher truth? Will you be a boy? Or will you be a legend?
Slowly, so slowly, he moved around the room. He gathered his weapons and his gear, one by one. He took a drink of water, and ate a little food, and vomited it all almost immediately. He gasped, staring at the steaming pile in the center of the room, acrid bile scorching at his throat. God, so weak.
He chuckled. It was forced and rasping, but maybe that would work for him. He needed more than that, though. An observation. The cameras are always watching.
He drank a little more water, swallowing against the pressure in his throat. It stayed down, and he resumed his quest to gather his stuff. It was harder, though: everything felt uneven, and he kept making assumptions about the darkness in his left eye, bumping his shin against pipes and upturned tubs. After a long, precarious while, he'd gathered his bag and his weapons, and secured all of it in a pile in the corner, free from the damp and the cold.
Can't smell like shit can't look like shit.
The answer came to him. He took off shit shirt, with its makeshift leather greaves that had protected him in his fight with Crowe and Will. He undid the red headband, and laid them down atop his bag. He staggered across the room, until he found a tub still filled with grungy, unpleasant water. He rocked back and forth against it, with his flashlight angled so he could see his face. So he could see the black, charred flesh around his black, charred eye.
He stared at that for several seconds, grasping at the edge of the tub. His breath came in short, uneven gasps. He needed to be in control, and he wasn't. He wasn't.
"I see," he said again. "Weak." He closed his one remaining eye, so he wouldn't have to look at himself. "So..."
He plunged into the tub, cringing at the slimy feel of it against his skin. The skin around his injured eye exploded in pain, but he forced himself to stay down, pulled the pants off his waist in one smooth move, and set to work with fingers and hands. He cleaned himself, as best he could. Until he felt that only the slime remained.
And? Finish the story, Alex. How does this end?
He exploded out of the slimy water, throwing his head back so droplets splashed against the ground. "WEAK!" he howled, and the rasp in his voice gave the words a guttural growl that echoed through the room. He found he rather liked the sound of it. He sounded dangerous. "UNFIT!" he repeated, mostly because he liked the way the words echoed.
He strode out of the tub, forcing himself to move confidently (and now instinct was taking over, he'd spent some time exploring this room and he knew exactly how it was arranged, he could trust his memory to lead him in the darkness). Dripping, naked, and slimy (but with no visible trace of his disgusting embarassment) he returned to his stuff. He slipped the greaves off the shirt, and toweled himself off with the scrub top, working top to bottom. When he was reasonably dry, he pulled the old jeans from his back, and pulled them on. Then he secured the leather greaves on his bare arms.
And the eye? Shouldn't you bandage that?
No. Think of the image. Shirtless swordsman in denim with one blackened eye
But you just plunged face-first into that disgusting water while cleaning shit off yourself. There's a risk of infection.
In answer, Alex reached into the back, and grabbed the alcohol wipes. He moved in slow, purposeful circles around the eyes, first in the tender, stinging tissue around it, working into the numb black. But he stopped when he felt the hollow-soft jelly of the dead eye.
He was ready, as he could ever be. He had the image he needed. He had the narrative again.
"No more mercy," he said. He grabbed his weapons and his bag, arranged everything to it wouldn't slow him down, hesitated but left that large sword behind, leaning against the wall with casual danger. So prepared, he started to walk, slow but sure, out into the island. He was the vision of a nightmare--hair crusted with blood, sweat, and slime, left eye a blackened expanse of burnt flesh and murderous intent, barechested and well-built, a bag over his shoulder, a machete in one hand and an axe in the other, the explosive collar around his neck.
That wasn't a good end, of course. He needed more. He needed to complete the transformation, the daunting ascension from honorable warrior to post-apocalypse nightmare. And that required vengeance
That required Michael Crowe.
(EXIT: Alex Tarquin to Real Human Being